Make: Using Collage as a Catalyst for Change

Make: Using Collage as a Catalyst for Change

Collage is on the rise among contemporary artists confronting problems in society through their work. In celebration of Black History Month, we are highlighting 5 female artists using collage to talk about race and identity in their work. We’ve also included a tutorial at the end, showing how you can create your own portrait collage using the smallest of fabric scraps!


Born and raised Austinite, Deborah Roberts uses collage to critique notions of beauty, the body, race, and identity in contemporary society through the lens of Black children. Her first solo exhibition, I’m, is available to view now until August 15th at The Contemporary Austin

Deborah Roberts, The duty of disobedience, 2020. Mixed media collage on canvas.


Kenyan artist Wangechi Mutu uses found materials, magazine cutouts, and painted imagery to create fantastical scenes that explore gender, race, war, colonialism, global consumption, and the exoticization of the black female body.

Wangechi Mutu, Le Noble Savage, 2006. Ink and collage on mylar.


Lorna Simpson uses photographs of women from old advertisements and replaces their hair with bold and beautiful ink splatters and splotches, highlighting hair for its profound intersection with identity. 

Lorna Simpson, Tulip, 2014. Collage and ink on paper.


Kara Walker, an American contemporary artist, uses room-size black cut-paper silhouettes to explore race, gender, sexuality, violence, and identity. 

Kara Walker. African/American. 1998. Linoleum cut.


Nigerian artist Njideka Akunyili Crosby uses images of popular Nigerian icons, advertisements, and family photographs to represent themes relating to tradition and newness, politics and culture, and urban and rural in buzzing tension.

Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Predecessors, (detail) 2013. Charcoal, acrylic paint, graphite and transfer print.


Black History Month is coming to an end, but Black History does not end. It is American History, constantly generated by influential figures and studied to create new, resilient American generations. The time is nigh to review and learn from our past, both nationally and individually, to foster a strong and collaborative future for us all. 


Fabric Scrap Collage Tutorial

Use collage as a catalyst for change in your classroom or home life by celebrating influential Black figures in American history.

This tutorial is great for using up your quilting scraps or fabric samples for creating a unique collage! This is a no-sew tutorial, though you can easily use sewing techniques to create a fabric collage on a blank t-shirt, an unused canvas, or other blank fabric. Use a machine or hand sew your pieces, starting with the bottom layers first, to create a unique and lasting fabric collage from scraps.



  • Fabric scraps or samples
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Sturdy background (file folder, cardstock, cardboard, wood scrap, etc)


Step 1

  • Pick your figure. It can be a historical or influential character, yourself, or anyone else you’d like to portray.


Step 2 

  • Select your fabrics. Think about the colors and shapes you’d like to use in this process and how they’ll come together.


Step 3

  • Cut out shapes. You can use a fabric marker to draw out your shapes on the fabric before cutting it. 


Step 4

  • Arrange the pieces on your surface. I used a wood tile sample for my background. Take a picture of your arrangement to reference when glueing down your pieces.


Step 5

  • Glue down. Start with the bottom most layer of fabric then continue to add on top. 


Step 6

  • Add any details you’d like, and celebrate!



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