Introduction: Bailey's Freshman Year Word Collage

This past June my little sister, Bailey, graduated from high school. The idea was simple. In coming up with a graduation present I knew that I wanted to give Bailey something that a.) she could use or have around for a long time, b.) really reflected her personality and individuality, and c.) got her pumped for college - or at least tried to pass on some amount of advice.

The collage I made for her is full of things she likes, things that reminded me and my mom of her, and adjectives we believe described her, as well as advice and positive messages to get her fired up for her freshman year of college!

Step 1: Gather Your Supplies

The supplies needed for this project are pretty simple. Most of the stuff you should probably have laying around your house already.

What You Will Need:
- Card stock or thin poster board to cut down to size
- Good, sharp cutting scissors that won't catch
- Glue Sticks
- Most most importantly? MAGAZINES!
- Optional: Ziplock bags
- Optional: Paper plates
- Optional: A picture frame

Obviously, magazines are the most crucial part of this project. If you need materials start asking around friends and family early on. Check Craigslist. I got some sixty magazines - People, US Weekly, Newseek, GQ, and Maxim (lol) - from a guy on Craigslist for the $12 cash in my pocket. My sister also just happened to have six years worth of Seventeen magazine and CosmoGirl in her closet. It was literally like traveling through time reading all those old stories and looking at all those old headlines, lol.

By the way. TEEN MAGAZINES ARE THE BEST MAGAZINES TO USE FOR THESE PROJECTS. I cannot stress that enough. You want color. You want vibrance. You want diversity in your words, colors, fonts, etc. You will never find better variety than you will in magazines targeted towards teenage girls.

Also, good scissors are very important. Magazines can be difficult to work with and you don't want to tear pages and ruin words that you are trying to cut out. You need magazines that will cut straight and true. I've lost too many good words to a pair of kid's craft scissors that either tore, wore away the color, or folded and visibly creased the magazine paper.

Once you've got your materials together it's time to get started!

Step 2: Step One - Pick Your Subject and Get Cutting!

When approaching a project like this the first thing you need to do is pick your topic or subject. For me, my subject was my sister - Bailey. While I was reading through these articles and flipping through literally tens of thousands of magazine pages I was thinking of her. When I was picking what to cut out I was trying to find things that would fit on her collage.

There are some basic words - like Love, Hope, Awesome, Beautiful, etc. - that you should consider cutting out every time you see them. They are useful, they are descriptive, and if you use them more than once on a collage it's not necessarily a bad thing. You will need words to fill the gaps.

Other things to consider cutting out:
- Names if you see them
- SMALL pictures and logos
- Favorite movies, books, actors, etc.
- General phrases
- Letters of various sizes and shapes to spell names

REMEMBER! You need to cut out words of all sizes, fonts, and colors. But size is important. You will be putting these together in random order and there will be gaps in your collage that you will need to fill with other words. Sometimes there will be itty bitty gaps. Sometimes they will be small but obvious. So even if you think a words is way too small you should still cut it out. You never know what will come in handy!

"What about pictures?" you might ask. I generally tend to avoid them. I prefer sticking to right angles and words when I can because they tend to fit together easier. Also, pictures in general distract from the flow of the collage. However, some pictures will work. You'll see in the finished product that I did use a few words and things that have smooth, rounded edges and little logos and pictures.

Step 3: Step Two - Start Sorting Your Words

Once you've got your words, phrases, and assorted other little tidbits cut out it's time to start sorting them. Because what you've got now is just a huge massive mound of words. When you were cutting the words out the goal was to cut out anything and everything that might seem even remotely useful. Now you need to get a bit more serious about deciding what you'll actually use by sorting them out.

Alternatively, you can just not sort them at all.

If you're doing a collage of just things that you like or that represent you then this is probably a good enough approach.

Step 4: Step Three - Cut Your Base and Start Planning Things Out

Now that you have all your words and such cut out you need to cut out the base that you'll be gluing them onto. There are a few ways you can do this. You can just get a regular sized piece of card stock and then use that. You can go buy a picture frame and trace the cardboard back on a piece of thin poster board then cut that out. Or you can just measure out the size of the frame you'll buy later on said piece of poster board and cut that out.

Either way, you want to use something with the thickness of card stock. It needs to be sturdy but not heavy because ultimately you probably want to frame it.

Once you have the base, it's time to start planning out your collage.

It's important to remember as you begin planning it out that you cannot plan out everything. What you need to do is find your 'anchor' pieces. Find the bigger words, phrases, etc. that you want to dominate the majority of your piece. Once you have these it makes it easier to fill in the spaces. For this particular project, the center of the collage was a pieced together 'B-A-I-L-E-Y.' Then the rest of the anchors were either big things that represented her - like "CUTE FLIP FLOPS AND BOYS" - or pieces of advice for her as she began her first year of college - such as "MAKE MEMORIES."

After you've got those major bits and pieces figured out and positioned it's time to move on to the next step...

Step 5: Step Four - Get to It!


After a while there is only so much planning you can do. Eventually you need to to just DO IT. Just start gluing. Make the decisions too hard. Just go for it. Eventually the holes will start to fill up. Don't be too picky about what goes where. Granted, you don't want to rush into some decisions. There may be several words and things that fit in the same place. And you'll want to maybe wait on some things to see if they don't fit better elsewhere.

For example, if you have two 'The Hunger Games' and don't want to use both of them you'll want to be a little more selective about where you put them. You'll also want to be a little wary of putting too many of pieces of the same color together. Putting ten words and phrases with white backgrounds - especially if they have black text - together might look a little bland. Similarly ten pieces with pink backgrounds all next to each other might be a bit much. Even for Bailey.

If you make mistakes, it's okay. You can pull the words off (though it may ruin them so it pays to be careful) or you can cover them up with other words.

The important thing is to fill in all the gaps. Try not to leave ANY of the base visible. Cover the holes with anything you can. This is why you cut out itty bitty words and phrases, too, even though you thought you might never use them! Fit as much as you possibly can on this collage and don't worry about it looking perfectly neat and clean. It's a collage. It's not supposed to be perfect or neat. It's supposed to be an eclectic mess!

Step 6: Step Five - Frame It! (Optional)

Now that you have a final product it's time to frame it! This is optional, of course. You don't have to frame your collage but it definitely makes it a lot easier to display it. I've been using the same sort of frames for eight years now. They are from Walmart's discount Mainstays line. Very thin frames, always in black. They are cheap, durable, and they don't cover any part of the collage.

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