Mixed feelings about Mixed Media?
Updated: Jul 8
If you are reading this, you are very likely passionate about crafts. There are as many types of crafts as there are colours in the spectrum. Some people stick with paper crafts whilst knitting their brows at intricacies of other crafts such as knitting and crochet or even needle felting. If you are like me, you are keen to try different things. You stay with some or move onto something else. I have been faithful to paper crafts for many years but last year, I ventured into the unknown and unexplored world of Mixed Media. And as the headline suggests, my feelings were very mixed to begin with. Mixed Media is something I have always wanted to try but it looked complicated, complex and too busy. Leaving the 'Less is more' mantra behind, I plunged into the world of layers, textures and complexity.
Last year, I met my friend Dina, who has many years of experience working with Mixed media. I went to one of her classes and thoroughly enjoyed it! The way she taught the basics was simple and easy to grasp. For example - when you are making a mixed media layout or a scrapbook page using photos, take a moment to think about the direction of the person’s/animal’s look. This should then help you to position the photo in the most pleasing way. Ideally, you want to create a sense of meaning - their eyes are following something or resting on it (it could be your composition or something outside your page). So if they are looking left, you place the photo to the right and layer your composition on the left as if their gaze was resting upon it or they were overlooking it. Try to avoid placing the photo to the left edge - that way they would be looking nowhere or their view would be 'blocked' by the edge of your canvas and the composition would be behind their back so to speak.
The next thing you need to think about is the composition layout. In the top picture the frame and the figure are the centerpieces and my composition surrounds them like a bubble. This layout works well if you have a large object or a photo where the subject (person/animal) looks straight ahead. In the picture below, my composition has a triangular shape with a prolonged base that works well on landscape orientation. This layout is visually pleasing and it enables you to make most of your canvas/paper. This layout is also great for photos with subjects looking so the side.
The picture below is another example of a triangular layout, this time with a subject - a bird. Following the advice above, I thought about the layout and the direction the bird is looking. As recommended, the bird is positioned on the right, leaving space on the left. To enhance the illusion of the bird looking at something, I have added a little separate composition in the opposite corner. This acts not only as a balancing element to the final composition, but it also puts some sense to where the bird is looking.
There is one downside to the Mixed media craft. To create inspiring and multi-layered compositions, you will need a wide range of supplies. Saying that, you will be able to produce a lovely layout with just a handful of supplies, but I haven’t personally managed that yet! To create a composition, you will need different textures, materials and layers. You can mix and match fabric, paper, wool, die cuts, chipboard, paper flowers, mdf shapes, ornaments, metal embellishments, plastic or anything you can think of. You can add texture with pastes, stencils, stamps, beads, glitter, sand, wire, twine, ribbons and you can add colour with inks, sprays, mousses, waxes, paints, watercolours and many more. The more complex the mix the better - as long as it creates harmonious and visually pleasing final product, which isn’t easy and it’s what’s the most difficult about Mixed media (apart from financing it all without going bankrupt of course!).
Finding the right balance is the key! You can have 100 different little parts but it’s how you layer them and how you decide which are to be exposed and which are to be left partly concealed, that's crucial. Mixed Media is about creating one big composition out of multiple little ones, and it’s the joy in looking closer at a project and discovering little things that weren’t obvious at first and you only noticed them when looking closer. It could be a clever use of a paper clip that has been painted with a rust paint and then half concealed behind another object. And you think ‘Ha! That’s clever. I wouldn’t have thought of using it that way!’
You can recycle things that were meant to be used for something completely different and add them to your layout. You can use scraps, broken things, things from flea markets, antiques, rusty keys or locks. There is no limit to where this craft can take you. Ideally, you want to go on a journey of joyful playfulness and experimentation, without taking yourself too seriously. And speaking for myself, now more than ever, I found Mixed media beneficial in preserving my sanity and mental health wellbeing. And I very much hope that you will discover similar benefits for yourself!
Stay calm and keep crafting!
PS. The text above is written from my own perspective and my own experience and is by no means an ultimate guide to Mixed media.