It started like any other night in St. Pete – a bunch of creatives networking in a brewery courtyard. Hosted at Cage Brewing, AIGA Tampa Bay’s ⌘X & ⌘V: A Collage Competition was an opportunity for designers to compete while they made connections. Six competitors, myself included, would go head to head, striving to make a conceptual collage in 30 minutes.
In the first round, three tables were set up, each piled with magazines. Armed with scissors and a glue stick, each table featured two competitors who would be given one-word prompts to create a work of art on an 8.5” x 11” cardstock provided by Calusa Press.
The three competition judges consisted of Roundhouse Creative’s content strategist (Tara Segall), one of my professors at USFSP (Elizabeth Herrmann), and the co-owner and art director of Bandit Coffee (Sarah Weaver). We would be competing for a $40 gift certificate to AOE Supply, the only unchained art supply store in Tampa.
I felt confident when I first learned that AIGA Tampa Bay planned to host a collage competition. After having recently finished ten mini-collages for the Handmade Valentine Exchange, my collage creativity was flowing. I’d been toying with the medium for a while, enjoying redesigning the high-gloss pages and reconstructing new work from the remnants of other ideas.
So, fast forward to the day of the competition, and as you’d expect, I wasn’t nervous. Instead, I was curious about the topics chosen and the logistics of the judges’ elimination process. I was matched to compete against Caitlin Burns, who I sat across from and made small talk for a few minutes. She was friendly, but I had no idea what she was capable of artistically.
Savannah Gibbs (left) and Caitlin Burns (right) collaging their interpretation of the word prompt “Infinity.”
Before they let us tear into the pages, Carmela Zabala, the event’s organizer and AIGA Tampa Bay’s Membership Director, told us our theme for the round was “infinity.” The two other tables were assigned “light” and “dark” as their design prompts. Where could I take infinity? What does infinity mean? What’s the biggest thing that has no ends? Nature. It exists around us and survives longer than we will, no matter our efforts to destroy it. If the universe created us, it would eventually destroy us. The circle of life is just another form of infinity. So many options.
Lost in thought, the judges instructed us to start and we were off.
I flipped through the pile of magazines closest to me, grabbing anything I could find that pertained to nature. I flipped through pages as quickly as possible. Scenes of waves crashing, dense forests, cliff ledges, and people on the beach, filled entire pages. I saw a spread of a pregnant woman in a trench coat and ripped that out. I ended up with lots of landscape imagery and a few females to work with.
Savannah Gibbs “Infinity”
Caitlin Burns “Infinity”
As I glued these images to the page, my work began to change. I wished my selected images were bigger so I could make them fill the composition more evenly. But that’s the struggle of analog-found imagery work — no control over it.
At one point I lost my glue stick, losing a valuable minute or two of my time as I searched for it. But the challenge didn’t stop there. Caitlin lost her scissors under piles of magazines so we made the joint decision to dump all the magazines on the ground under the table so we could find them and have more room.
Getting back to work, I kept layering the strips of landscape cutouts before realizing my theme wasn’t really coming through as strong as I wanted. At this point, time was running out but I had time to dive into the magazines once more.
The clock continued to tick. I only had a few final touches to make as the round’s final countdown began. As I was glued down my final piece, time ran out, Carmela shouted “hands up”, and I dropped the scissors.
Jason Cottrell (left) and Josh Rinard (right) battling it out at AIGA Tampa Bay’s first collage competition.
Derek Bourcier (left) and Sierra Schneider go head-to-head in the first round.
It was exhilarating to work under such pressure, even though I knew there was a 5 to 1 chance and it was all just for fun. After ten minutes of deliberation, the judges announced that Caitlin beat me and was moving on to the finals — a totally fair assessment.
Caitlin, Jason Cottrell, and Sierra Schneider went head to head in the final round, their prompt being “the future”. But this time, there was a catch: a competitor from the first round was selected as a wild-card. He would select an item from the magazine pages that the finalists would be required to include in their pieces.
Thirty minutes sped by before the final countdown began. Sierra’s piece won the grand prize depicting a zebra either ascending in flames or descending in blood, showing the morid future of endangered animals. In a twist ending, a runner-up prize was also awarded – a $20 gift certificate went to Caitlin.
The night ended up in a cleanup of the giant papery mess – all of which was recycled. I felt inspired to be in a place with so much passion and energy. Overall, I’m glad I got to participate in this event. I love my creative community and would not hesitate to compete against my peers in the future.
Winning pieces from prompt “Future” by 1st place winner, Sierra Schneider (left), and runner-up, Caitlin Burns (right).
Jason Cottrell’s “Future” and “Light.”
Derek Bourcier (left) and Sierra Schneider’s (right) interpretation of “Dark.”
Josh Rinard, “Light”
About the Author
Savannah Gibbs is a graphic designer from St. Petersburg, Florida. While studying graphic design at USF St. Petersburg, they are also the creative director for the Crow’s Nest, the student paper on campus. They have a heart for everything glitter-y, feminist, and a little weird.