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Share, Prepare, Care: A guide for collage and assemblage artists and those who collect it

Learn how to prepare your work for sharing publicly or through online means and what to do with #collage and #assemblage that didn't come finished for hanging or display.

- Share -

For artists: You've created a piece you are proud of and now you'd like to get some eyes on it. Most people are going to look at the image you've created and make assumptions pretty quick, it's human nature. So, in order to make sure folks understand your piece and get from it what you aimed for, here are some tips for a good 'share'.

Tip 1 - Before sharing online, or in person, create #documentation of your work by capturing a good photo of the piece in even light. This can come in handy later if you want to make social media posts, apply to a call for art, or make prints of your work as a more cost-effective product. I always keep one cropped image, just the collage, no background, and another image of the collage hung in situ. Hint...if you are framing the piece, remember to take a photo before framing as sometimes there is glare from glazing, distortion of colors or some of the collage may be behind matting or the frame itself. For assemblage or three-dimensional collages, take images from multiple angles to show the piece and special areas you'd like to highlight when you share the piece. A photo of any signature or information about the piece is another good thing to keep. Most phones these days have pretty good cameras, but if your pieces are bigger, or you would like to produce high quality reproductions, maybe consider professional photography help. For digital works, ensure the files can scale without losing quality. Additional info about that can be found here.

Remember! If you sell a piece without proper documentation, you often won't get a chance to document it later. Once it's gone, it's gone.

Tip 2 - Include the artworks data so people are able to understand the creativity you've expressed. This is true whether the piece is viewed in person or online. You can create an art label for each work which includes:

Title of the work

Size of the work

Materials used

Price if applicable or an NFS, indicating 'Not for Sale'

Optional - Info about the techniques used, artist statement, or small artist bio, website, social media handles, etc.

Tip 3 - Don't be afraid to share what the inspiration is behind a piece. People who may be drawn to the visual of your piece may be moved to appreciate it more if they know the feelings or skills the artist used to create the piece. Whether in person, online, or through a third party, i.e.. a gallery, provide context. It may be this additional information that informs the emotional response from a person when viewing your work.

Tip 4 - If you are an artist looking to earn a living from your art, make it easy for people to find more of your work and get to know you as the artist. Give directions to a website, Facebook profile, online shop, or provide a brochure, business card, etc... This also includes having an up to date #artistCV, bio and artistic statement in case somebody requests it.

For Collectors: You've purchased a piece of work and can't wait to share your enthusiasm for it with the world. There is really only one rule that matters here IMO. Give credit to the artist! If you share the piece online, provide the artists name at least, tag them or their social media if you have permission is better, and share what you know about the piece, what you love about it, or how it makes you feel, best!

View of two people from the rear looking at an artwork within a white wall gallery, with hardwood floors.
Folks admiring the work of artist Gavin Snow at Cuts and Paste Gallery

Tip 1 - Credit the artist. At the very least, when sharing the work of another, know the name of the person who created it, using proper spelling and pronouns if you can, and let people know who it is unless you've been asked specifically to keep it hidden. Often times, enthusiastic word of mouth can lead to more interest in an artist and their work. #credittheartist

Tip 2 - Point folks who also enjoy the work in the right direction to find their own piece. Whether this be sharing the artists public profiles, business card or paraphernalia, or indicating where/how you found the artist, it may lead to more success for the artist involved.

Tip 3 - Tell us what you feel or what ultimately made you decide you needed this piece to live with you. Nothing makes an artist more excited to create than feeling like your work is finding like-minded people.

-Prepare -

For artists: When wanting to sell collage or assemblage, there is a responsibility to make your artwork, (your product), a justifiable purchase for the buyer to invest in. This means you have to consider the materials, the techniques and the finishes to ensure it will keep its integrity and safety for a length of time agreeable to the collector that corresponds to a reasonable price. (See how the data noted in the share section comes into play here? This data helps to explain what the product is.) Unless, the art is clearly ephemeral art, or art in which the changing of materials over time is part of the artists intended outcome, most people would expect a piece to stay 'the same' for many years. On the other hand, if you are creating a collaged birthday card for a loved one, experimenting with a new technique and/or materials (creating studies), or do not expect or want to sell the outcomes, these considerations do not really exist.

As subjective as art is, if you have decided to sell your work, you've entered a 'value-based system'. As such, the following tips are offered to help add value to your work if you plan to make it available for sale. If there is no intent to sell, I have no tips other than to enjoy it and play.

Tip 1 - Know what you can about your medium and the materials you choose to use. Collagists and assemblage artists have one thing in common: adhesives. What can you learn about adhesives? Here is an article about adhesives to get you started. Having knowledge in this area can help you avoid adhesives that will turn brittle, yellow over time, or lose their adhesive bond. The other half to most collage equations is paper of some sort. Understanding the qualities of various types of paper, and how to care for them is another area of study. When I first started making collages, I called conservationists and asked about my technique I was using at the time and what I could do to extend the lifespan of my works. After those conversations, my technique and my materials changed. Paper is susceptible to moisture, UV light, abrasion or other damages. How do you store the papers you use? This is a great article about the keeping of papers. Stay curious and allow yourself to learn at all times.

Tip 2 - Choose the best materials and techniques you can that support your intended outcome. This requires some experimentation and the aforementioned knowledge to make the best choices.

Tip 3 - Make your art viewer friendly. Consider the finishing of the item here. Will it be framed or not? How will it be displayed or presented? The easier it is for a collector to display the work after purchase, the more perceived value it has. Consider the world of IKEA. Prices for some items are lower than competitors because some assembly is typically required by the consumer. But not everybody wants that added joy. Some people want more simplicity and ease and will gladly pay extra for it. Knowing how to finish a work is sometimes the hardest part of the art making process.

D-ring and wire installation

Larger, heavier works intended for hanging should have a hanging wire or other mechanism capable of allowing the piece to be hung, levelled and displayed easily. Works on paper, which are common in collage, can be sold framed, mounted or without finishing. Here is a great article on how to do this.

If framing, an acid-free mat that separates the collage and its edges from the surface of any possible glazing should be considered to avoid damage to the collage from the frame itself, or from moisture. A layer of acid-free paper or backing board should be used behind the collage. An acid-free tape can be found to attach the collage to the mat.

A mounted collage is a work that is completed on paper, and then adhered to a solid surface, such as a birch panel, for display. Some collages are created right on the substrate, without a paper backing. Lack of glazing for protection means these works need a finishing spray to protect the surface. I use Winsor and Newton or Krylon Matt Varnish Spray, but it also comes in Glossy finish too. UV protection is built in. This acts as a barrier to moisture, UV light and dirt and dust, as well as any possible transfer of oils from our skin when handling.

Perhaps you'd rather leave the finishing to the buyer to make the collage more affordable. Even with this option, the collage needs protection between the display and finishing stages. Works can be placed in a polybag with or without an acid-free mat and an acid-free backing board separating it from the art label and any business card or promotional material the artist uses. That way it's ready to be placed within a frame easily. Hint: Use a mat to take a collage that is not standard framing size, to a standard size for easier framing options. Ie. a 6x8.5" collage can be made to fit within a standard frame if sold with an added 8x10 mat with a 5.75x8.25" opening.

For collectors: Knowing what you are looking for with regards to finish, size and budget can make for a better experience when searching for art. But I always say, if something really moves you, make it work. Never deny the power of art because it doesn't fit the decor. True art is not decor and needs to match exactly nothing!

Tip 1 - Know thyself! If you have a closet full of unframed artworks at home that you never got around to framing, maybe choose a finished piece instead. Or enlist the help of somebody to get your collection out of the closet and up onto the wall. Cuts and Paste can offer assistance in getting works matted, framed or otherwise finished, as they have a relationship with at least two reputable, local framing companies.

Tip 2 - You probably know your space better than anybody, so you know if you have the space for a piece of artwork. But taking some measurements never hurts. That way you don't fall in love with a work that can't fit where you envisioned.

Tip 3 - You probably know your budget better than anybody too, so you know if you can afford a piece of artwork. If you know art is important to you, and your budget allows, setting aside an amount for a new work gives you room to be impulsive when you do find a piece you like without the guilt or remorse. Keep in mind, if a piece needs framing, that price and effort is extra.

Tip 4 - Visit places where art is on display and start to note the artists and works you are drawn towards. Art exploration is as much about discovering things about yourself as it is the artworks.

Artwork finished in resin on panel by Julia Gonen, collage/assemblage on panel by Peter Crouse and framed works by Jordan Baraniecki and Paige Kurpjuweit

- Care -

For artists: You want to keep your works safe while they live with you until you've found a buyer. What can you do to ensure their safety?

Tip 1 - For works on paper, keeping them out of direct light, laid flat, and protected from dust, pests and moisture is paramount. These are the main reasons works on paper break down or get damaged. Read more about proper handling of works on paper here.

For framed works, using cardboard corner protectors keeps the frame from getting damaged. I like to wrap mine in kraft paper until I want to display it. If glazing is used, do not lean or otherwise add pressure to the glazing in the storage method chosen. Old map cabinets, dressers, and shelves that can hold the pieces with space around the edges work best.

Tip 2 - Hang some of your own finished art up at home, or at work! You never know who may drop by and fall in love with it. Adhere to the 'DEEP' rules and avoid Dust and Debris including oils from cooking, Excessive light, Excessive moisture and Pests. It may be safer than storing it depending on your space and resources available.

For collectors: You found a piece you love, and you want it to stay that way.

Tip 1 - The 'DEEP' rules apply to you too. Dust and debris should be avoided by hanging artworks away from areas where there may be oil splatter, such as near a range, or where smoke may be present, such as above fireplaces or near wood stoves. If dust does accumulate on a finished artwork, never use moisture (ie. damp cloth) to capture it. Excessive light can be avoided by hanging artworks or displaying assemblages away from windows or skylights. It comes in handy to know if the piece was finished with UV protection or glazing, but even if it was, this rule applies to extend the lifespan of the work. Excessive moisture should be avoided, and hanging paper collage or mixed media artworks in bathrooms or similar areas should be avoided. If mold appears on your paper artwork, this article is a wonderful resource which may help, but, expert help is recommended. Pests can sometimes find our works and gnaw on them, make nests inside the frame or create similar damage. Adding kraft paper to the back of the work to keep bugs out can help. But really, keeping the piece, and the area around it clean should be enough most times.

Tip 2 - Hang it somewhere special, and someday if the appeal disappears, don't fret. We all change over time, and what we may have loved for many years may not bring the same emotions anymore. It is OK for both humans and artworks to change over time.

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