April 19, 2018

The Meaning of Rusty Old Door Latches

The big waves that washed over me last winter washed away my interest in quilting. Instead, they activated my passion for assemblage. I hobbled with Himself through the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see a small exhibit of pieces by Joseph Cornell and came home as full of energy as someone on two crutches can be.

I  dragged out our ghost town and Dead Horse Bay finds...and discovered that we have cornered the market on rusty old door latches. I don't even remember how it happened but they turned themselves into elephants.

A strong and sturdy mama elephant....

 A big ole bull papa elephant...

And of course, a baby elephant.
When I finished with this little guy, I started humming songs from Disney's Dumbo.  Which was when I realized that the family was trying to escape from the circus. I used Jude's technique of cloth weaving on pages from an old dictionary and made a platform out of an old frame. I decorated it with equal parts distress ink and spills from my lunch.  And now, I'm getting them ready to leave the Big Top:
 Old bicycle wheel, mounted courtesy of woodworking husband, and pieces of an old Erector Set are a good start, but there's more to go. I am loving working on this, which is pretty ironic considering my one and only experience with a circus did not go well. ( I was five years old and was completely overwhelmed by the noise and chaos of what was probably a Ringling Brothers three-ring extravaganza. The whole family had to leave once people started flying out of cannons.  Cannons? Shooting people out of cannons???? I started screaming in terror and didn't stop till we got left the tent.)

I also went back to a piece I started in an assemblage weekend workshop in 2015.

I ripped out stuff that no longer spoke to me and, if we're being honest, some of the stuff that was hanging by my thread of shoddy technique. I added other objects, including strips of burlap I ripped off a wall of an old miner's cabin. As the piece changed, it felt like my life in its contained form.  
I found an old date book I must have gotten from a flea market and suddenly, my little life became my midget life...and my piece, My Midget Diary:
It needs coils and springs, but don't we all?

I have another piece waiting in the wings for some fine-tooling. The Mama Elephant above is made from the back of a clock we found at Dead Horse.  A bunch of gears popped off and they made their way to the front of the clock. The whole thing made its way onto a wood scrap donated by my favorite woodworker. And when it grows up, it will be The Tree of Knowledge:
Of course, this assemblage stuff really only works if you have stuff to assemble. Not to mention your own personal woodworker.  And that really goes against my entire being (the stuff, not the woodworker. Generally.)  I am just having too much fun to stop and besides, I'm using it up, right?

It wasn't fun at the beginning. As always, I tripped myself up desperately trying to seek out a story and  impose Meaning. But a trip around your blogs and some wonderful You Tube assemblage creators slowly showed me what an idiot I was. Meaning is discovered, not imposed. In fact, creation itself is the meaning. If you're lucky, and if you create honestly, you will discover Meaning.

If you're not lucky, you still can have a blast sanding, drilling, screwing, and painting...and making a dent in your supply of rusty old door latches.


  1. Meaning is discovered.. not imposed! Not just in our art but in ourselves .. an artistic journey we all in one way or another find ourselves on.

    1. Hey Tina--your name seems familiar to me from stitching. Thanks for chiming in, it is so true.

  2. love your sense of humour and whimsical eyes

    1. You are the world's best artist cheerleader!

  3. as always love all that you create, combine, collate!!!
    and I am not just saying that as meaningless, critique-less praise, because I am extremely critical (alas) but ALWAYS when I visit your writing and your works of art ALWAYS manage to uplift my wandering, somelimes lost, mind and your work INSPIRES me to try and be(come) the best version of myself I can be......
    your work (the writing and the visual stuff) is intelligent, whimsical, compassiomate, humane, loving, self-examinatory, honest, humble

    thank you Julie for being you and sharing this with us and me