Mel Kolstad vintage collages — an update on our “Love the House You’re In” artist laureate

downtown fond du lacLongtime readers of the blog surely remember Mel Kolstad — who I engaged starting in 2010 to create a series of “Love the House You’re In” custom collages of readers’ homes. Mel and I have a good story:

mel kolstad artHow I met Mel

I had discovered and been following Mel’s vintage collage work on flickr probably some time in 2009. Mel is all about using vintage ephemera in her work, which you know I love. And, in particular, I loved her Artist Trading Cards (ATCs) — collage works in miniature.

During this same period, I had started using the tagline “Love the House You’re In” on the blog — my husband actually came up that that idea, he is very good about such things. I began noodling… how can I express this idea further? One day, light bulb goes off: I’ll ask Mel if she will make me a collage every month around the theme, Love the House You’re In. So I ask her via email if I can talk to her on the phone. I call her up. She is all excited to do this for me. It is ONLY LATER that I learn that, just at this very time, she had been thinking about leaving her day job to become an artist — you know, agonizing over it. She later tells me she took my phone call as “a sign” — and shortly thereafter she quit her job! Yikes! This makes me very nervous.

astro collageSo, to continue the story, Mel indeed starts making collages for the blog, intro story here. Initially, the collages are generic — I even ask Mel to feature my man Astro one month. But then, super quick, I morph the idea into making it a giveaway — we will capture real readers and their homes in these miniature works of art. This will showcase the fascinating diversity of mid century houses — and our community ๐Ÿ™‚ — and be a fun giveaway. Win/Win/Win .

Over the course of about a year, Mel makes13 small (4″ x 4″) vintage collages of readers and their homes, with the featured readers and their homes chosen randomly in monthly contests.

It’s super hard for me to choose a favorite. She experiments with lots of art-making techniques. Sometimes she cuts out hundreds of itsy bitsy bricks. Now, that’s epic. And you know how I also like epic.

It’s all so super swell, I’m bursting with delight. But then, boo to the hoo, Mel tells me, she has to bow out, because of other obligations. I am super happy for her, of course! Her new career has wings!

fond du lac downtownMel and I keep in touch via Facebook, and very recently, I get an update from her that she has a new exhibit — which was the reason she had to stop collaging for the blog — and which, she tells me, was inspired in part by all these collages she did for the blog.

Woot!  So, of course, I ask Mel if I can show some images from the exhibit — and if we could let Retro Renovation readers know how her new career has been unfolding.

fond du lacMel explains her latest project and its connection to Retro Renovation:

Actually, the exhibit came before the book – this is (sadly) the reason I had to stop doing the house collages.  This exhibit took, from start to finish, 18 months to plan, create and execute!

It was you and my friend Suze Fiebig (who had an exhibit of photographs depicting snippets of downtown buildings), who were the total inspiration behind this exhibit, which is up in our library gallery for the entire month of November.  I wouldn’t have been able to complete it if I hadn’t had the year and a half of experience built up by doing the house collages for your wonderful readers!  I loved creating them and it gave me the confidence to make these collages.

What it boils down to is – I love our downtown.  This exhibit is a “love letter” of sorts from me to the businesses who make our lovely city even lovelier.  I wanted to create collages that captured the beauty in these buildings and the people who bring them to life.  ๐Ÿ™‚

Thank you so much for doing this, Pam!  I SO appreciate it!  And thank you for the inspiration – I couldn’t have done it without you!  ๐Ÿ˜€

fond du lac wisconsinclose up haber printingI also ask Mel how she is doing now as a full-time artist:

My life as a full-time artist:  It couldn’t be better if I had three wishes.  ๐Ÿ™‚  I recently became a docent for the Museum of Wisconsin Art, so I’m volunteering now as well.  I currently have work up in that museum as well for the members’ exhibit, and I was recently accepted into Warped Milwaukee, which is a fiber arts exhibit (here’s the link to that piece).  As you say, I’m “crazy, in a good way”!  ๐Ÿ˜€

Mel, I love you so! Thank you for sharing this update — you are such an inspiration!

  1. Gloria Manucia says:

    Art and jewelry celebrating New Orleans are very hot here these days. If Mel ever came down this way, she would make a mint! I wish you would, Mel!

  2. Annie B. says:

    Oh, MY!!! I love re-living this story!! I am one of the very very lucky winners of one of Mel’s house collages. Mel knows that her collage is so precious to me that we packed it among our “evacuation belongings” last year when Hurricane Irene threatened our area.

    Mel, your Fond du Lac collages ought to be in the Smithsonian. You amaze me beyond words. Congratulations on all the good things coming your way these days. They are well deserved, indeed.

    I will be forever indebted to you and to Pam for bringing me back to the joy of collage art. Creating vintage collages has become my happy, scrappy obsession. I count you both among my Thanksgiving blessings.

  3. Jenny A. says:

    I’m glad things are going so well for you, Mel! I love your artwork. I loved it the first time I saw it here on RetroRenovation and I entered every single “Love the House You’re In” collage contest but, sadly, never won. I really liked seeing the winners though and thanks, Pam, for posting an update of what’s happening in Mel’s world. I love the work with the downtown buildings, too. You are very talented!

  4. This is so inspiring! I’m excited to see these collages and, as an amateur preservationist and civic booster myself, I’m really happy that they are about Mel’s own downtown buildings. With a name like Fond du Lac, this town deserves celebrating!

  5. Mel Kolstad says:

    OMG!!! Pam, you are SO lovely for putting this post up!!! Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I feel so fortunate that you and I “met” – you’ve been my muse since Day One! ๐Ÿ˜€ YOU ROCK, and so do your wonderful readers – so many wonderful things have happened to me because of you and Retro Renovation! ๐Ÿ˜€

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