Assemblage Sculpture Class, Gesso'd Mint Tins, photo by Elaine Luther

Assemblage Sculpture Process, Gesso’d Mint Tins, photo by Elaine Luther

Alright, time to get messy! In Part 1 of this how-to series, we talked about the why and where of collecting for assemblage, or mixed media sculpture.

Let’s look at some boxes and then start painting!

Assemblage Bases Cigar Boxes Wood and Chipboard, photo by Elaine Luther

Assemblage Bases: Cigar Boxes Wood and Chipboard, photo by Elaine Luther

Assemblage Sculpture Collected Sculpture Bases, photo by Elaine Luther

Assemblage Sculpture Collected Sculpture Bases, photo by Elaine Luther

Assemblage Sculpture: Collected & Painted Mint Tins, photo by Elaine Luther

Assemblage Sculpture: Collected & Painted Mint Tins, photo by Elaine Luther

Not all paint wants to stick to already painted steel. Spray paint works well, but you can’t always spray paint, maybe you don’t have a place to paint, or it’s too cold. In the photo below, you can see that the mint tins have a thin coating of a white substance on them.

Painting mint tins, photo by Elaine Luther

Painting mint tins, photo by Elaine Luther

The white substance on the mint tins is gesso. Gesso is used by artists to prepare surfaces, including canvases, for paint. You can buy a small bottle of gesso at your local art or craft store. Painting a thin layer (or two, with plenty of drying time in between), will help your acrylic paint to stick better.

Painting Mint Tins, photo by Elaine Luther

Painting Mint Tins, photo by Elaine Luther.

After letting the gesso dry, I painted the tins, inside and out, or only outside, with acrylic paint.

Next, the fun part! Decorating!

Here are some sample mint tin assemblage sculptures I’ve made, let’s look at these and then discuss the methods used to make them.

Mothers and Daughters Tin by Elaine Luther

Mothers and Daughters Tin by Elaine Luther

The green hill in this piece is a piece of chipboard, glued into place. This simple trick, of gluing elements at different depths in your tin, will go a long way to creating visual interest.

The little people are laser cut wood pieces and all the other items are found papers and ephemera.

Here’s another mixed media in a mint tin sculpture:

Assemblage Remember Box, Outside, by Elaine Luther

Assemblage Remember Box, Outside, by Elaine Luther

This one is a visual joke. The outside looks like it’s going to be very serious, but then you open it and:

Assemblage Remember Box, Inside. By Elaine Luther.

Assemblage Remember Box, Inside. By Elaine Luther.

it’s all Post-It Notes!

This simple piece came together quickly. The outside cover is covered with this terrific new product – it’s ribbon with a sticky backing, you just peel and stick! Love it.

Here are more mint tins, both the insides and the outsides:

Sample Mint Tins, Outsides. By Elaine Luther.

Sample Mint Tins, Outsides. By Elaine Luther.

Sample Mint Tins, Insides. By Elaine Luther.

Sample Mint Tins, Insides. By Elaine Luther.

These two show the simple elements you can use to create an arrangement in your mint tins. Pre-printed tags, paper flowers, a broken crayon, art papers, magazine pages and quilling paper are all used here to make simple compositions.

Let’s look at the one with the little perfume bottle:

Assemblage Perfume Bottle Tin, by Elaine Luther.

Assemblage Perfume Bottle Tin, by Elaine Luther.

This one is deceptively simple, yet it represents a life time of collecting. The text fragments are pieces of letters that I received as a kid. The perfume bottle is from my childhood. The squished, souvenir penny and button are newer.

After photocopying the text fragments onto tracing paper, and gluing them down, I tested out the layout of the objects. Here’s what the “dry fit” looked like on my workbench:

Perfume Bottle Assemblage in a Mint Tin, on my Workbench, by Elaine Luther

Perfume Bottle Assemblage in a Mint Tin, on my Workbench, by Elaine Luther

Let’s talk about glue.

In the projects shown, I used gel medium, Alene’s Tacky Glue, and high-temp hot glue.

What is gel medium? Gel medium is a product in the acrylic paint aisle that you can use basically how you would use Mod Podge. You can use it to glue things down to other things, and it dries clear.

Mod Podge has a particular smell to it that I don’t care for, so I prefer gel medium. Gel medium comes in different thicknesses, for collage work as shown here you would want something like Golden brand’s Soft Gel, which you can get in a matte finish or a gloss finish. (I think Mod Podge only comes in gloss, so there’s another reason to use gel medium, if you want the matte option.)

As a metalsmith, I have a long-held aversion to glue that I’m having to overcome, and my strongest aversion of all was to hot glue. I’ve since been introduced to an insanely strong (and hot!) glue that will basically stick anything to anything. I’m getting over my snobbery, as I like being able to stick anything to anything. I think I used hot glue to make the little hill stand up.

What else would you like to know about mixed media in a box? Please post your questions in the comments! Thanks!

All artwork and photos are Copyright Elaine Luther 2015-2016, All Rights Reserved.

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