My name is Francesca Lawrence and I am a collage artist.
I took up the art during the first Covid19 lockdown in 2020, and have been collaging ever since. I focus on cut-paper analogue collage and also wild-collaging, and occasionally dabble in digital. My art has featured in three magazines, two books, and one gallery exhibition. I am part of an upcoming NFT project as a founding artist with Google Arts and Culture + ARTXV which is due to drop in March 2022.
I live with my husband, and two curious goldfish, by the beach in sunny South Devon. When not working, I spend my time travelling the world (27 countries and counting), writing, championing the empowerment of women and girls, tending to my plants, smashing stereotypes surrounding Asperger’s Syndrome, reading, hiking, watching movies/series, and collecting all things Nicolas Cage! I have a BSc (hons) in Physical Geography and currently work as a receptionist.
Let’s talk about collage. If you’re like me, the last time you did any sort of collaging was probably at school, or at a long forgotten kids craft club. Am I right? For example, I remember making laminated bookmarks using clippings from the Argos catalogue. I also covered my school books, folders, and diaries with ephemera and pictures of things I deemed ‘cool’. Most of us have done it before, and most of us left it behind us – but I’ve discovered that collage is having a bit of a comeback.
When the UK was plunged into lockdown in 2020, it became an unexpected time to self-focus and flourish. I felt incredibly happy, calm, and motivated during those months, finding time to pursue a host of leisure activities that I normally wouldn’t have had time to do. The forced time off work allowed me to fully unmask, free of societal pressure, and was the breathing space I needed to work on a lot of different things. My little creative soul honestly thrived during lockdown. I, like many other, tried to take up hobbies and pastimes to fill the long warm days. I decided to try collage after seeing a competition online hosted by one of my favourite artists, Maria Rivens.
She had invited people to make a lockdown collage with anything they already had in their homes, and then submit them online to be judged. Five winners would be selected, and sent a copy of her new image source book. I jumped straight to the challenge and found an old Tesco magazine in the kitchen, a few leaflets in the junk mail pile, and a box of old postcards. Grabbing a pair of scissors, I set to work and created a silly collage featuring cake fairies and flying sweets. It was thoroughly enjoyable. I snapped a photograph, posted it online with the appropriate tags, and went about my day. A couple of weeks roll by, and a notification pings on my phone that someone has tagged me on Instagram……
I clicked it.
I danced around the living room.
I had been chosen by Maria herself, which was about the most thrilling thing that had happened to me in ages! My prize arrived in the post soon afterwards and I immediately began to cut out every single image from her beautiful book ready to collage with. I wanted it all there and ready to go, so that I didn’t waste creative flow on cutting items out as I needed them! I invested in an art scalpel, a cutting matt, and a better pair of scissors. I then commandeered the dining room table and began to collage my heart out.
I honestly haven’t stopped since, creating hundreds of pieces so far and amassing a following of over 3000 people on my Instagram art page. It is such an incredibly creative and almost limitless medium, which absolutely has its place in contemporary art. It makes you explore different concepts – rendering each cut-out element as detached from its original meaning, and therefore open to reinterpretation. Your imagination can go absolutely nuts creating new relationships and perspectives between images in surreal and playful ways.
One of my favourite subtypes of the craft is ‘wild collaging. This is where you take pre-cut elements outside and place them in real-world wildness to create playful and whimsical scenes and narratives. I use a lot of vintage images of people when I do this, and I feel like I am taking them out of their black and white worlds and breathing new life into them. The art is ephemeral in the sense that you always take away your paper elements after you’ve snapped a photograph. I never litter our beautiful county!
Living in Torbay gives me a wonderfully varied set of landscapes and areas to wild collage; from coast to countryside, my little people are transported to an array of settings, which often change with the seasons to provide a rich variety of backdrops. Wild collaging is fabulous for mental wellbeing too, because it makes you get outside into the fresh air, and it hones your attention to all the small things in the world. As a creative Aspergers female, I LOVE it. The best thing about it, is that it’s so inclusive that anyone can do it. If you have any magazines, leaflets, postcards, papers, posters, or catalogues just laying around, try it. YOU are already a collage artist, you just don’t know it yet!
So how about it? Will you give collage a shot, and see if you enjoy it? If you do, I would love to see your collage art so feel free to tag me @pesto.frankie on Instagram so I can see your creations!
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