Fun

Perplexions, Perfected

How to make a collage unlike any you’ve seen before.

My mom is a wacky, wonderful person. She does what she wants, whenever she wants to do it, regardless of what people think—whether what she “wants to do” is strategically place a creepy doll at the top of the stairs to freak the rest of our family out, screech to a halt in the middle of the road to grab some cool-looking old Christmas decorations lying on the curb, or dress up as Prince (faux chest hair and all) for no reason other than having recently listened to him. It’s something I admire about her all the time.

She’s the reason I’m here to introduce you to a mind-blowingly rad project that may actually change your life. Behold, the Perplexion:

The person in the suave jacket is my sister Trixie. I finished this Perplexion earlier this year.

The person in the suave jacket is my sister Trixie. I finished this Perplexion earlier this year.

They’re kitschy and awkward and wonderful, and hanging one on your wall is a great way to start conversations and impress new friends. After all, anyone who finds these funny instead of creepy already has a pretty awesome sense of humor and will probably make a great partner in crime! And Perplexions can be tailored to fit your needs, dear reader. If your little heart desires a life in a cabin adorned with roosters/birds of prey:

A two-year-old Perplexion my mom made of me in freshman year, when I dyed my hair a blotchy purple.

A two-year-old Perplexion my mom made of me in freshman year, when I dyed my hair a blotchy purple.

…membership in an exclusive cowboy duo that specializes in the art of horseback banjo playing and may or may not have caused that stampede in the background:

Another one by my mom. Left to right: My sister Willow in third grade and Trixie in seventh. This one is framed and hanging in our hallway.

Another one by my mom. Left to right: My sister Willow in third grade and Trixie in seventh. This one is framed and hanging in our hallway.

…or a jolly life camping in the wilderness with only the moon and a pack of ravenous bears as your guides:

Me again, this time in seventh grade. This is my favorite of my mom’s creations. Check out that forced smile!

Me again, this time in seventh grade. This is my favorite of my mom’s creations. Check out that forced smile!

…the world is your oyster! Today, I’m gonna give you the basics on how to make your very own Perplexion! Are you excited?! I know I am!

What you’ll need:

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  • A clear photo of you or a friend—preferably a gawky middle school one. I used my sister’s fifth grade school portrait for this project.
  • Books of paper dolls. You can find these in online stationery stores, bookstores, or craft stores.
  • Any other books, magazines, cards or photos you don’t mind cutting apart. The weirder, the better!
  • Scissors
  • A glue stick

How to do it:

Step One:

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Carefully cut out the face and neck of the person in your portrait and trim any excess background remnants. Anyone walking in at this point will think you are making some kind of Burn Book and hopefully leave you alone.

Step Two:

Line up your head and the paper doll and trim any excess neck so the whole thing fits together. I don’t know what to tell you to do if someone walks in at this point. Just pray that no one does.

Step Three:

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Glue the head to the body! A brief note on finding paper dolls: There’s a surprising variety out there! The one I’ve used here came from a book of Woodstock paper dolls, and my mom even owns a book of Ronald Reagan paper dolls. I’m not kidding.

Step Four:

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Now you get to place your friend in their new dream home! Glue the figure wherever you want on your background scene.

I found this image in a book about dollhouse decor that I found tucked away at a tag sale, but yours can come from anywhere you want. While you can buy books like this at stationary or book stores, I’ve found some of the best collage materials in the back corners of thrift shops, which work better if you’re crafting on a budget. You also won’t feel too bad cutting the books apart if you don’t spend much money on them to begin with! And you can always search for used interior design books on Amazon, which, in many cases, will cost you no more than $4, including shipping.

Step Five:

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Cut out any other little pictures you might want in your Perplexion. I like to pick images that match up to my friend’s interests. If they’re in a band, add a guitar, or if they like sports, add a tiny photo of their favorite soccer player. Or you can go rogue and add any accessory you want, like a finch, some donuts, or a businessman in repose! It’s all about artistic license. Let your river of creativity flow, you genius, you!

Step Six:

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Glue your other scrap images in place, and voilà! A work of art that you can give to one of your best friends—or hang in your own home. If you like, you can add a nice final touch by putting your Perplexion in a fancy picture frame.

I suggest making a whole batch of these to serve as the perfect decor for when you’re an eccentric old cat lady in the future. What grandchild wouldn’t want to discover one of these babies in the attic 50 years from now? ♦

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