How do you begin a lesson in mindful collaging?
With advanced glue-stick handling? A quick refresher on scissor safety? By manifesting your idea for a cohesive, jaw-dropping layout that puts the rest of your class to shame? Not in this workshop.
First, you pause with a short, guided box-breathing exercise. Then an invitation: “To go be free.”
This is a Mindful Collage Night, which ran last week, here at The Combine as part of a series of initiatives by @Sadcollective to honor May Mental Health Month. Messy arts and crafts, not your thing? Maybe you’d benefit from a mobility sesh to help you conquer desk-neck? You could try meeting your next therapist via speed dating next week. And we could all use a midweek afternoon meditation to reset and restore.
Basically, Sad Collective has been on a mission to foster more space and time for healing and mental well-being in our busy, isolated lives. Sad Collective’s co-founder Amanda explains it was a project she and Meghan “pulled together from the things the pandemic left us with.” I.E., anxiety, dread, loneliness, loss, and a lot more free time. Since then, it’s blossomed into all manner of collaborations with other mental-health-positive outfits. Now that includes @Issuesmagshop out of Dundas West.
Nicola, the indie magazine retailer’s founder, first began organising collage nights at her shop in an effort to divert waste from unsold stock, while spotlighting emerging artists as rotating instructors.
That made Ehiko Odeh an ideal next partner to lend her multidisciplinary process (including collage, painting, writing and herbalism) to The Combine. It’s not the first collage workshop for Ehiko, who swears by art as an essential part in life— one we don’t all get a fair chance to enjoy.
In one previous outing, she helped a small group of seniors in her community explore themes of memory through collage, beginning with old family photos they’d unearthed from boxes in their homes. Because of its accessibility and flexibility, she says, collage is a perfect medium for giving things (and people) new life.
You can tell how well Sad Collective and Issues know their audience at The Combine, when they address one of the creative-blocks creative professionals most often face: letting go of that “mood-board” mindset, in favour of a state of mindful self-expression. Putting aside your craving for creative control, and letting “creation” take over ain’t always easy.
But, as Ehiko says, creation is in everything, in ways we don’t always appreciate. Of course, our planet, our bodies and sub-conscience are constant sources of creation to tap into. But even simple daily routines, like picking an outfit, can be acts of creation in which to find joy.
So how do we stop “concepting” and start creating?
For Ehiko, beginning a collage can feel a bit like thrifting: you follow your hands and eyes, pick things out and try them in different combos until something fits on a deeper level. Nicola likes to think of sourcing images as “foraging”; you wander out in a wilderness of magazine pages not knowing or caring what you’ll find. Instead, you let images, colors, and textures find and speak to you.
After some mindfulness-provoking guidance and light snacks — deliciously provided by Mama Akua’s — the work shoppers find their way into the collage session and the results speak for themselves.
Whether it’s by foraging or shopping around or exchanging bits and pieces, Ehiko encourages the group to “just follow the moments as they happen, and hopefully land somewhere in the present.”
If you missed that particular moment and feel inspired to seek some time for your mental well-being, be sure to follow what’s coming next from Sad Collective. Or just grab a glue stick, and some old LIFE magazines, take some deep breaths, and be free!