I believe in making tributes to important periods of your life (as I did with the Sew Vintage Punk, commemorating the terror that was Ms Hanna, the sewing teacher) and it seemed only fair that those years spent in offices should be honoured in some way. Any Freudians out there may speculate on my inability to let go, but that is another matter entirely. Not exactly sure how, so over the next couple of weeks, I collated a little pile of office-y stuff, as and when I came across it – cello tape, staples, elastic bands, dry transfer lettering, paper clips, hole punch, Tip-Ex, bubble wrap, labels and stickers, date stamp, high-lighting pens, dymo tape, envelopes, stamps, acetates, split leg pins, bull dog clips etc etc, with the intention of making something that would pay homage those years when I learnt everything I would ever need to know about diplomacy, dealing with office politics and gossip, divas and petty jealousies. Oh, there were nice moments too, of course – but overall I was just struck how being at the office was not so different from being at school!
Once again, the exercise of using office and stationery supplies became an excursion into experimentation – the results a kind of jogger for other and future projects; it was good to just play – to think of fun ways of using stuff you wouldn’t normally incorporate into your work. As sometimes happens, the more you just mess around, the more interesting ideas just appear, as if from nowhere!
I decided to not go for anything mail arty, as there are plenty of examples out there… and nothing that I felt I was able to add to!
Instead, Cello tape was used for highlighting areas of a photograph or stamped image, lightly stippling colour around the edges before adding the next strip, then stippling colour around the entire taped image. Of course, there’s that old favourite, the tape transfer – burnish down strips of Cello tape to (preferably) glossy pictures, wet with warm water and carefully roll off the paper, leaving the ink image behind – stick down with Golden gel medium or other transparent glue.
Staples were used for attaching images or items onto a surface, or as embellishments/highlights. Stapling down elastic bands became a firm favourite!
Using an ordinary hole punch to make lots of perforations on an image, and then sticking text or holographic paper (for a delicious clash) behind it, is an easy way to add lots of texture, especially on a large background. Similarly, use a date stamp with a crazy date like 98 September 2017 to create a background. Use dry transfer lettering in the same way, and keep the sheets (which will have the odd bit of lettering still stuck on it) – these can be either painted on and distressed for an interesting canvas, or can be left as they are and put behind apertures on a canvas. (contd below) >>.
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I used to work in an office. Those were happy and productive days, making paper clip necklaces, cello-taping my fingers together pretending to be a grotesque swamp monster, and stapling the pages of the newspaper together… in between I did do some ‘proper work’, too!
Use bubble wrap – large bubbles and small – and ink pads to add instant texture to a surface. You can also melt it down with a heat gun, trapping items between the layers – do this very carefully, working on an appropriate surface (no responsibility accepted for possible accidents using this technique!!)
Use small circular – or other shaped – labels as a ‘double-faced’ image – particularly useful for rubber stamping projects; stamp part of an image on the label, and stick onto the main image, but slightly off. You can also stamp an entire image onto a sheet of labels, then transfer them onto a piece of paper which has the same image, but in paler tones (like the chair and paper clip project) – use contact paper (the sort you use for wrapping school books in) to ‘pick up’ the labels and transfer them onto the paper, lining up with the original image.
Split leg pins are good for ‘anchoring’ items, or to make movable parts, such as arms or heads – particularly easy for rubber stamped projects, as it’s easy to make multiple impressions. Of course, you can also make fun office art dolls!
Filing has got to be the worst job ever – but it was fun to use old folders to make frames and canvasses. Use the metal thingies as embellishments, or to emphasise your message.
An entire chapter could be written about the use of printers and photo copiers! Whether it’s printing text over a photo copied image (or vice versa), printing or copying onto acetate which can be burned, slashed, stitched and painted, or printing on top of a ready prepared background piece of paper (or fabric) – the possibilities really are endless! Try printing and copying onto differently textured or coloured paper, too.
Lastly, don’t forget the three dimensional items – a broken calculator, picked apart, can be used in many different ways – I used the top as a picture frame, and the micro chip etc as embellishments on other projects. How about altering a stapler, or a hole punch? But don’t limit yourself to office supplies – whenever you see anything, try and think of ways that it could be used for an entirely different purpose!
© Charlotte Kemsley 2006
To see more of Charlotte’s work, visit www.picturetrail.com/madder_than_a_hatter as well as her blog http://aliceoverground.typepad.com which includes stories of life with her muse, Mme Romela!
‘KC’ rubber stamps from www.katyscorner.org.uk and ‘Ink & the Dog’ from www.paperartsy.co.uk
And on art-e-zine
Sew Vintage Punk