One of our favorite activities at Souldust involves cutting, pasting, and tuning into something quiet and true while making something unique for your journal, home, altar space, or even to burn as an offering.
You know the saying “it’s about the journey, not the destination?” We love that saying around here.
Intuitive collage is about exactly the opposite.
… And it’s about the journey too. It’s just that it’s more like you’re blindly following an internal GPS without really knowing where it’s going to end up.
The process is one that requires a few simple tools and your presence, nothing more. This is an excellent craft for settling into a ritual, setting intentions, prompting a journal entry, or for someone who claims they have no artistic talent whatsoever.
It isn’t about the aesthetic, it’s about outcome.
Once that’s been crafted, you can look back at your process and learn about yourself. In the end, it’s deﬁnitely about the journey there… Just not at the beginning.
There’s a ton of variation in the ways this process can be used, as well as plenty of nuance in how you might approach “reading” the collage, its words, and imagery.
But this 30 minute-ish intro will get you started!
Intuitive collage doesn’t require anything fancy, just a surface, some collage materials, and a few ofﬁce supplies.
- Notebook or loose paper, often in the vicinity of 8.5 x 11 size, preferably line-free and thicker than standard copy paper, but play around with different types to ﬁnd your preference
- Glue stick(s) – I always seem to pick the glue stick that runs out halfway through
- Scissors – I prefer smaller scissors with a pointy tip, for precision cutting
- A few magazines – lifestyle, health, travel, nature… Whatever calls you or is available. I avoid celebrity rags or text-heavy ones like Newsweek. If you don’t have any handy, there are usually plenty at the thrift store or, if you have a group like Freecycle or Buy Nothing in your area, put out an APB for free magazines. Another good place to keep an eye out is Little Free Libraries or your building’s free pile.
- A timer with an alarm. I use the timer on my phone.
Set up in a quiet place with decent lighting.
Background music is okay, but I recommend not having any major distractions. Set your phone to silent or airplane mode.
Take a deep breath.
Spend a minute centering and grounding yourself, however you normally do it. Find a still place to start from.
Set your intention.
Remember that you are not trying to force a collage about a speciﬁc subject. This is not a vision board. We want to see what emerges from your subconscious. So, set aside “I’m going to collage what my dream house will be in 5 years.” You might land on a simple prompt, such as “what’s next?” or “what do I need to know at this moment?”
You can also just set the intention to embrace the process, let it ﬂow and see what happens this ﬁrst time.
Steps 1-3: The Creation Process
The steps are in about 5 minute increments to encourage you not to overthink and allow instinct to take over. For a collage of this size, any longer means your brain gets in the way of your intuition. If you ﬁnd yourself stopping and focusing on a page, or stopping in general at any step, you’re probably thinking too much. Shake it off, and start moving again.
Step 1: Tapping into Intuition
5 minutes max
Flip through magazines rapidly, again without any speciﬁc intentions. If you are drawn to an image or a word, rip out the entire page or the image or word. Do not use scissors in this step, the act of cutting will get you back in your head. Also, don’t second-guess what you’re drawn to, even if it seems weird or icky or random. When the timer goes off, you should have a pile of pages/images/words. Set aside all the magazines.
Note: If you feel like you’re done before the timer goes off, stop. You don’t have to go the full 5 minutes.
Step 2: Let It Choose You
5 minutes max
Go back through your pile and sort what’s REALLY calling to you, wanting to end up on your collage, from what isn’t. This may feel like a tug, like it doesn’t want you to set it aside. Now is the time to use scissors (if you want) and carve out pieces of images or parts of words. Maybe placing words together that came from separate images. I don’t always use scissors at this stage either, sometimes I just keep tearing with my hands because it’s more tactile. When the timer goes off, you’ll have a smaller pile. Set aside the deprioritized imagery. (You can always pull it back into Step 3 if you feel the urge)
Note: Chuck the discard paper on the ﬂoor like you’re unwrapping birthday presents and need to get on to the next one… You can spend time being tidy about it later. Letting go can aid in the tapping-in process.
Step 3: Collage
10 minutes max
Start placing what’s left on the page. Again, don’t overthink it, your body/ﬁngers will automatically want to cluster certain things together, place items on certain spots. If you overthink, you will start looking for structure and aesthetic. We don’t care about traditional aesthetic, it’s all beautiful! It’s OK if things overlap, and you shouldn’t worry about how it “looks”. My only suggestion is to consider placing the bigger items ﬁrst on the base. My collages tend to end up with overlapping words/images, sometimes stuff ultimately ends up obscured, and that’s OK. Glue it all down. This is for you, and you’ll know what’s there.
Congratulations, you have created your collage!
That wasn’t so hard, was it? Take another deep breath and have a moment with it…
Step 4: What’s the Message?
This step can last as long as you want. Step back and look at what you’ve created, engaging mind as well as heart. Listen for the message from your soul. Chances are you’ve created some sort of storyboard, whether it’s photos of animals staring at you with the words “follow your instinct” clipped out, or maybe imagery of peaceful scenes and words about being grounded. Look for patterns – not just similar images, but a color pattern, or repeated words, or common shapes. Consider what automatically comes up when you see certain images — maybe a picture of the ocean takes you back to that memory of sticking your face in a tide pool as a kid.
That’s your subconscious calling your attention.
Let’s get personal for a minute.
One woman who was dealing with the aftermath of two rounds of cancer had numerous spheres and, to her, they meant a sense of wholeness, which she was struggling to feel after so much disease. Another had a board covered in yellow images which, to her, evoked a feeling of joy.
In the collage created for this tutorial, I notice the following.
In the order I notice, so you can see my stream of consciousness…
- I’m not actually a big Beyonce listener but, for me, she represents a ﬁerce femininity.
- The little girl with the plastic life preserver appears to be jumping into the Grand Canyon, not a pool.
- The other little girl in the swimsuit reminds me of me as a child. I was an avid swimmer, and had a suit just like hers.
- Down at the bottom is a deer by itself, ﬂoating over a sea. I associate deer with the goddess Artemis.
- Nearby is a whale, which I associate with deep planetary wisdom.
- There is a strong general water/swimming theme. I associate water with the unconscious.
- There is a pattern of here/there in the words. “No longer in your house.” “Being there.” “Out here. It’s not that you’re lost. You just don’t care to be found.” And ﬁnally, “the path to peace.” Maybe a route between here and there.
- I don’t know yet what to make of the parakeets on the branches.
- There are two women just above “being there” who are watching the girl jump into the canyon.
My overall impression is that it’s telling a story of my journey in this moment. I often feel like I’m leaping into the unknown, and being watched doing so, which can amplify the scariness. There’s a desire to reconnect with the unﬁltered, un-self-consciousness of my youth, maybe even leveling up to the ﬁerceness of Beyonce, the wisdom of the whale. I am no longer in my old “house,” but I am not fully “there” yet either. And who knows where there is… what’s at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, the bottom of the ocean?
These details and the questions we ask ourselves about them are all part of the intuitive collage process.
The important thing to understand at Step 4 is that this is your message to yourself. You can consult websites and books on traditional symbolism of images (for example: what does a whale signify?!), you can take words literally or ﬁguratively, whatever you feel called to do. But always remember your interpretation is ultimately the one that matters.
Note: Sometimes it’s good to step away entirely from a collage and come back to it hours or even days later. You may see or “hear” something that didn’t occur to you when you looked at it right after completion.
The mind knows no answers. The heart knows no questions.
Intuitive collage is a practice that can be called upon at any time, to get un-stuck, to learn more about yourself, to retrieve answers from your deepest knowing. For me, it’s similar to dream work, paying attention to synchronicity and signs, or working with oracle cards.
It can be used similarly to a journal or writing practice, as a daily exercise. It can be used as an on-the-ﬂy stress reliever. If I’m feeling itchy and anxious, I may pause for 10-15 minutes to create a collage, and usually it brings a sort of inner relief. An exhale. Even when I don’t have time to look at the meaning. Even if I may never come back to it.
I hope you enjoy this practice! For deeper exploration of how to use this practice and work with your collages, consider joining us at an in-person workshop, or sign up for our mailing list to be among the ﬁrst notiﬁed when we launch our online course.
Rachel Ford, Founder, Souldust
P.S. If you feel like sharing your creations, we’d love to see them posted on Instagram with the tags #mysouldust and #intuitivecollage, or feel free to tag @Souldust on Facebook.