Angie Coomber writes about the joy of Junk journals and Mixed media art.
I have always been creative. I remember sitting in the garden when I was little writing my own fairy stories.
I used to draw princesses and make daisy chains. I pushed playdough into a walnut shell, filled it with little dried flowers and gave it to my mum for Mother’s Day.
I made Christmas decorations, window stickers, candle holders, decorated candles and cards. Card making turned into scrapbooking. I have lovely albums full of precious memories of my children when they were small.
After a few years of scrapbooking, I noticed mixed media projects in magazines and online – paints, inks, stamps, three-dimensional elements, journals – I loved everything I saw but didn’t know where to start. I never thought I would be able to achieve anything like the work I liked.
When the children grew up, we ended up living near a craft shop that ran mixed media classes.I am a very introverted person, but I plucked up all my courage and booked some classes. I have never looked back. I admired a number of artists and managed to do workshops with some of them. I made my first books in workshops with Journal maker and artist Neil Walker. It definitely ignited a spark.
A small cabin in the garden became my art space – long gone were the days of working on the kitchen table! I’m a prolific maker – when I learn a new technique I probably make 10 versions of whatever it is. I worked in journals, on canvases, driftwood, stones, old tools, old brushes, recycled materials.
I particularly enjoyed making altered books – creating art in and with old books that are destined for the bin or recycling – my answer to those who say “I couldn’t tear a page out of a book/cut into it/paint in it” – I’m giving the book a new lease of life by repurposing it.
I discovered what colour combinations worked for me instinctively. I only learnt later on that they actually worked according to the colour wheel. Some colour combinations just make me feel really happy. I slowly found supplies and techniques I liked. I continued to be inspired by my favourite artists while developing my own style.
I began working more in my journals
It was a place where I could put my thoughts and feelings in words, colours, images and scraps of paper. I had accumulated a plethora of backgrounds, stamped images, ephemera, old books, quotes (oh how I love a quote!) and saved images. One of my favourite techniques is to write something that has upset or annoyed me, then make art on top of that page. Nobody will ever see my sweary words, they will just see my art.
It took me such a long time to feel comfortable about using the word “art”. I’m not good at accepting compliments and I’m not good at blowing my own trumpet. In fact, I hate it. People tell me that I’m an artist, and that I should sell my art. But the thought of promoting or advertising myself fills me with dread! However, I do now believe I’ve crossed over from crafter to artist. There, I’ve said it.
I love the thought of turning negative feelings into beautiful – or at least interesting – art. I’m not great at keeping a diary, but it helps me to write things down. Junk journals are a particular favourite. I love to think that when I am working in one of these journals, I made this journal. I HAVE to do something creative every day, it’s like breathing air for me. Even if a day is going to be difficult, I tell myself that I will be able to spend 5 or 10 minutes doing something creative – it might just be a couple of rows of crochet or a couple of scraps of paper glued onto a page, but that can be enough.
Junk journals can be made from pretty much anything
Mine include backgrounds, gelli prints, book pages, old letters, sheet music, magazine pages, writing paper – the idea of reusing, recycling, and repurposing different sized pages, torn edges, different textures and thicknesses appeals to me. I have learnt different ways of creating covers and binding the journals. I’ve used card, faux leather, grey board, and sewn and embroidered fabric journal covers.
I love working small and adore mini books. I’ve made little books inside decorated matchboxes. I have made a lot of small journals and recently worked in a little pocket dictionary for a 100dayproject. Mini books are cute, and they are portable.
At the moment, I enjoy collaging and I have several small (travel) kits that I can grab and take anywhere at a moment’s notice, whether I’m going for a coffee, a day out, camping, or travelling. The usual contents include a mini journal, scissors, glue, background papers/ephemera, focal images & quotes, black & white gel pens, water-soluble pencils, a water brush, and washi tape.
I have been known to do sneaky collaging during particularly dull Teams meetings in my home office. I have a kit that I use around the house and garden, and one that is purely for taking out with me in my bag. When I’m out, tourist information or receipts are included – they’re things that remind me of the place I was when I created the page.
My creative time is my meditation and happy place. I completely switch off, pour all my feelings onto the page and work things out in my head. My social media name @hugsonpaper really reflects the fact that there is a lot of love in everything I do.
I was ready for a new challenge when I discovered Hope and her brilliant Bindfulness workshops and handmade books, and it was really great to add some more traditional bookmaking skills to my arsenal of techniques.
Give me a few scraps of paper and I’m happy!
A few pages from Angie’s Tiny Book
See more work and work in progress from Angie on Instagram @hugsonpaper
Text: Written by Angie Coomber. Edited by Hope Fitzgerald. Images: Angie Coomber & Hope Fitzgerald