It is late. I have come to the end of a day in which both my body and my spirit have wandered far. I have accomplished several weighty tasks from my ever-growing list, and am preparing myself for the work to come.
There has been a collage piece I have long thought of doing. It presents itself often to my mind’s eye in shades of white, gleaming with pearl and glinting with silver. At last, I am ready to create it. Over the last few days, my desk has blossomed a workbox that has received contents from my frequent studio visits. I have browsed my collection of objects, papers and ephemera and have begun to build a ‘set’ for this piece. This is how I work.
What comes next is the connection. And for this piece, the love has begun. A warmth builds in my chest as I respond to the materials. There is a story hidden in these objects, and it is my job to tell it. With textures, with objects, with words. I have returned repeatedly to gaze at the box contents, and to feel the story growing in my heart, in my fingertips.
Not yet ready to begin, I took the day off today to make a trip with a couple of fellow mixed media magpies. We drove down to visit the widely-reputed antique shops of Nanton, AB. We spent several blissful hours scouring the corners of these well-ordered shops for the real loot, those hidden finds that had value only to us. An object here or there garnered my loyalty. Yet the after-lunch visit to the largest and finest of these emporia finally brought my steps to the true treasure trove.
A bag of ephemera, letters and manuals and oddments, $2. I sifted through the contents slowly, turning over seed catalogues and old letters offering loads of potatoes for sale. Tucked underneath was a night telegram addressed to Miss Florence M. Porter of Oak Park, Illinois. Intrigued by the wonderful red and blue envelope, I slipped the telegram from within it and read . . . dated October 25, 1912:
“I love you little girl coming home to you soon.”
It was signed simply “Ralph”. A thrill shot through me and tears pricked my eyes. How beautiful. How simple. I purchased it, along with a tiny envelope addressed to “Mr & Mrs R. M. Walker” dated August 1915 and containing a tiny birth announcement.
When we returned to the car for the drive home, we shared our finds. Reading these items again, a story peeped at me around the edge of the telegram. I turned back to the lovely old photographs I had picked up earlier. Sifting through them, suddenly there was the handsome young soldier in his uniform. And here was the pretty girl in her lace-edged sleeves, holding a teacher’s pointer. And there, in my lap, lay the story to be told by the white and shining collage: The love, the separation, the return, the marriage, the child in years of war and ravage.
This is how I work.