Everyone has happy memories of working on collage projects at school, or helping their own kids assemble their projects Some of us make a lifelong habit out of a a related decorative craft – scrapbooking.

But Laura Lein-Svencner took her interest in collage to a level few are capable of. She started working on the medium in the mid-90s, with no formal instruction other than high school art classes. And as she picked up a craft on her own while also learning from her peers, what started out as a pastime for a mother of two blossomed into a successful fine arts career.

Lein-Svencner, who lives in Southwest Chicago suburb of Darrien, has been recognized for her work at the regional and national levels. A co-founder of the Midwest Collage Society, she has been featured in several art magazines and received numerous awards, including at the 27th Annual Juried Exhibit of the National Collage Society.

You can experience Lein-Svencner’s work at the “Inner Most – Outer Expressions” exhibit, on view at the Contemporary Art Center of Peoria through Oct. 18.

The exhibit includes works on canvas, wood and even a skate board, but of course paper is the basis for all of Lein-Svencner’s art, and it’s also her primary passion. She alters found papers from everyday sources such as grocery store bags, and even makes her paper from plants found in her garden. She shares these techniques in workshops across the Midwest, but also on her YouTube channel, which goes beyond collage to cover other interests.

Of course Lein-Svencner can only teach the mechanical aspects of her craft; for inspiration, you’re on your own. But her Artist’s Statement offers some valuable insight into her vision:

My collage works are in a constant state of flux with each papermaking session. The collective drama is exposed revealing a personal understanding of being at the mercy of the raw torn papers edge. Visual and physical entries grow from the self-discovery, new compositions stem from the need to take a risk and explore. I am passionately stimulated by the natural flow of chaos that each piece starts with allowing me the opportunity to solve the mystery that presents itself on surface of paper.