Creative Play: Experimenting with Deconstruction

Giving Myself a Challenge

In the last couple of years I’ve been experimenting more with mixed media art. I painted fabric with acrylic paint, printed using various methods, and started combining paper and fabric, among other things. In addition, I also took many mixed media and collage classes, as I love improving my skills and expanding my artistic tool box. Trying new things, getting out of one’s comfort zone and incorporating creative play into an art practice are all good for generating new ideas and pushing artists in new directions.

So, when I found myself with some free time, I decided to try something I haven’t done before and which makes me extremely uncomfortable: deconstructing!

The Process

Creating a Textile Collage

I started by creating a collage using some of my hand-painted fabrics and scraps from my stash. The latter included various upholstery textiles (of course!), pieces of denim from torn pants, a piece of leftover fabric from a skirt I sewed for my daughter many years ago, and  pieces of antique Japanese indigo that I bought at a flea market in Japan.

I sewed everything together using several colors of matching thread, making the stitching an important (and hopefully interesting!) part of the design.

I really liked the finished collage as it was.

First Challenge: Printing on a Sewn Piece

This exercise was all about challenging myself, however, so I had to keep going. I decided to make it even more interesting (and to further tie the different parts together) by overprinting with a stencil on top of the finished piece. I usually print on individual pieces of fabric (or paper) before I stitch them onto something else. Printing on top an already stitched artwork felt like a huge risk, for if anything went wrong (if the stencil moved, the paint smeared, or if I simply didn’t like the outcome) there was no turning back. In other words, any mistake could have ruined the piece. I held my breath and printed anyway. 

Luckily for me, the process went fairly smoothly and I liked the way it looked after printing. If anything, I think the print made the piece more uniform.

I could have stopped there. Maybe I should have. But I wasn’t done quite yet. It’s true that printing on top of a finished piece was uncomfortable, but I wanted to push my limits even further…

Second Challenge: Deconstructing

Next came the hard part. I turned the piece right side down, and cut it into nine smaller pieces. Cutting from the back, I didn’t know where the cuts went. I left the outcome to chance, taking any control entirely out of my hands.

These are the nine pieces I was left with.

Third Challenge: Turning Each New Piece Into an Interesting Composition

As you can see from the picture above, some of the new, smaller pieces were interesting, while others … not so much.

The next challenge was to turn each of the nine squares into an independent artwork. THAT was entirely in my hands, and quite a challenge it was!

I started by adding some hand stitching, which in my opinion adds character and visual interest.

Then, I decided to use the same stencil I printed with to create applique pieces. I ironed fusible web onto the backs of red and blue fabrics, and drew the pattern onto the back.

Using an execto knife, I painstakingly cut the pattern out.

I then looked at each of the nine pieces, and added the cut pieces on top. I used both the positive and negative shapes.

I ironed the stencil pieces on, thus fusing them onto the background.

The Result: A Small Series of Creative Play!

These are the 5″-inch square resulting pieces. Surprisingly, while there didn’t seem to be much orange in the original piece, it feels much more dominant in the smaller ones. 


I like them individually, but I also enjoy seeing them all together.

Are the nine pieces better than the original one? I am not sure. I kind of wish I could keep both. But I enjoyed the challenge and the creative play it involved. Sometimes it IS all about the process, isn’t it?

7 thoughts on “Creative Play: Experimenting with Deconstruction”

  1. What a fascinating process. Thank you for taking the time to document it and share. The courage to keep going payed off with the striking 9 compositions. You’ve planted the seed of a great idea for future endeavors.

  2. Love the smaller pieces, great idea to reinforce the printed shapes with the fabric shapes. I have a gel print collage piece started that I really felt needed more focus, think I’ll give something like this a go with it.

  3. These are really great! It would be really difficult for me to pick a favorite. This is something I would like to try. Thanks for sharing.

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