Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Clippin' Coupons

Coupons - they seem pretty ubiquitous, don't they?  I grew up with my parents clipping as many as possible - I mean, they, along with nearly everyone else on the block got the Sunday paper, so why wouldn't they use coupons?

In my quest for the most interesting coupons, I discovered something - that before about 1963, the coupons as we know them didn't exist.  Isn't that odd?

I myself am an avid coupon-clipper.  Brian and I still get the Sunday paper (for more reasons than just the coupons) but I also get a lot of mine online by signing up for companies' newsletters and money-saving offers (like General Mills, Bisquick, Proctor & Gamble, Betty Crocker, Campbell's, etc.).

Check out these fantastic coupons from the mid-Sixties!  Not only are they gorgeous to look at, just imagine how expensive they were to print!  Most of this type of coupon were printed in ladies' magazines like Woman's Day or Good Housekeeping, although I have found a few in old Better Homes & Gardens as well.  I love how they each have a little "story" on them besides the actual coupon.

Some of the oldest in my collection are not really "cents off " coupons like we've come to know but more like premium coupons, similar to trading stamps.  The Nabob and Red Scissors coupons are good examples of this.  You'd redeem these for other, more expensive items.

And finally, here are some more recent coupons - this batch is from between the late Seventies and the late Eighties.  It's funny - to me, they look a lot older than they actually are (that mayo coupon is from 1984).

If you're interested in seeing or reading more about vintage coupons or just old logos, here are a few of my favorite places to find fun artefacts:

Different but the Same:  a fantastic blog whereby a comparison is made with the old vs. new logo.  For example, Bounce fabric softener was recently featured.  What's more, you can vote on your favorite.  I almost ALWAYS vote for the old logo of any given product (surprise, surprise!).

Clip and Save:  If you're on Flickr (and you really should be if you're not!), join this fantastic group!  I'm astounded at all of the amazing coupons that exist.  I also get a kick out of the odd amounts - 7 cents off, 12 cents off, etc.

And of course, I love using coupons in my artwork!  Some of those older beauts may have to wait, though - I'm not sure if I can tear into those just yet!  :D

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Drug Bust

I attended yet another incredible estate sale this past weekend from The Gibson Girls auction company - these are by far the best I've ever seen!  They're always so nicely arranged and organized by room, and I never leave empty-handed (unfortunate for my wallet, great for me!).

This past auction took place at the late couple's residence, a wooded lot close to Lake Michigan.  The house was one of those great mid-century homes with the huge sunken living room and countertop stove in the kitchen.  I instantly felt at home there.  The hosta/fern garden out back was incredible, too!  So much work and time had been put into this amazing backyard retreat - I only hope that the new owners cherish it as much as they did.

From what the auction ladies told us, the husband was a pharmacist and the wife was a realtor.  There was one whole corner of the foyer devoted to pharmacy labels - boxes and boxes of them.  I got that "I'm on crack" feeling - until I opened the boxes.  Unfortunately, time and moisture had taken their toll on the fragile labels - some of the boxes were FULL, but had been reduced to one giant label brick.  I thought maybe a gentle prying would do the trick; alas, these babies were stuck together for all eternity.  There was one box that I found, however, that somehow remained relatively unscathed - an amazing box of "Poison"/skull & crossbones labels!  I snagged that box up and held on tight.  And hey - it was only four bucks!

Which brings me to my topic for today (finally!) - pharmaciana!  My sister's husband Mike is a pharmacist, although his job is far different than a pharmacist's of 50-100 years ago.  Mike doesn't have to play chemist at his job - the drug companies take care of that now, probably because of druggists like Mr. Gower from "It's a Wonderful Life" - we can't have drunk pharmacists filling prescriptions, now can we?  :D  But check out this prescription from Algoma Drug (about 100 miles from Fond du Lac) - it's from 1899!  I love that I have in my possession a 111 year-old piece of pharmacological history.  Just think of how different things were at the turn of the twentieth century -  I mean, there weren't even autos yet - not in our part of the country, anyway!

And what do you suppose "Tincture of Rhubarb" did for you, besides taste awful? (I just found out - it acts as a mild laxative.  I should've known.).

There will always be a need for pharmacists, but it'll be interesting to see how their job will change.  From chemist, to counselor, to practitioner - that seems to be how it's going.  Mike has to dole out vaccines now - that's new.  The way our healthcare is changing in the US, pretty soon pharmacists will be the new "country doctors" - taking temperatures, recording vital stats, etc. - all those things that would cost you $300 just for setting foot in a doctor's office these days. 

Now, I won't be cutting up that Algoma Drug scrip EVER, but I do like to use pharmacy labels and artefacts in my artwork:

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Snizzers & Gwoo

You may be reading the title of this post and wondering whether I recently suffered a head injury.  No, I haven't forgotten how to spell; this is actually the name of my Etsy shop

The name is derived from a mispronunciation of "scissors and glue" - when my nieces were little, this is what they called those two items.  And since I am a collage artist, the name made perfect sense to me.  My favorite part about the name is hearing grown adults try to say it.  I've had lots of practice, although my nieces are now 11 and 13 and fully capable of pronouncing the words correctly (even though they'll still say it the "cute" way if I ask them to, which I do often).

In my lifelong trek through ephemera, this storefront may be the most surprising aspect of the whole trip thus far.  To me, it is the utmost compliment to have someone not only like my work but to pay money to have it.  Having worked mainly with ATCs (Artist Trading Cards) for the last four years, it was a huge leap to make items for sale.  I mean, I've always treated each ATC as if I were selling it; the quality of my work is very important to me.  But this is the first time I've ever put myself out there.  It's a very vulnerable position to be put in!

But enough about the psychology of selling!  I'm starting to figure out what types of ephemera seem to be the most popular:

  • Maps.  People LOVE maps!  I count myself amongst these folks - there is just something about them.  Maybe for some, it brings back great memories of road trips.  For others, it just may be the pleasing orderliness to the design or that lovely light blue color.  Whatever it is, they never seem to go out of style!
  • Vintage.  Whether it be a snippet of a tiny playing card, part of a Life magazine ad or an old 45 RPM record jacket, the older paper I use seems to make people smile.  I think this is a purely nostalgia reaction - I know that's what it is for me!
  • NumbersI get my numbers from all over the place!  Some come from junk mail, some from discarded office equipment, some from old price tags.  There's a beauty and a rhythm to numbers, and people just seem to respond positively to them.
I feel so fortunate that I am able to spend my days amongst piles and piles of paper, magazines, brochures, maps and mail items and just play.  That's what it really comes down to - I get to play all day!  My Kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Seeman, would be so proud of me; her only "complaint" on my report card was that "Melissa has trouble working with scissors and paste".   :D

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Good Housekeeping?

Housekeeping - cleaning house - whatever you call it - it's a necessary evil.  I am certainly not the person that anyone is going to ask for advice; I'm a so-so housekeeper.  I will say that my house is never dirty - I really despise having a dirty tub or kitchen sink - but it certainly is "cluttery".  I have a magazine addiction and let's just say that you can totally tell.  :D

Even though I'm home all day now, I never turn on the TV (I know the slippery slope of daytime TV, and I choose not to be tempted by it).  So it's been a while since I've seen what daytime commercials look like.  I do catch a "daytime" ad every now and then for Swiffer or toilet bowl cleaner, and my inbox is full of coupon offers from the good folks at General Mills and Campbell's.  And even though we're living in a somewhat "enlightened" age, it seems to me that most of these products are still aimed at women.

When I was a kid, in the 70s, nearly every woman I knew was a homemaker/housewife ("stay-at-home mom" was a phrase that had yet to be coined).  The tide was turning, but it was still pretty much assumed that if a couple had kids, the wife just stayed home.  It wasn't until the Eighties that some of my friends' moms went into the workforce (my own mom went back to school and graduated at the top of her class - Summa cum Laude, no less - and went on to get her MSW).

I LOVED daytime TV when I was a kid!  There was something so comforting about those "homemaker" ads - everything was happy, sparkling, new - they held so much promise!  I had a wonderful, happy childhood myself, so it's not like I was using TV as an escape, but I never connected all of those happy, smiling, almost too ebullient women with my mom.  I think those ads had more to do with my love for happy fonts and catchy jingles.

So I suppose it's no surprise that I'm still giddy about housekeeping ephemera!  I love old brochures about how to keep your house clean, how to use that new Mixette you got for your anniversary, or how sauerkraut can liven up any meal.  The Twentieth Century was all about how to make drudgery more fun/easier, and companies were tripping all over themselves to cater to postwar young wives (and, subsequently, their daughters' lives).  Magazines like Good Housekeeping and Woman's Day combined housework, fashion, "wife" tips (wink, wink) and cooking in a new way.  Follow these simple tips and life will be a breeze.

And as always, whether it's for nostalgia or just because the illustrations are so wonderful, I love using this stuff  in my artwork.  Sometimes my work gets misconstrued as cynical; I usually don't mean for it to be.  :D

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Smoke 'em if ya got 'em.....

As an ephemeraologist (don't know if this is a word, but guess what?  It is now!), I find it fascinating the different categories of "stuff" that people choose to collect.  It's a tiny delve into one's psyche, isn't it?  For example, why do some love railroadiana?  Or classic car ephemera?  Or maps?  Or anything?

Now, I don't have a very extensive collection compared to some, but I enjoy collecting tobacciana immensely.  And because I'm writing this blog, I'll give you a tiny peek into MY psyche as to why I love my collection.

I grew up in the Seventies.  I lived on the same street from 1970-1988, so I witnessed a lot of change.  One of the big changes I noticed was the smoking habits of my neighbors. 

Because it was the Seventies, and interest rates were incredibly high, our block remained virtually unchanged for over a decade, neighbors-wise.  When I was in grade school, nearly everyone on my block smoked.  So many of my friends' parents smoked, in fact, that I just can't remember cigarette smoke even being an issue.  Both of my parents smoked until 1975, when my dad had a heart attack.  He HAD to quit, but my mom never did (and unfortunately, she's still smoking).  I think my dad was the first on the block to quit.  Gradually, as we got into the Eighties, my neighbors quit the habit.  I'd take a wager on the bet that my mom is the only one of my original neighbors left who smokes.

Isn't that amazing, when you think about it?  What other product can you really say that about?  And with the statewide smoking bans going into place (Wisconsin's starts on Monday, after the big weekend), we're going to be seeing fewer advertisements and product placements.  I mean, if you can't smoke in bars, what's the point of having ad "tents" on the tables?

This is why I love my tobacciana collection.  It's a personal thing for me - I was a smoker for 12 years (something that baffles my mind, now - I'll chalk it up to being in college and trying to be cool), the advertising will just become rarer, and it hearkens to a bygone (or soon-to-be-gone) era.

If you look in the big photo and the close-up photos, you'll see stuff like vintage foreign cigarette wrappers; premium coupons; cigar pouches; rolling papers; matchbox labels; plastic cards from a cigarette vending machine; cigar bands; antique tobacco plugs and matchbook covers.  It's a good collection in that it spans about 80 years or so, from the late 1800s (the tobacco plugs) to the 1970s (the B&W premium coupons).

And of course, I really love using my collection in my collage/mixed media artwork.  Here are a few cards I've made that incorporate the smoking culture of our not-so-distant past: