Friday, May 21, 2010

Code Yellow

I've got to watch myself today - I have to make a trip up to Appleton (about 40 miles away) to get a present for Brian's niece, and up the corridor are about 5 different antique stores/malls.

Because of this threat, I'm calling today a "Code Yellow" (please refer to the above chart).  I'm going to go out on a limb and just assume that I'm preaching to the converted here, but doesn't it just make you crazy, passing by a place where you know all sorts of goodies are just waiting for a new home?

In Appleton, there is a wonderful, and enormous, antique mall (and of course by "antique", I mainly mean, "junque" - awesome stuff, just not Sotheby's awesome).  I have found incredible stuff there - old paper dolls, Life magazines for super cheap, miniatures, labels - every type of thing that I love.  I even found a few book titles that I had as a kid, and that I bought again just because I was in the mood for nostalgia.

I'm going to pose a question here - in the comment box, I would love to hear what you simply CAN'T pass up when you go to these places.  Labels?  Stamps?  Football programs?  Product brochures?  I'd bet that if 10 people wrote, I'd get 10 different responses.  So let us know what you like to collect!

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go put my blinders on so that I don't make any "wrong" turns.  Wish me luck!  :D

Monday, May 17, 2010

Going Postal

Ever since I was a kid, I've loved everything dealing with the mail.  I lived in an apartment growing up, and we had this shiny metal mail "box" that you needed a key to get into. (The mailman also needed a key to put mail in).  I loved it.  I remember feeling very important when my mom finally let me get the mail all by myself (I was probably about 8 - I was so little, I couldn't reach the mailbox!).

We very rarely went to the post office so when we did have to, it was an outing (for me, anyway).  Whenever we went, it always seemed busy.  We didn't have a post office in our area, which is a village that was incorporated into the city of Green Bay.  So when we did go, it was usually on a trip downtown, which was a big deal.

Because of my love of anything miniature, it makes perfect sense why I would love postal ephemera.  Anything that is of importance on a letter has to fit in a pretty tight spot, especially these days when there are so many rules (keep the bottom 1/2 inch open for bar codes, stamps must be placed right side up, etc.).

I had a pen pal for about three weeks when I was in third or fourth grade.  I believe it was set up either through our grade school, or our church; I can't remember which.  While it was interesting to hear of another girl's culture (German), what I REALLY loved were the stamps and envelopes.  It was thrilling to see foreign mail, addressed to l'il ol' me, in our mail box.

And as you can see from the photo (above), I still love any sort of label, stamp, postmark, envelope, etc., especially vintage stuff.  Companies used to take the time to make souvenirs; now, it's just cheap postcards.  I especially love the "Matson Lines" envelope (above) and those funky air mail labels, both official and unofficial.  It just added a nice touch to the letter.

And, like most of the items I collect, I also love using this stuff in my artwork.  Here are a few examples of postal items in a different setting:

See what I mean about these labels and stamps being works of art in and of themselves?  Besides the feel and history behind them, it's the reason why I love working with them so much - it's functional design!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Adventures in Dairyland

I'm a Wisconsin girl - not born, but raised.  And I still live here.  I think it's in some formal charter somewhere that it's my duty as a Wisconsinite to be interested in dairy ephemera.

No problem there!  Milk caps, unused boxes, dairy coupons - these things all predate me, but not by very long.  I do remember that a few of our neighbors on the street where I grew up were still getting their milk delivered into the mid-Seventies.  They must've cancelled the service after that, though, because I haven't seen a "milk man" since.

How nice must it have been to have dairy delivered right to your door!  And, "Your son looks like the milk man" jokes aside, it seems like it would've been an enjoyable (and respectable!) profession.  If you think back to recent movies that portray a happier, simpler time (like "Pleasantville", one of my favorites!), many of them feature a milk man, who's friendly to everyone he encounters.

What's interesting about my collection of dairy ephemera is that most of it didn't come from around here at all!  I bought nearly all of it online.  You can still find this kind of stuff for pretty cheap on Ebay and Etsy.  There are a couple of "secret" shops online (wholesale) where I find neat items, too.

Take a look at these dairy coupons from the 40s - they're in 1 cent and 5 cent increments!  I know the average household only made $1500 back then but still, it just seems so quaint to see that you could use a coupon for a penny.  I like to imagine traveling back in time to the Forties, with the money I have now.  I'd live on Park Avenue!  I'd spend my nights at the Rainbow Room! I'd sit on the board of major museums!

Okay, back to reality.  So, the book shown here has a total of a dollar's worth of coupons - I wonder how far that would've taken a family?  A week?  Longer?  Seems like it would've been kind of expensive to have these booklets printed up if they would've been used right away, so I'm guessing longer than a day, for sure.

When I look at these coupons, I always wonder if the farm stated on the cover is still in operation, or if it was bought up by some conglomerate in the 70s or 80s. (Update:  I just Googled "Brantjen Farms, and the land was sold for McMansions in a planned community called "The Spirit of Brantjen Farms".  Interesting.).

I love my collection, but I also enjoy working with these little guys in my art.  Here are some of the pieces I've made with dairy items:

I tried to keep the integrity of the caps and coupons so that the viewer could see the great graphics on these wonderful items.  I LOVE that cow, and even though it's technically not a dairy product, it came from a dairy and I think the orange graphic is fantastic.

I haven't bought any dairy items for a while, but I'm sure some more will pop up sometime.  Isn't that what having a "collection" is all about?  :D

Monday, May 10, 2010

What price obsessiveness?

Check out the photo to your left - as you can see, I LURVE vintage price tags!  I love everything about them - the pleasing color palettes, the now-forgotten "cents" sign; the built-in advertising; the fonts used - just everything.

I realize that it's far more efficient to use bar codes and inventory scanners now, but they're so impersonal.  I myself cannot remember a time when there were price tags used in grocery stores such as the ones pictured on the left - I'm guessing these little guys pre-date me by about 15-20 years (I was born in '68).  In my childhood, it was either those square-ish adhesive price tags (like the ones picutred in my Lo-Fi collage, below) or the inked prices on the bottom of metal spice tins, etc. (like the one below, left).

One great advantage of using price tags as opposed to bar codes is that the customer can immediately identify the price of an item.  With barcodes or prices just attached to the shelving, one either has to write the price down before proceeding to the checkout or find one of those price checkers.  I'm sure people used to switch price tags all of the time, though - that's the downside.

I love using price tags in my artwork - the first one pictured here, entitled "That's the Price you Pay", is currently in an exhibit at the John Michael Kohler Art Center in Sheboygan, WI.  The name of the exhibit is Word Play, and you can see why I titled it what I did.  :D  The other collages are ATCs that I did for my live trading group.  They just lend a great feel to any piece in which they're used.

Oh, one more advantage - you can pick them up for CHEAP on Etsy and Ebay!

I enjoy the collecting as much as I enjoy using them in my art - so I can say that I'm doing my very small part to preserve the history of these fun little pieces of nostalgia.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

New Trading Stamps!

I got quite a few wonderful packages in the mail yesterday, but there was one in particular that I was waiting for from Canada - full of Quebecois trading stamps (they're the greyish stamps in the lower left portion of the photo)!

For people like myself who love collecting (and using!) vintage ephemera, I think trading stamps rank right up there in items to collect.  I have always loved them, even though they were pretty much gone by the time I was old enough to know what they were.  I do remember a couple of S&H places around Green Bay, but as far as redemption centers there, I think they were all closed in the 70s.

Here are just a few samples from my collection:

I try and collect from all over the United States but with the addition of these Gold Star stamps, I can now count Canada in the mix! I've seen some Australian stamps online, but I've never seen them for sale. If they ever come up, though, I'm there!  I love the "Tiny Bonds" booklet on the right - it's from 1936 and it was specifically made for a pharmacy right here in Fond du Lac called Huber Bros.  It's one of the jewels in my collection, and I'll never use any of the stamps in my art, because of their rarity (but, never say never).

Here are a few of my artworks that I've made with these stamps (notice that I've ALREADY used the Gold Star stamps in the ATC on the right!):

I've also made others with just one or two stamps - they're so versatile! Anytime I need a small space filled on a collage, I almost always think of these trading stamps first.  Just like postage stamps, they're little works of art in and of themselves.  And because I love anything and everything to do with vintage supermarket and grocery store ephemera (that's a whole 'nother blog entry!), they fill that niche as well.

How about you?  Have you made any art with trading stamps?  I'd love to see - just post the link in the comment box!  :D

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Hello to All!

Hi!  Thanks for finding me!  Maybe some of you found me through my other non-art related blog, "Much Ado about Stuff".  If you did, glad to see you here! 

I thought about it a long time and figured I should have a separate blog for just my art.  And since ephemera is included in about 95% of my artwork, that's where I got the name "Ephemeraology".

I love working with items that were meant to be thrown away and finding a new life for them.  I've always been a collector of little bits of paper - remember the scene from "Catch Me if you Can" , where Leo DiCaprio's character is fleeing from the FBI and they find all of those labels in his "wallet"?  I LOVE that scene!  It's almost distracting for me; I'm supposed to be wondering how on earth a 17 year-old managed to foil the FBI, but all I can think about is getting my hands on those vintage Hunt's and Skippy labels!

The first ephemera I ever purchased were a packet of Diamond Ink labels at an antique fair that took place in our mall in 1982.  I was a freshman in high school, and I paid $2 for that packet of about 8 labels.  I remember that my sister thought I was quite foolish for using my babysitting money on something so dweebish.  But guess what - I still have them.  :D  I have used some in my work but some I'll just keep in my collection.

If you stumbled upon my blog hoping that it is ONLY about ephemera collecting, well - you're half right.  I can't make ephemeral art without talking about how wonderful the ephemera itself is (are?).  But I'll also be talking about ways you can work with ephemera in case you're interested in this type of art as well.

So whatever brought you here, welcome!  I look forward to talking about " paper stuff" and art with you all.  And remember - you can "take the discarded and make it arted".  :D