Reuse and Upcycle: Create Art Collages

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Looking for a great way to reuse items headed for the trash? Use them to make art collages and mixed media art. Collages and assemblages make eclectic and unique decorations for your home, and art collages mix well with vintage decorations and shabby chic décor.

There’s really no set formula for making collages. One way to get started is to go over the items you have on hand. Some things that can be used in a collage include scrapbook paper, old sheet music, cards, wrapping paper, old photos, images from magazines and catalogues, and fibers. You can also use three dimensional items like old toys, jewelry, and vintage holiday decorations. If you don’t already have a collection of items to use, start in your home. Look for old junk that you don’t use – even broken pieces are acceptable. Find more items in thrift shops, auctions, art supply stores and Freecycle. Use items from the same time period to create a cohesive look.

Collages can be mounted on most any sturdy surface. The base provides a good opportunity to reuse and recycle, too. Use clean, old food boxes or scrap pieces of cardboard to create a plaque or an artist trading card. For a shadowbox, use a lid from a box, an old wood drawer, a candy tin or a papier mache box. An old book makes an excellent base for a collage. Just glue some pages together, and cut a square out to mount three dimensional items.

Paint the base with gesso to get a clean surface. Then apply acrylic paint. Experiment with different types of finishes and art supplies: you can use crackle paint, varnishes and other mediums to add detail and give the piece an aged look. Before you start attaching items, decide how the piece will hang. A wire strung through the paper or attached to the back is one solution.

Arrange the items until you’re happy with the layout. Then use plain glue, mod podge or a hot glue gun to attach them to the base. Seal flat items with an acrylic sealer.

As you work more with mixed media art, you can find ways to experiment. Art supplies stores have an exhaustive range of glues, finishes, specialty papers and embellishments that you can use in your art collages. Network with other artists to get ideas and learn how to make your art better; there are plenty of groups online to join. Many collage artists collect other artists’ work and offer swaps and monthly challenges to help you get inspired and learn new techniques. If you’re happy with your work, you can try selling it on Etsy, eBay and other online craft galleries, or in local stores. Whether you sell your collage art, use it to decorate your home or give it away, it’s a great way to express yourself while recycling.


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