Monday, January 31, 2011

Meet the new family members!

I am so excited - tomorrow marks the beginning of advertising on this blog!

I started thinking about a month ago whether or not I should monetize my blog.  I quickly realized that if I were going to do this, it would only be with shops that I frequent myself and those that I trust.

I called upon my favorite shops (in alphabetical order) - Don and Chris' Old Stuff Only, Manto Fev, Paper Flea Market and Silver Crow Creations.  These are online shops that sell ephemera and other collage items, and I love them all!

Here's the best part about their advertising - they're doing it for YOU.  I thought that instead of me getting paid for them to have their logo on my site, I would love to have them show you how great they are.  What does this mean for you?  Well, all four of my wonderful advertisers are doing gift certificate giveaways throughout the year!

What better way for me to show you how much I love these sites myself than to give you, the reader, an opportunity to see for yourself if you haven't already?

So, throughout the week, I will highlight a different advertiser every day.  Each shop brings something unique and wonderful to the table and by visiting these sites you'll discover exactly what I mean.  Be prepared to get lost in their shops for hours, just like I did!

I would like to take this opportunity to publicly thank all four of these wonderful shops for agreeing to this arrangement.  I feel it's a win-win for everyone involved!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Show n' Tell Sunday

I had an idea, and I thought I'd give it a try - it's called Show n' Tell Sunday!

Isn't this marvelous?  I got it at a place called Old Stuff Only.  I nearly squealed when I found it there - and it's completely intact!!

Judging by the Pan Am logo and the $1.49 price tag I'm going to say that this supermarket toy is, at the very youngest, 30 years old (Pan Am's been out of business for 20 years, too). 

This toy satisfies so many of my ephemeral loves:  supermarket items, airline ephmera, tiny vintage toys.  And the fact that it's intact is just astonishes me - it's probably been sitting in a warehouse somewhere for the last 30 years.  Amazing!

Okay, I've done my share of Show n' Tell - now it's YOUR turn!  :D  If I get some interest, every Sunday I'll showcase another item of ephemera from your collection that you love.  Tell us all about it - you know we'd love to hear!  Just contact me using the e-mail address in my profile and if you're the real deal I'll ask you for a photo, too (please don't send one beforehand - I don't open attachments if I don't know who they're from).

So whaddya say?  What's the neatest item in YOUR collection?  Write to me and we'll talk!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Stamped on my Brain

I realized the other day that of all the things I've talked about on the blog so far, I haven't done an entry on one of the most basic and recognizable of ephemera -


I did write about postal items but not stamps in general!  Could it be that the stamp is so ubiquitous that it just flew under my radar?  Allow me to correct this post haste!  :D

I adore stamps.  I've mentioned that I've been collecting ephemera since I was a kid - stamps were the first kind!  I got my stamp collection starter kit when I was in second grade and dollar for dollar it was probably the best Christmas present my parents could've gotten me.  I pored over the stamps in that set and was fascinated by the different languages, styles, alphabets and people represented in these tiny works of art. Even to this day, when I see these stamps pictured here, it takes me right back to Christmas 1975.  

Unfortunately, I gave up my stamp collection when I discovered it wasn't "cool" and didn't really think much about it again until about 1997, when I had an inexplicable desire to visit the nearest hobby shop and buy a new bag of stamps.  I categorized them my country and theme and filled a sketchbook with them.  I didn't really do anything with them except admire the collection.

All of that changed, however, when I discovered the artwork of Nick Bantock.  If you love stamps but are unfamiliar with his work, I urge you to pick up the Griffin and Sabine trilogy at your local library or bookstore and start from there.  His artwork IS stamps and letters and mail art!  You can actually take the letters out of the envelopes and read them (you can talk e-books all day long; these books require you to participate, which you just can't duplicate on a Kindle).  I own nearly every Nick Bantock book ever written but I think my favorite is "Urgent: 2nd Class".  This is one of the books I read where I discovered how amazing stamps can be in collage.

I think my style is quite different than Mr. Bantock's but he has influenced my collage in countless ways.  One of the best things about using stamps in collages is that everyone will interpret the stamp differently.  The possibilities are endless!  Here are just a few of the many collages I've done using the wonderful postage stamp:

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Time to Get Away

I live in the Midwest, and it snowed - again.  This is really not breaking news; I've lived in Wisconsin nearly my whole life and aside from a stray warm winter here and there, it's gonna snow.  We're used to that.

But you can tell we're nearing the mid-point of winter.  The cabin fever is setting in.  It's gray a lot of the time.  People are talking about the "winter doldrums".

Time to start planning that vacation!

There's really nothing like a vacation to renew your spirit.  I think that the planning is just as fun!  What sites are we going to visit?  What fun new restaurants are we going to try?  Can I hit an antique store or two without poor Brian wishing he had gone alone?  :D

All of this wishful thinking is not lost on the travel industry, as we know.  The concept of a "vacation" as we know it, however, is a pretty new one.  Before the Industrial Revolution people didn't have any leisure time and if they did, they were so wealthy that they traveled the way mere commoners couldn't anyway.  We were an agrarian society and, as many folks in my neck of the woods know, those cows ain't gonna milk themselves.

So you combine new free time and the invention of the airplane and suddenly the whole world opens up!  In the "Golden Age" of travel (1920s-60s), people actually dressed up to board a plane.  What a concept!  I kind of wish it would return to that!

I've gotten some wonderful travel brochures in my ephemera pack purchases over the years - here are just a few.  I especially love the European ones - it's become so expensive there in the last ten years or so that it's not an option for a lot of people.  But in the Fifties and Sixties, Europe was THE place to go.  It all looks so exciting, doesn't it?

And of course, I love using these brochures in my artwork!  They're so colorful and fun!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Vegas, Baby!

I was born in Nevada.  My parents lived in Reno for a couple of years in the mid-to late-Sixties and I was a "surprise" from their stay there.  So was my sister, but mom & dad had moved back to Green Bay by the time she was born.  :D

Growing up I'd hear stories about how lucky my dad was - in Nevada, at least in the Sixies, there were slot machines EVERYWHERE - even in the men's room in gas stations.  My parents didn't have a lot of money but the few times that my dad did try his luck (and they were dime slots back then), he won at least ten bucks (I didn't inherit the slot machine luck gene), which could get you one fine steak dinner for two!

My parents also went to Tahoe a few times when they were out there - in fact, they spent their honeymoon there.  And when they'd talk about this part of the world, it all at once seemed glamorous and....boring.  I mean, Don Rickles?  Really?

Of course now, it sounds wonderful.  From my parents' accounts and all of the ephemera I have of Vegas (and other cities surrounding it) in the Sixties, it seems to me this wasn't a place you'd take your family on vacation.  This was an adult playground, in more ways than one.

I've only been to Vegas once, and that was in 1999.  When I was there, I was shocked to see so many kids!  Vegas was still pretty cheap then, compared to now - and it was before they rolled out their very adult "What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas" slogan.  I think they're actually trying to make it less kid-friendly again.

But I love the idea of "adults only" - not in a lascivious way, but just a place where there aren't any kids.  If you want to take your kids on vacation with you, there's always Disney World.  :D

I've used some of my Vegas ephemera in my cards - they definitely have an "adult" slant to them:

Monday, January 24, 2011

Check, please

There are some ways you can tell someone's age - and one of those ways is their particular method of payment.

And most of the time, if said person is over the age of about 70, that method of payment will be by check (or for my Canadian friends reading, "cheque").  It's pretty much cut-and-dry, too; in my experience, you'll very rarely see a senior using a credit card.

If you think about it, this totally makes sense.  Our parents/grandparents didn't grow up with credit cards - they really only entered our collective culture in the early-mid Seventies.  Growing up, my dad only used a credit card at Amoco (Standard Oil), and of course it was paid off at the end of the month!  He also had some store cards, like J.C. Penney, to use for our school clothes shopping, and again - it was paid off the next month.  The notion of taking a loan out for everyday purchases was preposterous!

I used to love watching my dad pay the bills (that made one of us, I'm sure).  He'd sit at his desk in my parents' room and get out the envelopes, stamps and checkbook and very methodically write out the checks.  My dad was excellent with money, which is a good thing considering that we had very little of it.  The fact that my dad was pulling in about $10K when I was growing up and we had no debt would be considered MIRACULOUS by today's standards (that $10K for a family of four would be like living on only $23K today).

I got my own checking account when I got to college.  I was pretty good with balancing my checkbook but I wrote out checks for the tiniest amounts (I never had cash on hand; I still don't like using it).  I'm sure I drove people NUTS in checkout lines, but maybe not considering that back in the Eighties most people were still using checks.

Speaking of going crazy - be honest!  When you see someone writing a check at the grocery store, don't you get a little impatient?  It's the modern-day equivalent of the little old lady paying in pennies!

I was talking to our bank representative a few weeks back and he told me that the banks are really pushing to make checks a thing of the past, or at least start charging to use them (again).  This only makes sense - as anyone who's seen "Catch me if you Can" knows, check fraud is far too easy, especially in this day and age.

The upside to check obsolescence?  It's heaven for us ephemeraologists!  Old cancelled checks are popping up on my favorite paper sites like Old Stuff Only and Silver Crow Creations and can be had for a SONG!

And of course, I love using old checks in my artwork!  They're so colorful and usually include handwriting, another bonus.  There's just something wonderful about them!

Friday, January 21, 2011

All About Fondy

I love Fondy.

For those of you who don't live in Wisconsin, "Fondy" is the endearing name we call Fond du Lac.  I am not a native Fond du Lacian but I've been here for nearly 15 years and I'm pretty sure we're staying for the long haul, since Brian and his brother Rick's business is here.

I'll admit that I didn't think much about Fondy when my first husband Dan and I moved here back in October of '96.  I was very sad to leave all my friends and family in Green Bay and it seemed like Fond du Lac didn't have anything unique to offer.

Of course, that turned out to be a wrong assumption.  I have met so many wonderful people here!  Fondy has a top-notch community theatre and arts center and for a town of 40,000 it has so much more to offer than you'd think.  Our downtown is thriving and is growing and expanding every year.  We have a fantastic library with an art gallery that our group, Fond du Lac Visual Arts, curates.  There is something to do here nearly every single weekend of the year, and we have festivals year-round (this weekend is Chocolate Fantasy!).

I would've loved to have seen Fond du Lac in its earlier years, though.  I recently found these old FDL artifacts that made me even more curious.

Take this Huber Bros. trading stamps booklet, for example - wouldn't it be neat if we could see what the pharmacy looked like?  The copyright on the booklet is 1936, so it's 75 years old.  From doing a little digging I know that the pharmacy was around before the turn of the 20th century and that the Huber family actually manufactured some of the drugs themselves (not uncommon back then).  I don't know when they went out of business, but it was before I moved here.

The letterhead from Universal Blade Service has to be pretty old too, considering the phone number is only four digits! I got these sheets from Old Stuff Only, a marvelous online wholesaler, who thinks the letterhead might be from the Twenties.  That sounds about right.  The shop was on Morris Street which is in a pretty industrial part of town.  There are still some businesses that operate there but as with every city in the US, so much is gone.

I think Fondy is entering a renaissance period of sorts - we're creating an Arts District in our downtown and going full speed ahead in that arena.  People are opening niche shops on Main Street - always a good sign.  I want more Wisconsinites to discover how many things Fondy has to offer!

Here is an ATC I did as an homage to Fondy.  I tried to cram as much Fondy-related ephemera as I could: a Schreiner's sugar packet (if you visit Fondy, you HAVE to eat at Schreiner's - it's in the town charter.  Okay, it's not, but it should be - it's an institution!), a snippet from a vintage postcard showing the Dorcas Chapel at Marian University (formerly Marian College - and that chapel is either revered or reviled.  No in-between feelings.), a ticket from Lakeside Park, a gorgeous park right on huge Lake Winnebago (home of Walleye Weekend, [which is why I have the stamped image on there too] and the Holiday Light Show); The FDLCT logo from one of the show programs; and the logo from our paper (and my former employer), The Reporter.

I hope you like where you live as much as I do!  :D

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Coke is it!

It used to be that you could tell a person by one very important question:  Coke or Pepsi?

Now?  Not so much.  The market is flooded with energy drinks and power drinks and vitamin drinks and designer soda and flavored water and all sorts of teas - the beverage aisle in the grocery store is enough to make one go bonkers!

If you're my age (42) or thereabouts, you very well remember the "Cola Wars" from the 80s.  What a heady time that must've been for both Coke AND Pespi - vying for the #1 soft drink spot in the country had to feel pretty good, even if you happened to be #2.  Imagine how poor RC Cola felt!  :D  I remember how much press coverage was devoted to "new" Coke, then Coke Classic, then the Pepsi ad debacle where Michael Jackson's hair caught on fire - it all seems so ridiculous now, doesn't it?

It is amazing to me that the old standbys have stood the test of time - Coke, especially.  Coke is one of those brands that everyone knows.  You could live in Tibet or the Peruvian Andes and still know what Coke is, even if you've never tried it.  I can count on one hand those brands that have such power, and they're still all US brands.

Coke is one of those brands that attracts rabid ephemera collectors.  I had a boss that was one of these people - she had a room in her house devoted solely to Christmas Coke stuff!  Now that's a niche ephemera market!  They've done a tremendous job feeding into that collecting frenzy, too - every year they come out with the commemorative tiny bottles that at some point you'll see in a "junque" shop near you, when the basement needs to be cleaned and that six-pack takes up space, and "why on earth do we have this anyway" spills out of one's mouth.

Never underestimate the power of nostalgia!

I don't have any artwork with the Coke logo on it - yet.  I bought those Coke disc thingies from Silver Crow Creations a while back but I just can't bring myself to tear into them - yet.  I will - nay, I MUST - at some point use them, or I will become a collector/hoarder and I don't want to go there.  :D

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Plastic Fantastic!

Here's some food for thought:

California has already banned plastic grocery bags - how long do you think it'll be before the rest of the country follows suit?  Ten years?  Twenty?  Less time than that?

Personally, I switched to using canvas bags about a year ago.  It's great!  I get 5 cents off for each bag I use and they hold a lot more groceries without breaking.  Of course, it's better for the environment because there's less waste.

Growing up in the Seventies, I only remember the brown paper bags.  Any plastic bags I saw were those heavy-duty shopping bags that ususally had the plastic handle on the top that snapped closed (and you were in a pretty fancy-schmancy place if you got one of those (see the photo)!  But the plastic bags we're all used to now are so ubiquitous I can't remember when they came into being.

I don't know about you, but I think they're a pain in the butt!!!  I seem to accumulate them by the thousands with little to no effort!  And it's not just the grocery store, of course - it's every department and discount store too!  But what can you do about it?

Well, if you're arty, you make art with 'em!  :D  My friend Kathi showed us how to make "paper" with plastic bags last year at one of our ATC live trades - it's really fun and surprisingly there is very low odor emission from the plastic, so you can do this inside!  Basically, you put down a layer of parchement papers, pieces of plastic bags, more parchement or wax paper and iron it!  The plastic bags will fuse together to form neat "papers" that you can cut, sew, glue - anything you want!  It's a great way to recycle your bags and have fun doing it!

Here's an ATC I made with my plastic bag stash - and I've got plenty more to choose from for future sessions!  :D

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Study Ephemeraology with me!

Do you like ephemera (I think you do!)?  Would you like to take a class and learn how to "Take the discarded and make it arted"?  :D

Then join me in beautiful downtown Manitowoc the weekend of July 28!  I'll be teaching at Inspire my Life, a new retreat set up by the wonderful and energetic Kim Geiser of Persimmons.  Kim has been making art her whole life and has been featured in such magazines as Cloth Paper ScissorsBelle Armoire, Somerset Studio, and Bead Unique.  Those of you who live in NE Wisconsin may also recognize Kim from her appearances on Good Day Wisconsin, where she's demonstrated thrifty ways to make Halloween costumes and Christmas decorations!

The retreat is a three-day event filled with all kinds of different classes in all sorts of mediums.  The classes will be a la carte and very reasonably priced, which is very important to Kim.

There will be more information after May 1, but be sure to keep this fun weekend in mind when making your summer plans!  You can also follow Inspire my Life right here on Blogspot so that you're kept in the loop.

I hope to see you in Manitowoc in July - you'll love it!  And here are just a few examples of what you can do with all types of ephemera:  

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Say What?

A while back I got an AMAZING lot of Cinderella stamps (for more info on Cinderellas, read this post) from an Irish gentleman named Liam, who is a fervent collector (I had some Boys' Town stamps that he didn't have and wanted for his collection).  As you can see, he was very generous! 
It took me quite a while to go through the whole stash, but I stopped short when I came across these:

Holy smokes!  They're in Esperanto.  I mean, when's the last time you heard about Esperanto being a movement?  I vaguely recall a push for it in the Seventies and, being a really geeky kid, actually looked into it at our library. 

Not a bad theory!  On the flip side, I also feel that keeping one's culture is important, and that includes the language.  But growing up the way and the time when Dr. Zamenhof did, I can definitely see why he wanted the change.  Perhaps ironically, you can even have your Wikipedia page translated into Esperanto, if you so choose!

But back to these stamps - I thought they were the only Esperanto source I had in my ephemera collection, until I discovered these dictionary pages that I had gotten in a pack:

Who knew?  :D

I haven't had these stamps for long, so I haven't made much art with them, but here are a couple items:

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Getting your Friends Involved!

If you're reading this, and you're a collector/ephemera artist, how much stuff do you have?  Be honest....

Okay, good!  Now I don't feel so bad!  :D 

One of the greatest things about being an ephemeraologist is, well, getting new ephemera.  Or new-old ephemera.  Or just finding old stuff.  But it's the thrill of the hunt that makes it so fun.

I've discovered that even those who don't quite understand what it is we do are more than happy to help add to your collection.  The above photo is a case in point!

I have a friend Mary who travels A LOT.  I think she's been to all continents except Africa and Anarctica, but she's certainly not done traveling!  Most of the traveling she does is via cruise ship; she's a teacher so in the summer she and her husband are gone for weeks at a time sometimes.  It is truly their passion.

When Mary and I were talking about her travels a couple of years ago, I asked her if she happens to keep souvinirs of her trip.  She said she doesn't, really - she enjoys buying local foods (and chocolate!) and remembering her trips that way.  Once I knew that I wasn't going to be asking for things she may have kept for herself, I asked if she'd save any interesting labels or packages for me. 

Well, you should SEE the collection that I've amassed!  Let's just say that the ephemera in the above photo is a mere tip of the iceberg.  I just saw Mary at our annual community theatre holiday party and I got even more stuff!  She is very sweet, too - she actually said to me, "I love collecting this stuff for you, and now I've got my own sister collecting for you as well!".  Isn't that lovely?  :D

This will happen to you too, mark my words.  Once your family and friends catch wind of the types of items you collect, they'll be on the lookout for you.  My mom, brother in-law, mom in-law - I've gotten really neat things from them in the past couple of months as well (and I'll be talking about those things in a later post).  They're happy to do it, even though they may not understand why it's so thrilling.  And it's FREE!

Here are some of the artworks I've done using Mary's foreign labels:

Monday, January 10, 2011

Real or Fake?

Courtesy Wikipedia (paper shredder)
 People are quite surprised when they discover that I have no problem cutting up old books and magazines to use in my artwork.  To them, I am decimating a part of our history!  How dare I deface a perfectly good book for my own use!  And those Life magazines - what if it's the last of its issue?  And certainly those old documents must be worth quite a bit of money!

I used to think this way too.  I've been collecting ephemera since I was 14 years old and up until about 5 years ago would never have dreamt of cutting up my collection!  I worked long and hard scouring antiq---

Oh, right!  There's a little thing called the Interweb now.  And what's this?  Those ink labels that I paid dearly for in that antique store in 1982 are 5 for a buck on Ebay?  Soup can labels that I was certain were lost forever are plentiful everywhere I look?  Old stock certificates can be had for mere pennies?

Once you begin looking for ephemera in earnest you'll find that you can get pretty much anything your heart desires, and usually quite cheap.  Now, I'm a pretty hardcore collector; if you're looking for one label for one project, it may not be worth the money to you.  But when you just plain adore old stuff you'd be amazed at how easy it is to get anything.

Still, people say to me, "Why don't you scan your collection and then just print out what you need?  That way you can use it in your artwork AND keep your collection!".  Nope.  Anyone who uses the real stuff in their artwork knows that there is a look and feel to the real deal (hey, that rhymes!) that is totally lacking in a copy, especially in an inkjet copy.    

I use copies too!  :D

Please realize that I'm not trying to be snobby.  I don't put down people who use copies in their work, and there are times when I've found copyright-free images online that have worked beautifully for me.  I also do make transparencies a lot, especially with old photographs, simply because the images are better suited for transparencies sometimes.  But for me the true essence of an "ephemeraologist" is using the real scraps of our everyday lives, whether it's new junk mail or a 120 year-old business letter, gathering dust in a warehouse, just waiting for a new lease on life.

I like to think that I'm reincarnating these pieces and that their second life will be lived in a more artful way; that maybe their mundane existence wrapping a sardine can will be rewarded by spending the next 50 years (or more, hopefully!) slathered in ink and paste and possibly framed for all to see.  Isn't that more exciting than spending your life in a drawer?

Here are some pieces I've done using nothing but the real deal:

Friday, January 7, 2011

More Phone time....

I got a new phone a couple of weeks ago, and I have to say that it's pretty nifty.  I love my new ring tones and I finally have a QWERTY keyboard so I can text my sister and nieces (most of my friends still don't text, thank goodness - I'd never get anything done!).  :D

But oh, I do miss the days of just a regular phone!  While I enjoy the safety and peace of mind my cell offers, I sort of miss being tethered to one spot and not being able to be reached anywhere.  I'm pretty certain that my generation will be the last to feel this way - Gen Y and the Millennials (and beyond!) will never know what the five previous generations experienced with the telephone!  And speaking of the "telephone", when will that word become obsolete? 

I did a post back in October all about my love for phone books (you may recognize the vintage phone book in the photo above!), but today I'm going to introduce my love of the phone itself through durable ephemera

Wait - DURABLE ephemera?  Isn't that sort of an oxymoron?  One would think so, but thank Jeebus there's an actual term for this stuff!  According to one of my fave sites,, durable ephemera are "those Advertising Signs, Souveniers and Tin or Wooden Advertising Boxes, ect.(sic)".  Hooray!!! 

I feel validated!  :D

In future posts I'll be expounding on my love of durable ephemera in its different forms.  But today, it's all about the phone.

I've picked up these marvelous items here and there (some on Etsy, some in antique or old/new stock stores) and if it's reasonably priced, it's goin' in mah cart.  I adore the miniaturization of anything in our culture so these fit the bill perfectly.  I always purchase items like these with the intent of using them in an assemblage piece, and I will create one someday - until then, they're just fun to have around.

I will get to those assemblage pieces one day but in the meantime, here are more art pieces that incorporate my love of old phones: