Toy Collage Feature

Make a Colorful Pop Art Collage with Upcycled Toys


It has been a month since the death of Paul Reubens, the man behind Pee-Wee Herman.

Reubens died at age 70 after a very private bout with cancer for six years, but had a prepared statement released when he died that included the comment “I have always felt a huge amount of love and respect from my friends, fans and supporters. I have loved you all so much and enjoyed making art for you.”

I think that’s why we Gen-X people loved Pee-Wee’s style so much. He was silly, he was slapstick and he was unapologetically childlike, but it came with a spirit of playfulness many teens and young adults were pretending so hard to not have.

He reminded us to be a “big kid” and to not be so uptight all the time. For someone who loved creating goofy things, even as a teenager, he reminded us all — from Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure to Pee-Wee’s Playhouse — that it is okay, and even cool, to take your toy game to the next level.

Everything he surrounded himself with was colorful, odd, whimsical and dripping of retro energy.

With the summer coming to a close, let’s gather a few of our old toys to make a cool piece of pop art Pee-Wee would have loved.

Old toys
Find that box of toys and an old frame from your garage, basement, attic or wherever you keep discarded items.

Dig out that box of small toys you or your kids collected, but don’t know what to do with. These could be fast food meal toys, prizes from pizza points, or party goodie bag fodder.

Gather up a few cool toys you thing would make a great collage. I’m using some old plastic dinosaurs, since we have enough to repopulate a planet. Plus, these look like something Pee-Wee would really love.

Then, find an old picture frame. You can go as big as you want, but I recommend at least finding an 8″ x 10″.

If is it a photo frame, take out the glass, but leave in the cardboard back. If is it a little art frame on its own, find a cheap canvas or cardboard piece to fit in it. Paint the frame in bright colors, if you want, or keep it as is. If you paint it do this before the next step.

Time for the fun part! There’s always a fun part Arrange the toys over the entirety of the cardboard of canvas, so they look like and exploding collage of color and shape. Try to make sure they cover the entire surface, without any holes or gaps. Also, don’t pile them more than one layer.

Once you get them how you like, go back piece by piece with a glue gun and secure them in place. Now you have a finished, collage for any room in the house you want to add some fun to.

Paint an old cheap frame in bright colors. Fill the frame back or a canvas with colorful small toys, and glue in place. I added some small pom-poms in the gaps. Instant fun, color explosion of pop art.

You can leave it as is. Little plastic toys are already plenty colorful. If you want just a little extra, splatter some paint or a small amount of glitter over the surface. This depends on your personal level of fun intake.

Hopefully, this will remind you the kid in you should not always be kept inside, and sometime playful things can lead to something new and creative.

Like every human on the planet, Pee-Wee’s alter ego had some flaws, but the nostalgia-tinged aura of his brand of performance art and comedy will always stay with me.

Finished Frame
The final collage! Find the tiger! All images: Lisa Tate

Hang this silly toy collage in a prominent space, and when some asks why you’re still just a big kid, you tell them:

“I know you are, but what am I?”

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