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Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Interview: Collage Artist Kathleen Sawyer

collage artwork by Kathleen Sawyer - available at her Etsy shop thebackoftheboat
Traveling here and there on Etsy, I regularly drop by Kathleen Sawyer's shop the back of the boat to see what's new.  Kathleen's collages - for me - evoke unfamiliar stories and to view her work at times reminds me of remembering - with clarity - an unusual dream.  Taking time from her collage work, Kathleen shared a bit about herself and her work through my Q and A interview.

Toile La La: Do you have a story or scene in mind, then look for images to illustrate your vision - or do the images come together as you peruse your collection of clippings?

Kathleen Sawyer: The collages assemble themselves in different ways and over different spans of time. Sometimes they are triggered by a piece of paper of a certain color, another time it maybe one small image. It could be a conversation I have had during the day on an outing, or a passage I have read in a book. A collage may acquire its layers all in one day or may sit on the cutting board for months until it is completed.
collage artwork - Kathleen Sawyer, thebackoftheboat - Etsy

Kathleen Sawyer - collage artwork

Kathleen Sawyer - collage artwork
 Toile La La: Was there anything special which prompted you to begin using library cards in your artwork?

KS: Books have played a big part in my life starting as early as childhood. We had a small airplane when I was a child and much of my childhood was spent in the back seat of a single engine plane reading to pass the hours in the clouds.
Our libraries provide adventure, hope, mystery to anyone of any age regardless of their economic standing.
I began using the library cards in my work when I learned that libraries were removing them to protect the privacy of their patrons. Even very small libraries have adopted this policy and are pulling the card from the rear of all the books in circulation. My local libraries started saving them for me to use in my work -  instead of tossing them. I have had a show at two libraries with the “library card collage series”.
Kathleen Sawyer - library card collage artwork

Kathleen Sawyer - thebackoftheboat library card collage art
 Toile La La: During your time as a collage artist, are there favorite pieces you decided to keep?

KS: The only pieces I have are ones that were made early on before I started my company in 2001 that were made annually for family and friends at the holidays and were about my son. The original collages which I kept were printed into large format cards. My son also has some original pieces that I made for him. I have not kept any other work.

Toile La La: Are there particular themes to which you return?

KS: Water, houses, and the color blue.

Toile La La: How long have you created collage artwork? I know you created cards for family and friends, but wondered if you created collages prior to making the greeting cards... and if you studied art or any other forms of art as formal training, or if you trained yourself by experience alone.

KS: I have been making collages for about 25 years. I took only one or two studio art classes in college ( intro level drawing, color ). My focus in college was Art History and English Literature and I immersed myself in every course offered in these subjects.
Self taught… yes.
I have been asked many times over the years to give workshops about collage. I have declined for two reasons: One, I cannot talk in front of a group and two, I believe it is not an art form that needs instruction. There is no wrong way to collage. Everyone can do it. You gather ten people in a room with scissors, paper, glue and recycled papers, ephemera, photographs and they will each come up with something extraordinarily unique.

Toile La La: Simply estimating, how many art collages do you think you've created - including the ones you created during time spent as owner of the greeting card company?

KS: Approximately 600.

Toile La La: Were you in any way trying to recycle when you began creating art collages?

KS: At the beginning, and I still am. I use only items in their original form. I do not make copies. I cut them up and use them as is.
I try and use only things that have been gleaned from recycle bins, free bins, library book sales, charity sales and thrift shops. I will occasionally buy a suitcase of old paper and photographs or the odd cabinet card to spark my creativity and to add to my gatherings. I also recycle things I have gathered when I find they have been in my studio for awhile and I have not put them to use - sharing them with other artists who may have a use in their collage or assemblage work.
collage kit gathered by Kathleen Sawyer - available at Etsy shop thebackoftheboat
Kathleen also offers collage art subscriptions, so if you are a mail art lover (like me!) - this is something to consider.  Her prices are truly fair... 5 dollars for a collage art kit and only a little more to own a one-of-a-kind handmade collage built by Sawyer. 
Kathleen Sawyer - thebackoftheboat collage subscription, available at Etsy
I recently purchased one of Kathleen's library card collages, and a collage kit too - and am delighted with both.  Already, using vintage postcards from the collage kit, I created 2 collages to send to friends as mail art.  And, just look at this fascinating library card collage handmade by Kathleen!  It has both Old World classical charm - and a surreal look.  I study it and think... "Is she holding the cloud over her head for shade - like a hat, or is she removing it... and, does the hand belong to her... or someone else".  I look at the various layers, carefully snipped with scissors - and enjoy the three-dimensional effect.  I try to pinpoint the origin of the images... some parts look almost like a photograph.  The images are so clear and colorful... the lady's rosy cheeks, the beautiful blue sky,the delicate hand.  I admire the way in which the top part of the image can be tucked into the lower pocket via Sawyer's use of the recycled library card.  This is a great little piece of artwork, which I absolutely love!  Visit Kathleen's shop via this link, to see more of her one-of-a-kind collage art.
Kathleen Sawyer thebackoftheboat library card collage artwork