Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Ephemera or Souvenir?

This past weekend Brian and I, along with my wonderful nieces Natalie and Mia visited Chicago - it was their first trip to the big city.  What a fantastic time we all had!  We took in the Field Museum, the Art Institute (so they could see the "Ferris Bueller" artworks), Navy Pier, Michigan Avenue - all of those fun Chicago things.

At the end of the first night, my niece Mia and I were going through all of our collected ephemera of the day:  ticket stubs, receipts, flyers, etc.  Apparently she takes after her Auntie in this regard - she saved one of everything (and at the end of the trip, she even saved her key card!).  I saved all of my stuff too, of course.

As we were walkng along Michigan Avenue on Sunday morning I happened across a used parking valet stub (it's in the above photo in the lower right-hand corner); it was probably only a day or two old but it already had that wonderful weather-worn look to it.  So naturally I picked it up and put it in my pocket.  Mia and Nat both asked me what it was and I showed it to them, and they each gave me a knowing glance.  The three of us have been creating art together for so long when they come to the house that they know full well how the ticket stub is going to be used.

But this got me thinking - is there a line between Souvenir and ephemera ("Souvenir" being capitalized from here on out due to its importance.  :D)?  Should there be, and if so, where is that line?  To me (and now Mia too, apparently!), anything can be a Souvenir.  But is there a hard-and-fast rule in Ephemera Land that delineates?  Does a "true" Souvenir have to be something that's paid for, like a keepsake program from an event?  Do ticket stubs automatically qualify as Souvenirs or is the beauty of that ticket in the eye of the beholder (or rabid collector)?

My oldest "Souvenir" ticket is from a Depeche Mode concert in Milwaukee, circa 1990.  I was 21 and really into DP at the time.  It wasn't the best concert I've ever been to but the fact that I've kept it this long - well, I just can't use it in my artwork.  That one's staying in the Permanent Collection.  I also have a stub from when my sister Jen and I went to see this wonderful Monet Exhibit at the Walker Art Museum in Minneapolis in 1998.  Poor Jen was very ill that day, but she didn't want to miss it so we went anyway.  The sheer fact that I attended the event with my sister excludes its use in my art, too.  It's too sentimental to use.

Maybe the only difference between ephemera and a Souvenir is the emotion one feels when looking at the piece.  The ticket stub on the ground holds no meaning for me, so I can use it (but if it's in an artwork of mine I'll always remember the moment I picked it up and the conversation it created between the girls and me).  My Field Museum ticket?  That counts as a Souvenir.

Such a dilemma, this categorizing!  I have made some ATCs with Souvenirs (or is it just plain ephemera?) and had no problem trading them.  I guess for me it all depends on the mood I'm in when I make the artwork - I'd better stay away from my studio on the days I'm not particularly sentimental or my entire stash will be fair game!

(This Chicago card was made from ephemera collected during a 2008 stay. The Paris stubs are from a trip my Grammie took in 1984 - don't worry!  I have TONS more ephemera from that trip!)

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