Collage as a Discovery Tool

Collage as a Discovery Tool

A good friend reintroduced me to collaging a while back. She uses it for vision boarding— to set intention, call in supporting energies and manifest her future life. 

Her collage process is like I remember from my childhood: flick through magazines, cut out pictures, arrange and paste on a page, with a show and tell after. The magazines might have changed (goodbye Smash Hits!), but the process is the same.

Since then, I’ve felt called back to collage repeatedly. For me the appeal is rooted both in the sensual delight of the activity itself but also in its use as a tool to uncover aspects of my life that are otherwise less accessible to me. 

Collage appears to me to be a subtle and gentle route for this kind of discovery. Suitable when I feel too discombobulated to actively shape a creative work, too stuck to see another way into an issue, or too wired to express myself in a journal. 

Collaging connects me with what is present but not clearly sensed. It’s a delicate operation in a way — this sitting, perusing of magazines or newspapers and the allowing of elements and patterns to surface. In collage, the subconscious drifts laterally, drops diagonally, zig-zags deep to subterranean caves — to the hidden and the stuffed away. “Way leads onto way” as Robert Frost said. New connections are uncovered in the metaphor and symbolism of the chosen photos. 

I love to journal as much as the next person – don’t get me wrong. But the collage process brings me to a place that is non-verbal. It takes me out of scuttling and shuttling in my mind and pulls on deeper threads, leading me away from the well worn grooves of the official story, of lazy or crooked thinking. Where I emerge may seem initially surprising to the conscious self, but I’ve found it usually opens out into a space of deeper knowing. It’s that place of stillness under the waves. 

Nowadays I collage for many things — to understand and integrate messages that arise in meditation, in ceremony, in dreams; to clarify how I’m feeling about something; to review a period of my life and of course, as my friend initially suggested, to vision and dream of the future…. 

I love the sensuality and luxury of this collage time. Make some tea, cacao, sit for a moment, breathe and begin. The flow of images that wish to be chosen, the physicality of cutting, sorting, sticking — this is a creative process that satisfies in the handling of the physical objects as opposed to the digital or the verbal. My inner child loves the play and the mess of it. My tender heart loves the gentleness and subtlety of the process even when approaching the difficult and the inflamed. The process is bathed in gentle flow. There is no forcing or pressure – just the relaxed mind and body allowing the insight to emerge through individual images and the mosaic of the whole.

If like me, you hadn’t collaged in a while, it might be worth opening your mind and your heart to its many pleasures and treasures…

Aho 🙏🏻

Images: Patrick Fore, Deirdre Gleeson

Words: Deirdre Gleeson

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Deirdre Gleeson
Deirdre Gleeson
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