Friday, February 28, 2014

Found Object Series with Guest Artist K Wayne Thornley

Found Object Fridays: We artists love our collections don't we? Even as a child I remember foraging through flea markets and looking for special trinkets that caught my eye. Going for walks, to this day I find myself scanning the ground looking for interesting bits of metal or unique rocks to add to my collections. Long before I knew what I would be doing with them, I collected objects that pulled on something inside of me. As an artist I was thrilled to find there are others who love and collect little oddities and curiosities too. 

Over the course of ten Fridays I am honored to introduce ten different guest artists who will share some of the objects they love. You may recognize some of these names, while others may be new to you, each one is somebody whose style I admire. Check out the photos of their found object-and in a virtual show and tell, read about how it caught their attention and what they plan to do with it. Then check out their bios and links to learn more about each artist. . .


When I decided to do a series on found objects, I immediately thought to invite K Wayne Thornley. As an assemblage artist, I knew he was bound to have a collection of unique and interesting objects to chose from, and as a painter and mixed media artist whose style I so greatly admire, I just plain wanted the opportunity to hear and see what he finds inspiring. 

So without further ado, I'd like to introduce K Wayne Thornley . . .

What is it?
The found object - or in this case, objects - I wanted to share with you are three old and stained cotton velveteen sashes. I believe they are sashes worn by members of Shriners International. I could be wrong, but they look similar to other Shriner regalia.

Where did you find it or purchase it?
I found these mixed in with a bunch of old men’s neckties from the 40s and 50s at an estate sale. They had settled to the bottom of a small cardboard box that held the ties, some old wallets and a few pairs of broken cuff links – personal artifacts now for sale in an overgrown front yard of an old Southern home.

What caught your attention about it?
Because they had settled to the bottom of the container, I felt I was the first one to find them, making them even more special. At flea markets, estate and yard sales, it’s all about the hunt and having the skill to move quickly but inconspicuously through the offerings. Once I scan the scene for obvious treasure, I look for things under tables or inside drawers of old furniture – places most people don’t think to look. That is, until they see you find something great, right? These sashes stood out among the old ties not only for their velvet textures and rich colors, but for the embroidered words, numbers and patterns on each. My assemblage work usually uses numbers, symbols or words that relate to the subject matter of the piece. Sometimes that relationship is very obvious, sometimes it is for the viewer to figure out.

How will you use it?
I often use old swatches of found fabrics, usually to create small bundles that represent personal relics or memories. If I am using a vintage photo of a person, I usually cover the eyes with a clip of fabric, gauze or bookbinding tape. For me, covering the eyes is a powerful way to trigger some pretty primal feelings – anonymity, shame, innocence, a sense of loss, etc. I am sure I will cut and bleach or stain strips of this velvet for that purpose. As I stated, numbers and words also help me tell a story. I know this is how I will use these elements one day, but because the embroidery is so wonderful and you don’t find words like “Prosperity” embroidered on aged velvet every day, I have been reluctant to cut into them. Even the gold embroidered tag in the back of each is interesting to me. As an assemblage artist, you do come across things that speak to you so loudly that you hang on to them until the perfect project comes along. I’ve had these sashes for over 10 years.

K. Wayne Thornley is a mixed media and assemblage artist living in Columbia, SC. His work has been exhibited in shows across the country and featured in publications including Cloth, Paper Scissors Magazine and the book “Mixed Media Self-Portraits” by Cate Coulacos Prato. Wayne also teaches workshops on creativity for school teachers and other artists. You can find him on Facebook here or follow him on Pinterest and see one of his assemblage projects here.


  1. I'm fascinated with the first of this series, Crystal, and will definitely be back to check out the rest. I, too, am one of those people who has always collected things, which I now use in my art. It's great finding out about this new artist!

  2. Oh yes, I know that inner tug when I see something to add to my collections! Like you, I enjoy hearing about what other artists collect and how they use found objects in their art. A great start, Crystal and Wayne.