“It is a happy talent to know how to play.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Julie Renfro - Play Detail

Don’t Forget to Play

Seriously, it can be hard sometimes to remember that one of the reasons I make art is because it’s fun. Sounds moronic, but it’s true. I have to remind myself, constantly, that making art makes me happy. For the most part. The problem is usually found in the getting started part, but there are also times when what I’m doing isn’t working quite right, or I’ve committed myself to do, say, tiny blue dots around the edge of a 2 foot by 4 foot piece, and in the middle I’m asking myself “whose idea was this anyway?” But ultimately it makes me happy, the hard parts just a part of the process.

The idea for Play actually rolled into my head over two years ago. It was during my Sculpey Phase (I have learned that I strongly dislike working with Sculpey. Another story…) and I wanted part of the piece to be decorative tiles made with the stuff. I built the 2 foot by 4 foot frame (I wanted it to be fairly large), made the Sculpey tiles, found my P, L, A, and Y blocks….and that was as far as I got. My directive to myself (Play!) apparently wasn’t working, and for two years it sat gathering dust in my studio.

The Collage Show

Earlier this year, I was invited by Detroit artist Jack O. Summers to participate in a show featuring several artists that “collage” in different ways. I thought Play would be perfect (at least in my head, since it didn’t really exist yet). This was the kick in the pants I needed to bring the piece to life (nothing like a looming deadline!)

Play in Progress


The base of the piece consists of fabric squares, doilies, gold paint, and the Sculpey tiles with blocks. I found decorative round wood pieces at Michael’s that looked interesting and they ended up being incorporated too.



I knew I wanted a “doll” for the center of the piece, and I wanted her to be an assemblage of doll parts and other found objects such as jewelry pieces. I tend to play around with putting objects on the piece, sitting with them for a while, moving them around, taking them off, replacing them….until they “feel” right. Treasure hunting through my studio can yield unexpected gems.



Dots and detail…I added things as I progressed: small plastic figures painted gold, glitter in various colors and sizes, sequins, shiny gold things (Martha Stewart gold decoupage pieces from Michael’s were a find), more gold paint, blue and green dots, beads. The goal was to make it as shiny/sparkly/over-the-top as I could.

The Finished Piece

Overall, I’m very pleased with the finished piece, although I have to say it did not end up looking like I thought it would. Initially, the piece was to be more jumbled and loose, less organized, but once the grid pattern was set, I couldn’t help myself. I started working from that and kept things fairly symmetrical.

I have to admit that at the end I was pretty darn sick of the thing, was definitely not having fun, and actually didn’t like it very much! But after a few days of separation, then seeing the piece on the gallery wall with light shining on it, I came back around. Play and I have reconciled.

Thank you Jack Summers! And thank you to Chris Schneider and the fine folks at the Hatch Gallery. The Collage Show was really great, and I am honored to have been a part of such a fine group of artists.


The finished piece. Photo courtesy of Hatch Gallery, Hamtramck, MI.

This entry was posted in Art Making, Art Stories.


  1. Tina October 11, 2015 at 11:13 PM #

    Holy collage show! Such precision and detail. Thank you for sharing with the world. You inspire me.

  2. Julie October 18, 2015 at 6:05 PM #

    Thank you, Tina!

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