This week I’ve been working from home as I nurtured a cold. Sitting at my bench with sunshine streaming through the windows, stitching. I bought two skeins of 100% cotton embroidery thread and carefully separated the six strands into a single thread; a remembered activity from childhood when time was measured by the small craft activities my mother set to develop my embroidery skills (and patience).
Stitching by hand was a slow activity, the broken lines of tacking stitch travelling vertically together in a portrait orientated collage. Tacking was the first stitch I learnt when sewing was a compulsary subject taught at school and I hated it. So unnecessary I thought, in my hurry to use the sewing machine.
Tacking stitches were typically in red thread, large and impermanent. Yet this is now my stitch of choice – backstitch created an unbroken line, running stitch implied a quick sprint up and down the paper. The three broken lines of blue tacking were permanent, intentional, a pattern of their own style and sound.
Using collage is my default position, a resolution and return to my original creative practice. I have now done four collages. The first one I have since put aside, it was a compositional test run and included banana fibres. The next three didn’t, although many times I tried to place groups of half beaten fibres on the paper for stitching only to discard them at the last minute.
Collage may seem like a simple activity, remnants of papers arranged together to create new meanings or expanded interpretations of the material. But there are many decisions made along each steps of the way. “What makes one collage more successful than another?” is a question asked by collage artist Randel Plowman in the introduction to the book Masters: Collage.
“The best collage artists have strong compositional skills, a definite sensibility regarding the use of materials and an innovative approach to the organization of visual components.”
I’m happy with my results. Each collage contains remnants of the project, traces of my thoughts as I trialled different techniques or new inventions. There are bits and pieces of prints which I thought did not work, watermarks which tore, embossings, dyed pulp stencils of circles, colour trials, wax resist text and lumps of fibre embedded into paper sheets.
Papers with resonance.
 Terry (ed.) Taylor, Masters: Collage: Major Works by Leading Artists (New York: Lark Books, 2010), 6.