Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The New Phone Book is Here!

 I love phone books.  I always have.  I don't know what it is about them - the ease of use, their ubiquitiousness, their decline into obsoleteness - I just think they're cool.
My growing collection of phone books and pages.

I remember in high school discovering that our library carried other cities' books as well - looking through them, I got the same feeling that I'd get when watching local TV in other markets.  I wish there was a word for that feeling (maybe there is) - it's that thrill you get, on a much smaller scale, of the realization that things are different in other places. The restaurants are different; the street names, schools, car dealerships, department stores, libraries - all these places are essentially the same, yet they offer a slightly different experience.  That's the feeling I would get when poring over "foreign" phone books (yeah, I was a weird kid).

I remember being over at my friend Laura's house in the fall of 1980 - I had just turned 12.  I was there for a sleepover and although I can't remember the specifics, I'm sure we did all of those stupid girl sleepover things - freezing bras, conducting "seances" with a Ouija board, etc.  Here's the thing:  earlier in the evening, I had spotted two ancient (like, from the Fifties!) phone books propping up the TV in the kitchen.  I so badly wanted to just take them and find a corner and devour them.

Before you worry too much about my antisocial tendencies, rest assured that I outgrew them.  For the most part.  :D

Fast forward to 2008.  You know how it is when you start thinking about something, and then you start seeing that something everywhere you go?  Well, that happened to me and phone books.  I got my first taste at the Paper Flea Market, when I saw that Trina and the gang were selling vintage phone book pages for a quarter apiece - from Czecheslovakia.  *GASP*  Of course I snagged a whole bunch of those (good thing, too - she eventually ran out!).  Then, on one of my trip to the fantastic Fox River Antique Mall in Appleton, I saw an Oshkosh phone book from 1960, which still had the "ED5- 2356" numbers in it.  And then, one of my Flickr contacts has posted a photo of something, I can't remember what it was now - but what I do remember was that she had used phone book pages from the Netherlands as her background.  I asked where she got them and she laughed and said, "from my phone book?".  So I asked if I could pay her for some and she not only sent me some, gratis, but threw in some Icelandic phone pages as well.  Be still my heart!  We wound up doing a nice ephemera trade so that I could repay her somehow.  I also snagged some Italian phone book pages circa 1989 off of Manto Fev's marvelous online store - it's getting to be quite the collection!

My all-time favorite phone book story, however, happened in February of this year.  I was reviewing my Flickr stats, as I do frequently; I like to know how my photos are being used in the Virtual Universe.  I noticed that one of the views came from The New Yorker (you can stop reading here if you remember me talking about this on my other blog, Much Ado About Stuff).  Turns out that my "Yellow Pages" ATC was used on their site for a story about phone books!  It was quite a thrill.

And speaking of ATCs, I do enjoy using phonebook pages in my art!  Here are a couple of examples:

"Ring" ATC

"Powerful" ATC

"Yellow Pages" ATC (used by The New Yorker!)

"Staccate il Telefono" ATC

"Groovy Icelandic Phonecall" ATC

Friday, October 15, 2010

Light 'em Up!

Neat-o printed matches, circa 1950s
 Here's something you don't see too often anymore - matchbooks!  Even rarer?  Matchboxes!

Actually, I should be more specific - you don't see these items with advertising on them anymore.  It seems as though companies don't want to be associated with smoking, even in the most abstract of ways (there are other uses for fire, after all!).

Remember when you could go into virtually any establishment and pick up a book of matches?  Even the grocery stores had them!  It sort of served as their calling card, and really - what a great idea.  Every time you lit that match you'd see the name.  If you were at a fancy restaurant or on vacation, many times that matchbook or box would make a great souvenir.

I'm trying to think of the last time that I found any matches anywhere, and I'm going to say it was about 8 years ago at Fusion nightclub in downtown Fondy.  They had these adorable (and probably very expensive!) little matchboxes, where the wooden matches had green tips.  Very fancy.

Of course, you still see "matchbooks", but instead of matches they now contain tiny notepads - this practice is very popular at weddings, with the couple's name and wedding date printed on the front.  It's a nice little favor.

I LOVE old matchbooks and matchbox labels (I don't have room for the whole box!).  I use them very frequently in my artwork - the graphics are super fun and you can find one for nearly any topic!

"Baseball" ATC

"Let's Eat!" ATC

"Et Red" ATC

Monday, October 11, 2010


I adore fonts.  I always have, even before I knew what a "font" was.  Even as a kid, I knew there was a difference in alphabet styles, and I could tell what certain fonts were supposed to evoke (like, "Broadway").
I think the love of fonts is inherent in kids - girls especially.  What little girl doesn't try out new fonts for her name?  (C'mon, I know you all added little hearts or flowers above the I or J in your name!)

One of the treats I got for my birthday is a wonderful documentary by Kartemquin Films called Typeface.  It's all about how wood type became popular, beginning in the 1830s and '40s.  A large part of the film focuses on the Hamilton Woodtype Museum, located only about 60 miles from me in Two Rivers, Wisconsin.

The Hamilton Manufacturing Company first began in 1880 and its main product was wood type.  Soon it became the largest manufacturer of wood type in the US.  The company made wood type right up through 1985.  This just goes to show you how much our world has changed in the last 25 years due almost solely to computers.  The Hamilton Company is still open, but it now produces scientific equipment and has been bought and sold many times in the last 15 years or so (currently, it lives under the name Fisher Scientific in the newer part of this enormous plant).

I can't remember where online I first heard of the museum, but it wasn't locally!  I had NO idea this place existed until 3 years ago, when I heard about it on a blog or other site.  I couldn't believe that such a gem existed in my backyard!

In July of '07 Brian and I trekked up to Two Rivers and toured the museum.  We had the place to ourselves with our tour guide, who was a very knowledgeable man who used to work there himself.  I got that "I'm on crack"-feeling when I saw the drawers and drawers and entire walls covered in old wood type.  If you're a font junky, this place is your mecca.  In the movie they show a lot of young artists and graphic designers from Chicago make the trip up the lake (Two Rivers is right on Lake Michigan also) to witness the splendor; one of them stayed to run the museum!

It's so heartening to see that young artists are rediscovering wood type and the letterpress way of printing!  There is something about the look that you just can't replicate with an inkjet printer.  It's just more - real.  I realize the irony of me singing the praises of letterpress on my blog.  :D

I don't have a letterpress (I wish!), but I do have a collection of wood type from here and there.  I love using them like a regular rubber stamp in my artwork!

"Slice o' Pi" ATC

"Number Soup" ATC
"Eames Museum" ATC