Assemblage Perfume Bottle Tin Copyright Elaine Luther 2016

Assemblage Perfume Bottle Tin Copyright Elaine Luther 2016

This is the first post in a series about how to make assemblage sculpture.

Assemblage sculpture is like collage, only 3D. Assemblage sculpture, or mixed-media sculpture, if you prefer and it starts with collecting.

For this series of posts, I’ve been taking photos for about a year, as I work in my studio, and as I taught an assemblage sculpture class. I’ll be sharing those photos and explaining how to make assemblage sculpture on your own!

It’s about collage with objects, start looking at objects in a new way.

Putting things together in a way that creates a new whole out of the parts—new story, new feeling. Notice how you feel about the objects.

Your assemblage may include collage, but make sure it doesn’t get so pretty that the collage is something you’re reluctant to cover up. Make sure the objects have supremacy, after all, this is a sculpture.

What assemblage sculpture is about:

Sitting with things, deciding how to put them together.
Can’t rush it, be willing to put it aside
Get comfortable with the process
Collect what you love.
Collect what will tell tell the story that you want to tell.

For my class I asked students to begin collecting:

• Multiple Altoids mint tins and/or sardine tins, bits of paper, mail, books, images that inspire you.

And in class, I tell students that:

• For your final piece, you’ll visit thrift stores or perhaps your basement or a friend’s attic to find a base or box (of any material) that speaks to you.

Graphic, Upcycled equals Creative Constraint by Elaine Luther

What to Collect and Where to Find Stuff

old fruit crates
wine crates
cigar boxes
baking pans
desk drawer sorters
silverware drawer sorter
random wood stuff from thrift store
consumer packaging, the more upscale the better
greeting card boxes
build your own box
buy crates or boxes from craft store
make a box by folding paper (origami)
matchboxes, large and small

Something to think about when making box-based assemblage sculptures: how is it meant to be seen/hung on the wall/does it stand up on it’s own? and if not, can you make a little popcicle stick stand for it?

Why use mint tins or other upcycled containers? Because they are not precious. Also the size and box-ness of it is a useful creative constraint. We can work on the inside, the outside, it’s all very defined.

Re-use stores (see this national list)
Flea market
thrift stores
dollar stores
church/temple/school rummage sales
garage sales
around the house
inside your purse
ask friends
craft store
Zero Landfill (if there’s one in your city)
American Science and Surplus (

Artist Michael DeMeng said,

“My work evolves in two ways. It either starts with a theme that leads me to certain objects, or with objects that lead me to a certain theme.”

I don’t know that I would have thought to say that, but I work exactly the same way.

Here’s one of my assemblage sculptures from the Our Ladies of Perpetual Housework series:

"Our Lady of Perpetual Homework" Copyright Elaine Luther 2013. All rights reserved.

“Our Lady of Perpetual Homework” Copyright Elaine Luther 2013. All rights reserved.

You can see that for this piece, I had to collect a lot of pencils. The pencils go all the way around the piece. I could have bought new pencils, of course, but I wanted the character and charm of old pencils that were actually used and chewed on by their former owners.

This one was definitely a case of I knew what I wanted to collect and I went out and found it.

Here are some pictures of other bits and pieces that I’ve collected:

Sample haul from a thrift store ; collecting for assemblage sculpture.

Sample haul from a thrift store ; collecting for assemblage sculpture.

Found objects I collect, photo by Elaine Luther.

Found objects I collect, photo by Elaine Luther.

In part two, we’ll dive in to working with your mint tin!

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