A collage on a foil background with imagery of a shadow, bears, a dress, greenery, and several eyes attached to the foil with colorful brads.

What’s unique about your birthday? Create a work of art that represents your special day!

We want to see your creations! Share on social media @hirshhorn with

Time: 45–60 minutes
Skill Level: Intermediate
Topic: Celebration of Self


A rectangular collage with newspaper clippings, bright red apples, two lions, body parts, a dark blue star chart with little grey dots all over the composition.

Tony Berlant, Aug 7,1941, 1964. Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, Gift of Joseph H. Hirshhorn, 1966. ]

Look closely. What do you see?

Does this scene look real or imagined? Does it look like a place you’ve visited or something you’ve seen in a movie?

You may have noticed a background of black-and-white newspaper clippings. Imagery includes bright red apples, two lions, body parts including hands and a face, and a dark blue star chart featuring white planets and stars. Do you see all the little gray dots on the artwork? What do you think those might be?

Artist Tony Berlant uses metal for his collages. The little grey dots are nails! Berlant hammers together the pieces of metal, one piece at a time with a hammer and nails. What metal pieces do you think the artist hammered into the collage first?

Tony Berlant (b. New York, NY, 1941) is an American artist. Raised in New York City, he moved to California to attend college, and became part of the west coast Pop art movement. Pop art means “popular art.” Pop art was a reaction against fine art. Fine art is often seen as elegant or sophisticated. In contrast, Pop artists use things from popular culture—advertisements, television, or food products—to inspire their work. Berlant is best known for his use of found metal. He started using found metal when the street signs in his neighborhood were torn up. Inspired by this, he collected old and new signs to study. Although he initially displayed the signs as they were, he eventually used them to create collage-like works like the one you just looked at.


For this project, we take inspiration from Berlant’s use of found metal and collage-like process to create our own metal collage!

  1. Gather materials. You’ll need:
    1. Aluminum foil
    2. An assortment of imagery from magazines, personal photographs, etc.
    3. Scissors
    4. Brads (metal paper connectors with prongs) or push pins
    5. Glue

    Tin foil, scissors, a glue stick, a magazine, small Polaroid photograph, printed Mona Lisa, and a pile of colorful brads.
    Safety note: If using push pins, children will need supervision. Never poke anyone with a pushpin and be careful of your fingers!
    Note: Younger children may require fine motor skill support with brads and scissors. 

  2. Gather and cut out imagery. Look through your magazines, photographs, etc., for images that speak to you. Use scissors to cut out images you think you may want to use in your collage! We chose images of flowers, eyes, reflections, shadows, and beautiful summer dresses.
    A pair of hands holding scissors cuts out a bear shape from a magazine page. Below the hands are pages from a magazine and cut-out images.
    Note: Tearing paper is a great way to develop hand strength and fine motor skills! 
  3. Think about your collage. What story do you want to share? Berlant’s collage is titled after his birthday. You might want to make a collage about your birthday or another important memory. We chose to make a collage about how we feel in the summertime when our birthdays are!
    Cut out imagery of: a flower and butterfly, two dresses, flowers, greenery, two bears, eyes, a cityscape, and a shadow.
  4. Experiment with your composition. Spend some time arranging your images in different ways.
    A collage arrangement with a flower/butterfly and shadow background with imagery of a dress, and three separate eyes.
    Note: Take a photo of the composition you like the most to remember how you arranged your images.  
  5. Begin collaging. Once you have an arrangement you like, start collaging your images to your tin foil canvas. Use your glue to add the background layers or your collage!
    A hand holding a glue stick rubs glue on the back of an image. The hand and image are above aluminum foil.
  6. Add layers. Continue adding imagery to your collage with glue or brads. If you decide to use brads, look back at August 7,1941. How does Berlant use nails in his composition? How do you want to use brads to change the way your collage looks?
    A hand holding a red brad attaches imagery to the foil background.
  7. Cut your canvas to size. Use your scissors to cut your tin foil down to the size and shape you want. We decided to cut ours around the curves of our collage.
    A hand holding a pair of scissors cutts the aluminum foil to the shape of the imagery of the collage.
  8. Title your work or keep adding! We named ours June 4, 2021.
    A collage on a foil background with imagery of a shadow, bears, a dress, greenery, and several eyes attached to the foil with colorful brads.

We want to see your creations! Share on social media @hirshhorn with