Monday, July 7, 2014

Paper, Scissors, Art: Celebrate the Charming Collages of Artist Denise Fiedler

The artful hands of San Francisco collage artist, Denise Fiedler, create charming and highly original collages using graphic vintage French newspapers, luscious Venetian marbleized papers, hand-colored art papers, and centuries-old images from long-ago books.

Denise’s small-scale art pieces include playful and charming bespoke illustrations and collages. Each is one-of-a-kind and very spontaneous, inspired by found ephemera, old books, hand-painted albums and her vivid imagination. Delightful.

I love them framed simply in antique frames, in groups of topics—birds, nests, bicycles, flowers, writing, and silhouettes. As a collection, they’re brilliant.

I’ve been following the creative mind of Denise Fiedler ever since she created a series of Balenciaga-beautiful sculpted lampshades and decorative and whimsical paper sculptures for a leading decorator some years ago.

Now she’s turned her nimble fingers and fanciful eye to the fine art of collage—and has given this exacting craft a witty spin.

I especially love the madness of her bird-haired Marie Antoinette, the clip-art birds, her collection of chairs, and the lovely hydrangeas in urns.

Follow me—and see which ones you love. Her bespoke maps are dramatic—and I dare you to commission her to cut a special portrait of your dog or cat. Cutting loose, definitely.

I recently had a wonderful chat with Denise and here’s what she told me:

“I make my collages in my studio in North Beach. Each piece is one of a kind. I sell them at shops like Nest on Fillmore Street in San Francisco, and at Gump’s in San Francisco. (see below for contacts and shops)

“I make a lot of bespoke pieces—including cat and dog portraits, birthday cards, murals, posters, special occasion art, and collections of images including portraits of people, birdcages, architecture.

“I work every day in a studio on the 5th floor of the Sentinel Building, historical flatiron SF landmark at Columbus and Kearny in San Francisco.

“It’s a fantastically inspiring atelier, with high ceilings, wood floors, and bay windows from which I can see layers of Chinatown and Nob Hill, Columbus Ave and even Mt. Tamalpais (on a clear day). Francis Coppola owns the building and it’s the headquarters of American Zoetrope, his film production company. That adds allure.”

Collage artist Denise Fiedler told me recently in an exclusive interview:

“I work on a large heavy metal desk made in the Twenties by Art Metal from Jamestown, NY.

“I sit in a black wire Bertoia chair. My desk is partially overshadowed by my seven-foot tall fig tree. Next to my desk over the radiator is an old train station blackboard with a chalk shelf that I purchased from Nest on Fillmore. It’s huge, framed with a 4-inch wood border. An antique wood-top French table holds vintage papers and I save old painted boxes to house supplies and curiosities.

“I make the very large pieces at home since my space is small but I love the building.”

“I work with rare and one-of-a-kind vintage and antique papers, some of which I find at the flea markets in Paris. I love the monthly Alameda flea market, and often find old papers and printed maps and quirky images at Aria, a great antiques shop on Grant Avenue in North Beach, and Grenouille French Antiques (to the trade). People randomly send me books knowing that I can turn a faded old book into something new. A woman in Chicago sent me three amazing horticulture books from the twenties.

“ My next concept is to expand the city series. I would love to do more illustration work since I'm having so much fun.

Also looking into more licensing of my products.

What do I listen to while I’m working on my collages? I'm a big fan of Pandora radio- mostly Mozart but I will stray into other genres as well but nothing too jolting”.

More About Denise Fiedler

“I started making collages in 2009 after working with textiles for many, many years. I love the simple beauty of an aged page of a vintage book—and this was how my "cut and sew" became "cut and paste."

“Collage always had appeal for its serendipity and coming together of unlikely suspects. I always loved the newspaper found in Picasso and Braque's cubist works. Cutting is a natural extension of drawing, a practice I have had since childhood.

“My mixed media pieces started out small and gradually grew larger in scale. A very lucky find of old (1943) French newspapers, bound together, helped to accommodate my new larger scaled works as well as patching.

“I keep a very large inventory of vintage and discarded books locked away to use as the base of my work.

“Finding a crumbling old dusty book is always a challenge. My current favorite book to use is "Etiquette" by Emily Post from 1946. Reading on the job is my occupational hazard.

“Aside from books, I also use antique French marbled paper, documents and calligraphy.”

Getting Started at a Fast Clip

“I started hand painting the pages and newspapers in the spring of 2013 after finding a child's scrapbook from France that was hand colored. I use diluted Sennelier inks and watercolor paints as a wash. Their natural pigments, and a very French color sensibility appeal to me.

Often for more texture I will print with a woodblock over the wash in a contrasting or deeper color.”

“I am always drawn to interiors and their components so chairs are compelling, as well as architecture, bikes, farmer's markets. The city pieces contain architectural and cultural icons as well nature and the spirit that inhabits a particular place.”

“Dog and cat portraits as well as cat and houses are very popular. They’re fun to do and give the owners great pleasure.

More unusual requests have been a favorite shoe, an Hermes box and an old, loved bear.”

Artist Denise Fiedler

All images here are exclusively handcrafted by collage artist Denise Fiedler in San Francisco.

Denise can be contacted through the PASTESF website (
or emailed at

Denise can be found on Instagram at PASTESFCOLLAGE. This is where I post new and custom work that doesn't always get to the website.

The top five retailers are: Gump's San Francisco, Modica Home, Union Street, San Francisco, and at Nest in San Francisco.

Also Watson Kennedy in Seattle and Maison 140 in NYC.

Prices from $55.


Karena said...

Diane, Denise is an incredibly talented artist. I love all of her work, so unique, especially the City Series.

Thank you so much for this artful feature on Denise!

The Arts by Karena

Chronica Domus said...

These are very clever and charming. I particularly love the marbled paper pieces as I have a fondness for the stuff myself. Thank you for posting on this talented artist.

parisbreakfast said...

These are just Fabulous!
Love love love them!
Very talented and witty lady
Thanks Dianne

Michael Hampton said...

I absolutely adore these collages! They are so playful yet sophisticated. Each one truly makes me smile. I could easily get addicted to collecting them.

Thank you for sharing Denises very inspiring work!



Diane Dorrans Saeks said...

Karena and Michael and Carol and Chronica--(my neighbor…)…

I'm so happy you love this post.
I admire Denise so much--as she makes this all look so easy. And…there is a French-ie ness to it that I love…I especially…like you …love the marble papers…
And I love the friskiness…as Michael points out…
Yes…the key is a collection. They are well priced, I must say.

Enjoy the week…more great stories in store.