Jack Wagstaff has a unique artistic gift. The River Landing at Sandy Ridge resident creates stunning botanical collages which allow him to combine his passion for art with his love of gardening.
He started experimenting with the collages seven or eight years ago after coming across a set of notecards with collages from Africa while he was in a Ten Thousand Villages store. He decided to try it out — small notecard-sized pieces at first. “But I couldn’t guarantee that the notecards wouldn’t get damaged in the mail,” Jack explains. So, he switched to framed pieces, working his way up to the larger 24-by 30-inch framed pieces he does today.
Jack starts by harvesting materials from the garden, such as leaves, seeds, stems and other organic material. Then he uses old encyclopedias to press and dry the materials between the pages. Then he creates elaborate and interesting collages based on the material and the look of the frame. His frames come mainly from Goodwill or The Salvation Army Thrift Store (or occasionally from a hobby store if he can get them on sale).
“I just think about what would look good in that particular frame,” he says. “And I always do the framing myself.” Depending on the piece, a collage can take anywhere from a few hours to a day or so.
He has 60 collages in a show currently at River Landing that opened on October 1. His works have become quite popular, with more than half of the pieces in the show having already been sold. “I enjoy doing them and price them to move,” Jack explains. His pieces sell from $25 to $60 depending on the size and cost of the frame.
Other residents often approach Jack to create gifts for them to share with their families. And the interest generated from the show has already garnered a few more requests. “I’ve already done two and am doing one more, so far,” he says.
Jack’s collages have attracted attention outside of the community, as well. A year ago, his work led to some local press, with Winston-Salem Journal correspondent, Amy Dixon, writing:
“The level of creative intricacy in Wagstaff’s art is stunning. From a distance many of his pictures may just look like hand-drawn designs, but with a closer examination, the details emerge. The symmetry in his mandalas is spot-on, evoking a kaleidoscope pattern at times. He can create creatures out of overlapped leaves and can evoke persona from lobbed oak leaves.”
“Seeds, leaves and more provide inspiration for local crafter,”
Amy Dixon, Oct. 29, 2020, The Winston-Salem Journal
Jack and his wife, Kay, came to River Landing at Sandy Ridge more than 17 years ago just after the community was built. They enjoyed their cottage for many years until moving into an apartment three years ago. Jack and Kay have been married 63 years.
The couple now enjoys a three-bedroom apartment. Jack uses one of the bedrooms as an office and workshop overlooking the lake where he creates his collages on an old drafting table.