Using Old Stuff From Your Home
Published: November 16, 2023
Do you find yourself wondering how to spend quality time together as a family in today’s fast-paced world? You’re not alone. The constant influx of information and stuff, especially through screens of all sizes, can make it challenging to connect as a family. Meanwhile, physical clutter accumulates in our homes, leaving many of us feeling crowded by our belongings. It’s no wonder that one in eleven people pays for offsite storage, and the self-storage industry continues to boom as we struggle to manage our accumulating piles.
The clutter is real, and it can distract our families and social circles in such a way that, despite being more connected through technology, we often feel farther apart. So, how do we cope with this modern dilemma and bring our families together in a meaningful way?
Connecting Through the Clutter
A small group of Northern California artists believes that the answer lies in using the clutter to connect. In their book Lost and Found: Assemblage Artists of Northern California, artists Spencer Brewer and Esther Siegel share their journey as part of a community of renegade artists who turn clutter into expressions of creativity through assemblage art. This art form involves taking found objects and assembling them in unique ways, diverging from their original purposes.
Together Spencer and Esther began creating offbeat, humorous, and sometimes serious art pieces. In the process, they noticed a constant stream of interest from family, friends, and even strangers who enjoyed the creative process and collecting the art. Pieces created simply for the joy of it were now being purchased by collectors, prompting a demand for workshops.
A Uniquely Creative Family Project
With their experience as foster parents and Esther’s expertise as a psychotherapist, the two recognized that families today often lack shared experiences. By taking clutter and transforming it into creative elements, assemblage art offers families a unique opportunity to interact with each other in a new and exciting context. Through workshops and interactions with various communities, Esther and Spencer have witnessed families breaking down barriers, shifting perspectives, and changing priorities as they worked together to create assemblage art.
Today, making assemblage art has emerged as an ideal DIY family project. It’s a chance for families to bond, have fun, and be creative while transforming clutter into cherished art pieces.
Creating Assemblage Art as a Family
To embark on your family’s assemblage art journey, follow these steps:
Step 1: Hunt and Gather
Start with a scavenger hunt within your home. Each family member should find objects—old toys, dusty heirlooms, tools, broken jewelry, or items stored more than used. After the hunt, gather everyone to “show and tell” their found objects and decide whether to work on a single piece together or individual pieces.
Step 2: Discover Your Setting
Determine how your objects will come together into a finished piece. Should they fit within a picture frame, a box, or adhere to an unconventional surface? Allow creativity to flow freely during this stage.
Step 3: Bring it Together
Let ideas bounce around as your family members engage with the objects, arranging and rearranging them within their chosen setting. Once satisfied with the assembly, take pictures to preserve the original vision before permanent attachment.
Step 4: Make it Permanent
This step provides an opportunity for parents to teach kids how to use simple hand tools, glue, staplers, and more. Begin by attaching objects directly to the setting and allow sufficient drying time for glued or painted items. Use appropriate adhesives based on surface materials, such as E6000 for versatility, wood glue for wood, and epoxy for challenging surfaces. Prioritize safety and patience throughout the process.
In the end, your family will have a finished art piece or pieces to proudly display at home or share as special gifts. Each family member will take pride in their contribution, and the shared experience of creating together will strengthen your family bond.
Rediscovering Family Connection Through Art
Assemblage is a beautiful way to bring everyone together while fostering fun, joy, creativity, cooperation, and connection — and transforming clutter into treasured family art pieces.
No prior experience or special instructions are needed—just a willingness to repurpose objects creatively and rediscover the joy of spending quality time together as a family.
To get inspired, explore ‘Lost and Found: Assemblage Artists of Northern California,’ a multi-award-winning book that offers a delightful and thought-provoking tour into the world of assemblage art through the eyes and hands of eight prominent Northern California assemblage artists.
About Spencer Brewer
Spencer has been creating art and music since he was a young boy. For most of his adult life, he was in the music business, recording and producing hundreds of records while working as a technician on over 20,000 pianos, crank phonographs, and pump organs. Collecting and working on pianos, he eventually found himself creating assemblage art before he knew what it was called. When the music industry collapsed in 2008, he shifted his focus to assemblage art full-time.
About Esther Siegel
Esther Siegel is a psychotherapist by training who has worked in the field of book art, been active in the scrapbooking world, and created both greeting cards and ‘found art’ sculptures. A late-in-life artist, she creates pieces that are a mixture of whimsical and dark humor. They include Book-Mobiles & Book Art, Twisted Toasters (vintage toasters as the base), Horse People (horse/doll combo), fun repurposed sculptures, small lamps, and Altered Barbies.
Brewer and Siegel are the co-authors of Lost and Found: Assemblage Artists of Northern California. A portion of proceeds from the book will be used to help internationally acclaimed assemblage artist Larry Fuente, who lost his 8,000-square-foot warehouse of finished pieces and art supplies to a devastating California wildfire.