As my nearest and dearest will tell you, DIY is very much not my ‘thing’. In fact, I’ve spent most of my 55 years on this earth resolutely avoiding doing anything that might involve using a) a tape-measure; and b) any kind of power tool. Despite being a staunch feminist, I’ve cultivated an aura of wide-eyed helplessness when practical tasks need doing around the house. So it is no doubt a source of amusement to my family that, rather than fannying around with charcoal sticks and watercolours, my chosen artistic medium involves drilling, sawing and sticking bits of rusty junk together.
I have to admit that it came as a surprise to me, too. If, before I took up art again, I was asked to choose my preferred area of expertise, it would not have been this. And yet….I love it. I’m now the proud owner of a proper toolbox, containing hitherto arcane (to me) items such as a Dremel multi-tool, an electric screwdriver, and an assortment of hacksaws. I even have a soldering iron – though I have yet to learn to use it effectively.
I would argue, though, that my complete lack of practical know-how actually helps rather than hinders. I’m resolutely unmechanically-minded. My car might as well run on pixie dust for all I know; and I don’t want to know how planes fly for fear I’ll lose the blind faith that so obviously keeps them in the air. But this means that when I look at machine parts I’m completely ignorant of what their purpose is – and the upshot of that is that I look at them purely aesthetically as objects. To me, they are a collection of interesting shapes, pure and simple, and this undoubtedly helps me to see the different ways in which they could be used.
Now this is where the fun really starts. There is nothing, nothing, that’s more rewarding than than playing with a whole pile of bits and pieces and finding ways they can fit together in ways their original designers never intended. Assemblage art can be seen as a one big act of miscegenation, marrying together an eclectic collection of items and materials in order give physical form to an intangible idea. That’s where the magic happens.
For me, the inspiration comes from this play process. While some artists might have an initial plan which they then find ways to realise, I get ideas from putting things together at random and waiting for my mental lightbulb to switch on. Occasionally I see an item that tells me what to do with it straight away, but that’s not often. As I gain experience I am beginning to develop a ‘go-to’ repertoire – but there is so much more to learn, and endless creative possibilities.
As I get more adventurous, my skill set broadens, and I get ever more adept at the technical stuff. I could do it all along, you see – it’s just that I never saw a reason to do so before!
Two little art dollies. The angel’s body is made from a wooden bracket for a curtain rail. Her wings are a 13-hole bicycle spanner, and her halo is a round wire thingamajig (Oh, I don’t know what it is!). The little lady’s body is a repainted china figurine. I cut the head off (*evil cackle*) and replaced it with a plastic doll’s head which I painted and gilded. Her topknot is a little spring. The angel’s head is also a plastic doll’s head painted to look like stone.