If you stop by Oeno Vino wine shop and lounge on a Saturday afternoon, downstairs you’ll find a group of adults doing a three-hour wellness activity rooted in being present. The twist? There are no woosahs or yoga mats. However, there is wine available at this Atwater Village bar, along with the main entrée of the meetup: magazine collaging.
Yes, the activity of cutting photos and words out of magazines with scissors and pasting them onto construction paper.
The weekly Collage Club classes are led and created by artist Crista Quintos and have become a chill activity that helps people in Los Angeles unwind, bond with others while in a creative flow and reimagine how meditation can take shape in their lives.
“Art is just a portal to presence,” says Quintos, 23, of the meditative essence at the heart of the weekly classes. She began hosting the collage class, which cost $18 without a drink or $30 with one included, through her “community safe haven” Art + Mind Studios in January. Other offerings include a Sunday book exchange, celebrations of femininity with spoken word and poetry, and sound bath experiences where guests are encouraged to engage with the space in the way that feels most enjoyable: coloring, soaking up the dulcet tones of a live singer while doing an activity or even lying down for a rest.
After relocating to Los Angeles in early 2021 from Manila, Philippines, where she was born and raised, Quintos felt a spark to revisit the evening collaging ritual she would use to decompress after 45- to 50-hour work weeks that drained her.
“I would lay all of my materials on the floor, take a really cold shower because I was in the Philippines, light up some incense, get my oil diffuser going and turn down the lights and have a lamp where I’m working, put the comfiest clothes possible on, candles all around. It was just a very romantic activity and it was very special,” says Quintos, who also finds collaging to be a meaningful way for doing inner-child work. “I feel like people need to come back home to themselves by really nurturing everything that’s inside them, every little hurt piece that’s inside them. It’s such a childlike activity and it is very healing of your inner child.”
The tone of each collage class is set by Quintos from the moment guests begin to trickle in. She’s intentional about acknowledging and greeting each person who shows up. “Hi! I’m so glad you’re here,” she says with a smile to one first-time student, embracing the person with a hug.
During a typical Saturday class, Quintos starts with a quick overview of the class mission and how it’s ultimately rooted in love, followed by everyone going around and sharing their names and a fact about themselves, which often ends up being their zodiac sign. “We all laugh and see who we connect with on that level,” she says.
As students help themselves to the glue sticks, scissors, magazines and multicolored construction paper, Quintos offers a gentle reminder that she’s available in the space if they need guidance or support.
Guests — most of whom are strangers — fill the seats around high-top and picnic-style tables and dive in. Some chitchat and sift through magazines, searching for colors, images and words they feel drawn to. Other attendees keep more to themselves, smiling and nodding along during the wave of conversation topics that come up: that cool L.A. pottery studio you should definitely visit, dating icks, who’s dressing up for a screening of Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie” film.
Part of the charm of collaging is the fluidity and lack of restrictions, says Quintos. You aren’t tethered to rules during your creative process, and there’s no set outcome. Instead, you can step out of your head, follow the flow of your feelings and lean into what resonates even if you don’t consciously understand why you’re gravitating to it. Then you turn those elements you’ve selected into something that feels cohesive, a.k.a. your collage.
Angie Franklin, 39, enjoyed regularly collaging as a kid, and a sporadic visit to the collage class with a friend was a pleasant surprise. “To be able to sit there for two hours and zone out with a collage and basically feel like a kid again was so great,” says the Cleveland native, who made the move to Los Angeles during the COVID-19 pandemic. “I made this really cool piece that I’m so proud of and I framed it. I love it. It’s weird and girly and space-y and has elements of travel, which I want to do a lot more of. It’s all of the things that are me.”
When Franklin gets a glimpse of her artwork at home, she remembers those calming hours during her collage class with Quintos and the importance of having quality time with herself. “It makes me feel like a kid again. It’s just a nice feeling,” she says. “It makes me think of my past but it also makes me think of my future and the things I want to take with me as I keep going.”
Autumn Holland, 21, came across the collage class when she searched for things to do in L.A. on TikTok after relocating from Florida. She had a similarly positive experience. “In real life, it’s kind of hard making friends if you’re not in school or if you don’t have a steady job. I was looking for a community to meet like-minded, artistic people or people I’d get along with well,” she says, recounting the friendships that resulted from attending two classes earlier in the year. “I’ve never walked into such a warm space and felt so welcomed, and I’ve met the most wonderful people. I have three people I hang out with outside of the class now. We’ll go to estate sales, flea markets, concerts, dinners, anything and everything. It feels like friends I’ve had for a while — like genuine connections.”
As someone who values community and nurturing the creative spirit, Quintos says it feels special to see her vision come to fruition: people gathering together, week after week, for a moment of presence and peace during their day while connecting in a wholesome, mellow environment around art.
Victoria Lopez, 20, describes the collaging meetups as feeling like a balm for “the collective trauma and grief that’s been held over us these last three years.” Lopez credits the relaxing atmosphere to the intention Quintos brings to the space.
“Crista was just so welcoming and so sweet toward everybody and welcoming of everybody’s personality and gender identity,” she says. “There were very healthy boundaries set of acceptance, so the nerves went away pretty quickly. It’s a fun space to create, to meet people, but also for people who want to go and just create and who may not want to socialize much. Even people that you don’t stay in touch with, just having that kind of company for a few hours is still just as special.”
Around the halfway point of the class, Quintos asks for the group’s attention to begin a break and do some breathwork. Standing at the front of the room, she extends a heartfelt thank you and describes the immense gratitude bubbling within her for everyone who has taken time to attend the class. “This entire group makes me feel kilig. In Tagalog, kilig is like butterflies, like the way that you feel when you’re with someone that makes you so happy. You wanna squish them and squeeze them, and it makes you feel all warm on the inside. Usually it’s a term used to explain how an individual person makes you feel, but I feel that way with this entire group. You make me so kilig — it’s just heart-warming and joy-bringing.”
Guided by Quintos, the class wraps up the break with three collective inhales and exhales, ending with one deep, audible exhale from the gut. The energy feels calmer as students refocus their attention on piecing together their art. Quintos continues with her usual routine, making her way around the room, chatting with each person, checking in to make sure they’re feeling good and affirming each individual’s creation is beautiful.
At the end of the class, there are lots of hugs and laughter, swapping of Instagram accounts, camera-phone selfies and “Where do you live?” inquiries to plan future hangouts.
In a moment of reflection about the day, Quintos shares her thoughts on the restrictive societal expectations that tend to accompany adulthood, namely the oh-so-human experience of feeling like you’re drastically changing while also realizing you’re stepping into the truest embodiment of yourself.
“As I get older, I’m like, wow, in a world full of people that take things so seriously, this is fun and lovely to just be a kid again and to be creative and to think about ways to express what you’re feeling,” Quintos says. “We’re fed this crazy idea that we’re supposed to not be human because we’re now adults. It’s the weirdest and most odd feeling because I feel like we have more freedom now [as adults]. I hope to bring that feeling and experience to other people of feeling like a child again and having no pressure on you and just being able to relax and be a human being. I think it’s really special and can be really healing.”