I was blessed to meet Catherine a number of years ago during a marvellous women’s dance series. We have danced in the same circles off and on since then. I have also had the great privilege of watching this gifted artist at work. Her ability to make something come alive on the page blows me away every time. It is an honour to know Catherine. Here is the story, in her words, of Catherine’s first experience facilitating a collage workshop. (Check out our Events page for information on Catherine’s upcoming collage class!)
My face was hot and my hands were shaking before my first collage workshop at a Toronto yoga studio last September. Even though I had fifteen years of English teaching under my tasselled belt, I had never taught art before. What if nobody showed up? What if they asked to see my art credentials? What if my debut as an art teacher was a spectacular failure?
My first fear evaporated as the six registered participants arrived one by one. When I introduced myself and explained that I wasn’t formally trained, nobody left in a huff. Instead, they listened receptively when I described my 2007 discovery of collage at a class called “Create Your Own Healing Deck” (facilitated by Erica Ross at Sheena’s Place). Then I showed them a recent collage I’d made and one from 2007, illustrating my evolution from total beginner to joyful collage artist.
Next, I praised the democratic nature of collage, emphasizing that it’s impossible to do it wrong when your goal is the creation of personally-meaningful art. Freedom from having to rigidly follow one correct set of aesthetic rules especially resonated with one participant. She shared a traumatic school memory about getting hit on the head for drawing her fox the “wrong” colour.
Two people in the group had never done collage before, but they rose above their concerns about not being creative. When one of them asked me for some guidance regarding procedure, I took out a square of stiff paper and a selection of images from magazines, brochures, and colour copies of quilts. I picked up my focal piece, a picture of a girl opening a tent, and suggested that one way of starting is to choose an image that speaks to you and build the rest of the collage around that. I also encouraged the workshop gathering to play with their paper arrangements before they glued anything down and repeated two phrases I’d learned from my collage mentors: “Follow the Yes!” (when gathering images) and “It’s finished when you love it!”
I had hoped to inspire the class with words and examples, but I was even more delighted by how much the participants stimulated my imagination. For example, I was blown away by a collage on which a woman had pasted an original poem about being disabled and then covered with semi-transparent paper. Pictures of female models surrounded the poem, deliberately overshadowing it so that the viewer needed to look closely to uncover the truth of the piece. I loved how the veiled poem embodied the artist’s invitation to look beneath the surface for a deeper meaning. When we passed around our collages at the end of the session, I could see that this poem-picture made a strong impact on everyone who witnessed it.
Another beautiful piece that emerged from my first workshop contained a fertility goddess on the left third of the composition, a green field on the right, and in the middle a female dancer on her back. With her head facing the viewer upside-down, the woman was in the process of giving birth to a multitude of festive dancers who rushed forth from between her open thighs. This collage was also a big hit with the group.
When the two-hour session ended, I was totally enchanted by the feast of dynamic work before my eyes, which also included a nature collage, a dream collage in mysterious dark blue, and a reflective piece with a Buddhist theme. Thanks to the courageous spirit of openness in the room, my anxiety about failing melted in the warmth of artistic elation. I wanted to dance with happiness when I saw the beautiful art resting on a gloriously messy table, scraps of bright paper fluttering at our feet.
All collages by Catherine Raine. More can be viewed on her blog at c-raine.com, and she also offers collage workshops at Follow Your Bliss Yoga Studio.