Knolling: Art Meets Organization

Knolling is a process where similar items are arranged squarely. The term Knolling is attributed to Andrew Kromelow (the janitor in a studio where Knoll furniture was being designed) who would organize the tools left out in the designer’s workshop by arranging them on a flat tabletop at 90 degree angles. His organization method allowed the designers to see all of the tools at the same time. Seeing all of the tools helped the designers think about the visual relationships between the tools and their intended use. (Fritts, L. (2018). Knolling: The Art of Material Culture. Art Education, 72(1), 50-58. doi:10.1080/00043125.2019.1537670)

Cleaners as Creators

Both Andrew Kromelow in the Knoll design studio and Charles Williams at the IBM offices were employed as janitors but used their task of cleaning up as a catalyst for their own creation. Andrew with his now famous Knolling method and Charles with his amazing sculptures created with discarded office supplies both created with materials they had available to them. Our exhibition of Charles Williams works will be on display until August 2, 2020.

Left, is a photo from our exhibition of Charles Williams works; right, is a photo of Knolling found from an image search. Both show drawing materials arranged in purposeful ways. When you create your found object arrangement, think about how the method you use to organize your materials can affect the viewers experience when seeing your work, and how the arrangement can convey differing tones.

Pam Longobardi

Pam Longobardi is a distinguished professor of art at Georgia State University and a former member of Atlanta Contemporary’s Studio Artist Program. Many of her works explore consumerism and the effect of plastic waste in the natural environment. Her works highlight the partnership between instillation art and environmental activism. To learn more, see her amazing Drifters Project.

Pam’s work will be featured in our upcoming exhibition She is Here, a retrospective exploring past and present participants of Atlanta Contemporary’s Studio Artist Program.

The goal of our Friday pop-up is to encourage you to create using materials that are inexpensive or readily available and explore techniques that are approachable and easy to integrate into your own artist practice. This week let’s explore arranging found materials to create something new!

Think about what you already have. Do you collect coasters, ticket stubs, or bottle caps? Is your desktop so cluttered you don’t know where to begin? These are both great scenarios to employ Knolling or purposeful arrangement. When you see everything you have laid out you can start making visual connections between like objects, things that belong together, and new uses for old items.

Materials you’ll need:

  • Found objects
  • Large flat surface
  • Camera (or the camera on your smart phone)

        This furry friend inspects the found materials.

        Step 1: Collect your items

        Gather up all of the items you’ll be using for this process and make a pile in one location. Once you have everything you’ll be using compiled together you can decide how much space you’ll need to create your assemblage.

        All of these items were found scattered throughout my backyard.

        Step 2: Knoll it!

        It’s time to organize these items. All like items should be grouped together. You may be grouping by size, color, texture, or feeling; there’s no wrong way for you to organize these items. The way you decide to sort your items can help you decide how you’d like to construct your arrangement.

                  Step 3: Arrange the Composition

                  After organizing your items, you will be able to see visual relationships between objects. You may want to arrange your composition with a certain theme or message in mind or you might want to let the materials dictate the composition.

                  Here you can see the giant trash flower!

                    Step 4: Take a Photo

                    Capture your composition with a photograph. Now you have a record of all these items.

                    My items are all headed to the recycle bin, however, by utilizing this process I learned a little about the history of my house and the people who have lived here in the past. It is also a sobering reminder to see effects of trash and plastic on a natural environment. These items have been in the yard for years, and if I wouldn’t have picked them up, they’d still be there for years and years to come.

                    Share your work

                    We love seeing how you use these prompts in your artist practice. Share your work with us on social media by using the tag: #ACMakes.


                    Elisabeth Herrera-Very

                    Elisabeth Herrera-Very is a teaching artist and art educator working in Atlanta. A former public school visual arts teacher she now focuses on community engagement and museum education. As a teaching artist she develops programming that provides inclusive, thoughtful, and relevant art experiences for participants of all ages and skill levels. Her programming at Atlanta Contemporary encourages patrons to explore their own creative process through contemporary art making practices and exploratory art making.


                    Share your creations with us! Tag us on Facebook or Instagram @atlantacontemporary and use the hashtag #ACMAKES.

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