For someone whose own studio is over-run by her collections, I literally gasped with delight walking into the small but jam-packed atelier of Parisian artist Maissa Toulet. Toulet’s workspace is teeming with shelves full of doll parts, miniatures, vintage wedding cake toppers, shells and seaweed found on weekend trips to the beach, pressed plants and petals, old botany books and women’s magazines. She transforms these objects into glass boxes, collages or “cabinets of curiosities”.
Although fascinated by the work of Joseph Cornell since she was a young girl, Toulet knew that choosing the life of an artist would disappoint her more academic mother. She instead went to university to study creative writing. She worked as a teacher until, at age 30, she decided to pursue her passion for assemblage.
Maissa prefers the imperfections of the hand-made and, like Cornell, finds beauty and mystery in the unexpected juxtaposition of everyday objects.
As she culls through the printed resources, Maissa picks out words or phrases that catch her eye, carefully cutting them out of context and mounting them on light cardboard backings. She has trays of these extracted words alongside similarly mined faces taken from old photographs.
With these, and a variety of other elements she has transformed from their original state, Maissa creates intriguing visual narratives, whether in the form of her fictitious and imagined family trees or in the glass-encased “cabinets of curiosities”.