Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Your Daily Newspaper

"Family Weekly" from The Daily Plainsman, Huron, SD, 1959
 I feel like my generation is torn between two worlds - pre- and post-Internet.  I was born in 1968 and my parents, like probably 85% of my peers' parents, received the daily paper.  I grew up in Green Bay, Wisconsin (go Pack!) and the Green Bay Press Gazette was an afternoon paper in those days.  I very fondly remember my dad reading it nightly and making comments about various items (my favorite one was Dad asking my sister and me: "Guess Who's coming to the Arena?"  Us: "Who?"  Dad:  "Guess Who!", ad nauseum until we finally got that The Guess Who were coming to the arena.  Hey, I was 6 at the time.)

I loved poring over the Sunday paper - we always looked at the Funnies and the Family Weekly (later USA Weekend).  I also loved the circulars that would bulk up the paper around the holidays - in fact, my sister Jen and I used those circulars to make our Christmas lists.  We'd cut out EXACTLY what we wanted so that "Santa" wouldn't make a mistake.  The newspaper was also how I learned to read - my mom still swears to me that I was reading headlines at the age of three.  Of course, there was no comprehension - but how weird would it have been to hear "Vietnam Death Toll Rises" out of a three year-old?

A teeny-tiny Milwaukee Journal, only about 4" high - a premium from your newspaper carrier.  This one is from 1958 and it's a complete, two-section, 20-page paper.  AWESOME.

The paper was just always part of my life; I suppose it was a surprise to no one when I started working at one.  In 1993, after my stint in television, I thought I'd give the paper (my beloved Press Gazette) a try and I got the job of Ad Layout Coordinator.  Basically, I would be the paper "dummier", meaning that I would figure out the placement of the ads, with pencil and manila paper, for the entire paper (it surprised me to learn that the news content went around the ads, and not the other way around - makes sense, though, if you think about it).  I came in on the tail end of the "old" way of doing things, pre-computer.  Oh, I LOVED that job.  I really did.  Later on I moved into the finance department, which I also loved.  It was the best job I ever held (up to that point).  I only left because my first husband was transferred to Fond du Lac.  I was heartbroken.

Flash forward to 2005 - I got a tip that there was another newspaper job opening up in the finance department of the Fond du Lac paper, The Reporter.  I was the lucky recipient of that job - this was the job that I left to pursue my art dream.  And that is the only reason I left - I LOVED that job as well.  Interestingly, my best friends in my life happened because of those two jobs.

Milwaukee Sentinal from November 23, 1963 - the day after Kennedy was shot.

I worry sometimes about the future of the newspaper - it truly is our country's Fourth Estate.  We must have a watchdog to keep our politicians in line, both locally and nationally.  It scares me to think of this going away - this is an issue that shouldn't be taken as lightly as it is.  Newspapers have always served the towns that printed them - if we have no source of local news, who's going to be watching to be sure our lawmakers are working in our best interest?

A smattering of my old paper collection.

Now, onto the ephemeral part of the newspaper (my favorite part) - the paper as souvenir or record keeper!  I'll bet that every house in America has at least one newspaper article kept for posterity, whether it be an obituary, a photo of their kid on the front page, a wedding announcement, or a major national story.  In the photos I've shown the papers that I've purchased - the Milwaukee Sentinel from the day after Kennedy was shot; the "Green Sheet" from the Milwaukee Journal from the week after Truman took office in 1945; the Packer tab in the Press Gazette from Coach Bart Starr's fourth season, in 1978; and a Family Weekly insert from The Daily Plainsman in Huron, SD from 1959; but I have some of my own.  I kept copies of The Reporter  from January 1, 2000 and September 11, 2001.  I'll bet millions of people did.

I'll never cut these papers up (never say never!), but I have used other newspaper clippings in my artworks.  It's such a great material to work with - the ads especially!

"Three for the Show" ATC, made with movie ad from 1924

"Linotype" ATC, made with foreign newspapers and a packing tape transfer of an old linotype machine and little newspaper carriers from a 1957 kids' book called "Let's Go to a Newspaper"

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Cracker Jack toys

I don't know about you, but I've never been a fan of Cracker Jack.  I mean, as a kid, I'd eat it, but only for one reason - the toy surprise inside!  I'm sure it drove my parents crazy that there'd be half-eaten boxes of the stuff around the house but after I'd looted it for the booty, I really could've cared less about the actual confection.

I grew up in the 70s and to me, it was the best era of Cracker Jack toys.  Upon viewing the little joke books and "tattoos" of that time, they almost seem subversive compared to today's "Let's not offend or upset anyone!" mentality. 

My absolute favorite prize was the tiny little notepads - that was hitting the jackpot, as far as I was concerned.  I must've had a collecting gene even then, because I wouldn't use more than one of the sheets!  I couldn't resist trying it out but after that, they'd get stored in a little drawer.  If only I'd kept those, but alas - they're lost to the ages.
Fortunately, there are pack rats like me who somehow kept these babies intact.  I found a good portion of my collection at an antique mall in Oshkosh, WI (about 15 miles from me).  For three bucks, I got a pretty swell representation of the 70s prizes.

Some of you may question whether or not these prizes should truly be considered ephemeral, as it clearly says right on the front of the wrapper, "Collect 'em all!".  But kids will be kids and, especially in the case of the "tattoos", it's a miracle that these survived.  So yes, I'm going to call them ephemera.  Alert the paper police!  :D

I've also used this stuff in my art - it always lends an air of fun to the piece!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Fruit Stickers

As I was eating a banana this morning, I noticed the fruit sticker.  No big surprise there - I love these little guys.

And the more I pondered the sticker, the more I realized that when you talk about ephemera, this has got to be one of the most ephemeral objects one can find! 

Aside from me and other artists, I would venture to say that 99.9999% of people would never keep these things.  First of all, they're really sticky!  And the longer the sticker is kept, apparently, the stickier it gets (I found that out this morning as I was rearranging the stickers on the plastic for the photo).

Now we're touching on why I love them so much - because they're ubiquitous but completely disposable.  I would imagine junk mail stays around longer in people's homes than fruit stickers!  Think about it - you have to make a concerted effort to keep these things, especially on fruit where the skin or peel is inedible, like bananas.  If you're eating watermelon or cantloupe or citrus, you're just going to leave the label right on the fruit and there it'll stay even after it's thrown away.  Apples, plums and tomatoes are probably even more bothersome to most people because you have to remove the stickers before you eat the fruit.

Check out the photos above  and to the right - aside from the typical banana and apple stickers, my awesome sister is responsible for the rest of these colorful beauties.  Is she the best sister, or what?  I asked her if she wouldn't mind saving a couple for me, as she and her family love fruit and try all different kinds of exotics (they have an amazing produce market in Madison).  Thanks to her, I've got additions to my artwork for some time to come.

If you're wondering what's underneath all of the real stickers, well, that's just the coolest calendar I ever had.  A Japanese design team named Argyle Street Tea Room came up with the idea of using fruit labels as a calendar (it's the jewel case type - if you're interested they are still making them, at least for 2010). 

And of course, I love using them in my art!  Here are some ATCs I've done using these simple little gems:

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


Last Friday was a bittersweet day - I traveled to Manitowoc (about an hour and a half away) to visit my friend Kim's shop called Persimmons, and see another art friend, Kara, but I knew it would be the last time I'd be there.

Kim had run Persimmons for about six years.  She and I share a love of ephemera - in fact, the first time I visited her shop back in April, I just couldn't stop staring at all of the amazing stuff she had!  Old wallpaper samples, ledgers, postcards, stamps, vintage household items, magazines, brochures - you get the idea.  And the place was stacked to the rafters!  It was an ephemera addict's dream come true.

I can't feel bad that Kim is closing up shop, because it was her and her family's decision and she's persuing other dreams, which I know in my heart of hearts will come true for her (just watch for her in the pages of your favorite fiber arts magazine soon!).  No, the person I was sad for last Friday was me!

I heard about Persimmons too late in the game!  Facebook was responsible for getting us in touch, thankfully, but I wish it could've been sooner (although with me working full time, I probably couldn't have gone to any of her Tuesday night classes anyway).  The time I did spend at Persimmons was fantastically fun and because of it, I made at least seven new art friends.  Kim and I would chat after the classes, sometimes for over an hour.  It was worth every minute.

In fact, it was so fun that the ephemera part was just, well, ephemeral.  Maybe that's why it was harder this time to pick out stuff (although, believe me - I got over it).  I wanted to make this visit last, and I think my friend Kara did too - we were there for over two hours!  And as you can see from the photo, I took just a few things off of Kim's hands (this loot, BTW, is about 10% of my actual haul).  :D

So Kim, if you're reading this, I wish you the best of luck in your new ventures.  Like I said before, I have no doubt you will fulfill your ideas and dreams, and then some.  You seem to have a knack for knowing when to move on to the next thing, and you'll do great!  I hope our paths cross again very soon.