Photos by Razan Samara

As darkness claims the end of the first Wednesday of the month, Main Street East settles into a quiet rhythm against the background humming of nearby traffic. Red florescent lights spelling out ‘Sous Bas’ invite passersby down a flight of stairs and into the warm atmosphere of the candlelit space known for long nights of dancing.

At the far end of the room DJ Camron rehearses his set. The chanted vocals of Afrobeat mixed with funk and jazz tracks will catalyze carefree dance moves during Afrowave, but tonight’s unofficial audience is rather preoccupied with issues of National Geographic from the early 2000s, scissors and glue sticks.

Magazines and journals from the worlds of fashion, business, travel, lifestyle, art, music and photography are scattered along the bar’s island. A few comics, colouring pages and prints from the past can also be found among the dozens of publications that fill plastic storage bins on the ground.

Whether you came with a plan to spend the night collaging or stumbled in for a drink and decided to stay for the paper-based craft, Sous Bas owner Erika McMeekin and visual artist Stylo Starr have created the perfect environment to cut, paste and chill.

“It’s been a really great experience breaking down the stigma that collage is just a cut and paste kindergarten activity, it’s so much more…the major drive behind it was that we saw that there was a pull towards collage and the appeal was there but the response was always ‘oh I can’t do that, I’m not an artist’,” explained Starr.

When McMeekin was approached with the idea of hosting the Collage Coven’s Assemblage events at Sous Bas, she thought it was a perfect fit. The nightclub is not only a popular scene for a night out in Hamilton, it’s also deeply intertwined with the community by providing a welcoming space for meetings, R&B and disco pilates sessions and now an art space.

“People like to meet and drink but don’t really do anything… So I want to see what could happen [in spaces]… where you go hangout with your friends but also make something,” said Starr.

“I think that would be really beneficial because you’re being productive in a group and that group think and group creativity is actually really cool, the synergy that’s there is insane.”

Collage makers tap into their creativity in clusters around tables, in booths, on couches and even sitting cross-legged on the floor buried in paper. Some of the attendees at last Wednesday’s event include artists, friends collaging together for the first time and two DeGroote alumni, one of whom flew in from Ireland to celebrate his birthday and ended up catching up with his friend over beers and collages.

“I love being able to provide that space for people where they could just unleash their creativity. It’s a power that not a lot of people realize they have within themselves…when they say things like ‘I’m not creative’ it’s like shoving that down in a box and I’m here to rip that shit open and let them revel in it and see what comes out of it,” explained Starr.

Aside from being a form of creativity and self-expression, collaging is also therapeutic. Attendees can learn more about themselves and feel good through partaking in the activity. Many of Starr’s own pieces were created during emotional moments, helping her sort through her thoughts, like a visual diary.

Anyone can get started with collaging. Start by collecting images that catch your eye in magazines or digital media, rip, cut, clip words, graphics, photographs or even patterns. Starr encourages collecting anything that strikes you and putting it aside for when you desire to make art or try something new.    

The Collage Coven’s monthly collage parties take place on the first Wednesday of the month from 7 to 10 pm at Sous Bas. The event is open to all, pay what you can and an abundance of materials are provided.  

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