Thursday, March 31, 2011

But Enough About Me.....

Over the past 11 months or so (far more in the last four), I've been expounding on MY favorite ephemera items.  And god bless you, you've actually read what I have to say.  Thank you so much for that, by the way!  Your readership means so much to me!

But enough about me for a day - what about YOU?  I want to hear what kind of ephemera floats YOUR boat, and I would love for you to include a link to either your stash o' goodies or your artwork created with your stash o' goodies!  Let's do some idea & art sharing!  Also, if you have an idea for an ephemera subject, I'd love to hear those too!

I know that I usually talk about my vintage stuff, but nowhere in the "rules" does it say that ephemera, by definition, has to be vintage.  So if you find a cool candy wrapper on the street and you think it's the coolest thing you've ever seen, give us a link to the photo of it!  :D

If you've read this far, I know you're as serious about your ephemera as I am.  So I'm going to sweeten the pot a little - if you post a comment about your favorite things/art, you will automatically be entered to win an ephemera pack from Yours Truly.  That's right!  I'm not telling what will be included, because that's half the fun.  But rest assured it will be good. 

*SHAMELESS PLUG TIME* If you're so inclined, let your friends know about my blog too!  The more the merrier in Ephemera Land! 

Okay, let's go!  You have until 5 p.m. CDT on Saturday to post a comment, and I'll pick a winner then.

Best of luck, and thanks for reading!  :D

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Just my Type

To my wonderful readers:  you know I'm all about the vintage ephemera and yes, all of the nostalgia that accompanies it.  But there is one item that, while I adore the idea, I am eternally grateful that it's not a part of my daily routine.

That item is the typewriter. 

I have always loved typewriters.  Every once in a while my mom would let us use their manual Royal; it never lasted long, though, because it was too hard to press the keys (I still have a hard time with that - must be the weak-finger gene).  When I got into high school, I enrolled in typing class - in 1984 the PC was still a very expensive luxury for most people and the IBM Selectric ruled the day. 

I would love to tell you that my fingers flew at 80 wpm with nary an error;  I would be lying.  I was (and am) a terrible typist.  For one, my attention span at 15 wasn't the sharpest and I would constantly lose my place while typing out the exercises.  I was also distracted by how fast the other kids were typing and would get psyched out (it turns out that the rapid typing from the boy sitting next to me was nothing but gibberish; he would just type anything because he knew he was failing) .  I am not proud to tell you that I received a "D" in the class.  Thankfully, in five short years it wouldn't mean a thing.
When it first arrived on the scene the typewriter must've seemed heaven-sent; imagine the amount of time saved in comparison to writing everything in long hand!  Of course, only men were deemed fit to operate these marvels at first; it wasn't until the "modern" office that women took over the duty.  Nowadays the only people you hear about using typewriters are reclusive novelists or old-school journalists (who apparently have no deadline). 

I would be lost without the invention of the PC.  If it were never invented I would've had to stockpile Ko-Rec-Type.   I don't think I'd have the patience to type my blog entries on a typewriter - it would take me half the day!

But oh, how I love the mid-century typewriter culture!  The beautiful ribbon boxes, the typewriter repair forms, the typing manuals - all wonderful.  All promise an efficient, well-run office.  And for you Mad Men fans, who didn't love the early episodes where the removal/replacement of the typewriter dust jacket signified the beginning/end of the work day?

I also love using the typewriter and its accoutrements in my artwork!  Here are a few examples:

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

I Feel Pretty....

There's a quote from Oscar Wilde that goes, "A man's face is his autobiography; a woman's face is her work of fiction."

It does have a grain of truth in it - I've always been a little jealous that guys don't have to slap on the war paint before they go out (Adam Lambert and Boy George are obvious exceptions to this rule).  Ironically, I used to wear a lot more makeup in my twenties than I do now - in fact, unless it's a very special occasion, I never wear anything more than eyeliner, my one staple.

Why do I even wear that, though?  I know that it's there, but I doubt anyone else would notice if I didn't wear it.  Maybe all I'd get is a "you look tired today" quip (which, by the way, is rude.  Don't ever tell anyone that, because how is that person supposed to answer - "thanks!"?).

I love old cosmetic labels and vintage make-up ads!  It's really fun to see how things have changed in the last ninety years or so.  A lot of my labels come from Buerger Bros. out of Denver.  From the brief history I could find online, it appears that four brothers formed a barbershop in 1885 and moved into their own building in 1930, where they had a wholesale showroom on the ground floor and subsequent floors were used for housing supplies and manufacturing their products.  As you can see, the labels are gorgeously Art Nouveau and very pretty - certainly items you'd want to showcase on your vanity table.  It appears that the company went out of business in 1972 and their Denver headquarters are now high-end loft condos.

Another fabulous line that no longer exists is the Princess Pat line.  These labels are so Art Deco, aren't they?  I could find very little history online but in the Encyclopaedia of Perfume it says that the company was established by Lucilee Young in Chicago circa 1930 and that it later traded under the name  'House of Gordon'.  I wish I had more info on the line, but my searches turned up nil.  

My first experience with make-up was seeing my mom apply her cake eyeliner when she'd go out, which was rarely.  Even though it was the more-casual Seventies, she always dressed up to go to the dentist or travel downtown.  Whenever I smell Charlie perfume, I always think of those trips and it brings back wonderful memories.  Mom doesn't wear Charlie anymore; she's graduated to Donna Karan.  :D

I don't deny anyone's right to do what they please in the beauty ritual department, but I do find it a tad odd that men are paying so much more attention to their "routine".  When I was growing up, unless one were a TV anchor, men never wore concealer.  There were no product lines directed at men, except for cologne.  Funny how the tide turns, isn't it?

Here are some cards I've done using my cosmetics labels - they're really fun to work with!

Monday, March 28, 2011

When is a Book not a Book?

When it comes to ephemera, is there anything sacred?  Is there an item that you would NEVER in a million years even DREAM of cutting up or decimating in any way?

How about books?

I know a couple of people who wouldn't ever consider dismantling a book!  Books are for reading and shelving.  Books are treasured tomes to be handed down from generation to generation.  Books are....

Well, sometimes books look like this (by the way, you can actually purchase book parts from Manto Fev and The Paper Flea Market!).
Now, before you think that I'm an unfeeling, reckless artist who would destroy anything if it meant having the perfect item to use in a collage - you're half right.  I will use anything, as long as it's freely available and not sentimentally tearing someone apart. 

Here's a great example - the annual AAUW book sale.  This year the Fond du Lac chapter of AAUW (American Association of University Women) held its 50th annual book sale at our fairgrounds. It's a huge event every year and I always wind up donating two ways:  by cleaning out my shelves of used books AND by purchasing books at the sale.  I got some doozies this year, including some fantastic vintage foreign books (above) and of course, more vintage magazines (as you can see from the photo, they're falling apart).

Will I, at some point, cut these babies up?  Absolutely.  The way I look at at it, I'm giving these books a new lease on life.  What good are they sitting in someone's mildewy basement, or worse - being tossed in the trash if they're not sold?  I prefer the sunnier outlook of book rescue - saving them from book purgatory.

I am a founding member of Fond du Lac Visual Arts and our very first themed show is entitled, "Cover to Cover", which will run from April 7-29 at our local library.  It's all about handmade books, altered books, and art (both 2D and 3D) made from book parts.  I am very excited about this exhibit and we've got over 25 books so far that will be displayed!  I have two entries, one of which is shown here:

I used a deep Hardbord canvas backward for the "classroom" and an old book cover for the roof.  For the "walls" I used bits of old schoolbooks and learning guides. The tiny desk is from a Japanese company called Rement.  I'm keeping the other piece under wraps until a later date (you'll find out why later - it's a surprise!).

Books and book pages have been used in so many of my ATCs, too - I think of it as a tribute rather than destruction.  :D

Friday, March 25, 2011

Sugar, Sugar

I have a love-hate relationship with sugar - I love it and it hates me.  :D

Once again, because of my age I can straddle the generations.  I grew up in the Seventies, when cereals like "Super Sugar Crisp" and "Sugar Smacks" still existed.  Around the time I got into middle school, in the late 70s/early 80s, the tide was turning and "healthy" was the watchword.  "Super Sugar Crisp" became "Super Golden Crisp" and "Sugar Smacks" became "Honey Smacks".  These name changes were ridiculous, of course, because the ingredients didn't change; if anything, high fructose corn syrup probably replaced Dextrose for the sweetener.

But back in the day?  SURE!  Go ahead!  Eat all the "Dextrose" you want, because it gives you pep and energy, and good things growing bodies need!

When women baked everything the family ate, sugar was just another staple in the home.  During the Depression some families switched to sorghum, a species of grass, because sugar became so expensive (in its syrup form some call it "molasses", but it's not).  It's interesting to me that more "true" sugar was consumed, yet people weighed less back then.  Same goes for butter.

Starting in the Sixties, advertising came out for all kinds of sweeteners, mainly targeted at women who were "reducing" (how's THAT for a euphemism?).  As you can see, many of them came in convenient pill form, at the time when people thought pills would solve every problem known to man.  I remember reading the warning out loud on the Sweet n' Low box to my mom about how saccharin causes cancer in rats (my dad used the diet stuff all the time - he preferred it.).

Nowadays (isn't that a great word?  Let's use it more often!), the varieties of sweeteners tend to veer toward sugar "extracts" like Splenda, or derivations like the stevia plant (in the form of Truvia).  I always thought that Stevia would make a lovely girl's name, don't you think?  :D

So what's the future of sugar?  We're already seeing backlash of the fake stuff and "retro" packaging of soda featuring "real sugar" which just cracks me up.  I'd guess that the only way we're going to really "reduce" is to stop eating so much of everything, and not just sugar. 

I've done a few pieces using sugar items - Domino seems to be the dominant sugar brand of the first half of the 20th century (I used a Domino Schriner's packet for the Fondy card)!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Finding Inspiration

Ephemera is everywhere.  So it would stand to reason that I would find inspiration for my art and these blog posts everywhere too, right?

Right - most of the time.  I have taken a cue from Keri Smith, author and life-observer extraordinaire, about "how to be an explorer of the world".  As I talked about in another post, I've cast my eyes downward in search of "lost" ephemera.  I have amazing friends who, selflessly and most generously, just give me amazing items.  I am constantly surrounded by the everyday stuff of life.

But because I am an ephemera addict, I always want more.  Not more stuff, necessarily (although, who am I kidding?  I never pass up an opportunity for more stuff!), but more ideas.  More finds. More inspiration.  Where to turn?

Here's a great place - W5RAn

I've been following W5RAn since it was about 3 weeks old, back in November/December of 2009.  I can't remember anymore who found who - if I found D'Ette Cole, head editor of the site, or if she found me via Flickr (more amazing inspiration can be found there too, by the way).  However it went, I was hooked on this site from the beginning. Imagine my surprise and honor when D'Ette put her trust in me and crowned me a contributing editor this week. :D

So what IS W5RAn?  First off, the meaning.  I love how D'Ette picked the name - it was her maternal grandfather's callsign for his ham radio operation (that's his calling card in the image above; more on ham radio calling cards in a future post).  D'Ette loved his sense of adventure and decided to create a place for visual exploration, accessible to everyone.  It's a daily digest of what makes our world fascinating - and that includes LOTS of ephemera (just more proof that kindred spririts find each other!).

The site is separated into seven categories, explained by D'Ette this way:

The best part?  Anyone can contribute anything.  It's all about the sharing.  D'Ette asked me originally if she could share my artwork, which flattered me to no end.  I've been an ongoing contributor that way since late 2009.  I have made friends with like-minded ephemeraologists directly through W5RAn, and that's what it's about - THAT'S where inspiration is born.  It's also another vessel where we can keep vintage ephemera alive and kicking.

So how about it, readers?  I know so many of you are ephemerologists, explorers, vintage addicts, artists and curators in your own right.  Hop aboard the W5RAn train!  You too can be a contributor and keep ephemera fresh.  It's a great way of looking at the world and finding inspiration in the everyday stuff of life.  Because that's what it's all about, people - the little things.

Here are a couple of my pieces that have been featured on W5RAn (thanks D'Ette!):

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Taking Stock

Certain things exhaust me just thinking about them - and one of those things is investments.

Brian handles all of the financial aspects of our lives, including all our investments (mutual funds, CDs, Roth, 401K, short-term investments, etc.).  I do need to learn about them in case (G-d forbid!) anything should happen to Brian.  It's one of those situations where he's so great at it, I don't even bother.  I know our current financial standing but that's about it (this is not a gender thing, by the way - I handled all the money in my first marriage).

Stocks hold a certain allure for me, though.  My first encounter with any stock dealings was in 1980, when my mom had to cash out her holdings in Hobart, which was bought out my Kraft Foods.  Her maternal grandfather had set up that stock for her when she was a little girl.  I don't know how much she received in the payout but all of a sudden we had new curtains and bedspreads and all new accessories in the bathroom. I'm certain some was put into savings, because that's how my parents rolled, but I remember thinking that stocks were pretty awesome because it seemed like that money dropped out of the sky (I was 11 at the time).

When I started working I knew enough to start a 401K, but that's about it.  I'll be perfectly honest - I don't get it.  And like a lot of things, when there's confusion, there's fear.  I deal with this kind of fear with avoidance.  Smart, right?  But here's a question - if we should all be using our money to our advantage (because it is OUR money and it should work for us), why aren't they teaching these types of life skills in school?  I know budgets are stretched to the limit but hey, make it part of the math curriculum!  It's a completely applicable lesson!

When it comes to me and stocks (for right now, anyway), I'll stick with the decorative aspect.  And aren't these old stock certificates beautiful?!  Here's one of those instances where the digital counterpart will never be as cool as its paper brethren.  Some things just seem more REAL when they're printed out, with official-looking time clocks and beautiful fountain pen signatures.  These certificates conjure images of nattily-dressed men in spats and waistcoats sitting around a table talking about very important things.   Or maybe that's just a Dean Witter ad from the 90s.  :D

And of course, I LOVE using them in my work!  Their fonts, their patina, their "officialness" - it all lends a certain look to a piece.  The best part?  You can still pick some up at places like Manto Fev for a song!

"Day at the Office" collage - available in my
Etsy shop!  :D

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Kind and Generous

Remember yesterday's post, when I said that I'd have to dole out the thanks in two posts because both situations deserved their own?

Here's the second of those.  :D

Yesterday I talked about my wild and crazy Saturday - well, our Sunday was pretty full too!  My friend Casey is going into the Navy in about a week and there was a going away party for him at his dad's house.  Casey's aunt (his dad's sister) happens to be one of my oldest Fondy friends, Suze Fiebig (this happens a lot in Fond du Lac - everyone is connected somehow).

Suze and I go way back - I met her in '99 when we were both ushering for Fond du Lac Community Theatre.  She admitted to me some years back that when she first met me, she thought I was Squaresville but then soon realized that I was anything but (this is the first impression I make with a lot of people, I think - I don't dress funky AT ALL, my hair is short and very mom-like and I use a lot of 50-cent words.  But then they get to know me and I think that impression changes).  :D 

Back in 2001, Suze opened a gallery called EC2.  It featured local artists and it was housed in this beautiful Tudor-style home.  There were fabulous exhibits and receptions and I loved it there.  It was my first encounter with the artists in our area and although I certainly didn't include myself in their circle, I knew then that I liked this group of people.  I never dreamed that I'd be one of them someday!

It was around this time that my circumstances changed and my first husby and I separated and then divorced.  I sort of dropped out of sight for awhile and I also started working full time.  I would see Suze occasionally because she was a member of the Home Builders Association where I worked and her beautiful photography graced my office's walls.  When I started working for The Reporter, though, I didn't see her for quite a while, as sometimes happens when one switches jobs.  When we would get together, though, it was always a blast.

Then I quit my job and we formed Fond du Lac Visual Arts.
Suze was instrumental in the formation of our group.  Her curation expertise is much needed and, along with president Trista Holz, they are the backbone of it.  Suze is also a very talented book artist and collagist, and that's where we come full circle.

Before we headed to Casey's party, we stopped at Suze's house because I had some entries in our next exhibit to drop off (it's called Cover to Cover, and it's a book arts exhibit!  SO excited!).  But Suze took Brian and me to her studio to show us her own artwork for the show AND she also had some more stuff for me.

I never thought that I'd be graced with THIS!!!  Yes, all of the books you see above now belong to me.  Suze was at the annual AAUW book sale (more on this amazing sale in a later post) and thought I'd like them.  Isn't that so sweet?  But this is nothing new - she is very generous in this regard.  I've since used a lot of the stuff in my art but you should see the ephemera I got for my birthday!

It is this kind of gesture that defines Suze.  She is very giving with her friends, whether it be art supplies, letters, notes or a kind word just when you need it.  I count myself very fortunate to be a part of her world.  Thank you for being part of mine, Suze!  :D

Monday, March 21, 2011

MORE Thanks to Give!

I'm going to just come right out and tell you all - I am one of the luckiest people I know.  I have somehow discovered the most generous and talented group of people, and they have let me into their circle.  I honestly don't know how I got so lucky but I am extremely grateful to have met every one of them!

Two things happened this weekend in this regard and they both deserve their own post (and you'll want to take in the eye candy).  So I'm going to go in chronological order.  The first of these embarrassments of riches occured on Saturday afternoon.

I had quite a day on Saturday!  I got up at 5:30 a.m., a woman on a mission.  I left the house at 7 a.m. to hightail it down to Schaumburg, IL to visit the closest IKEA.  I had an idea about a project and found the perfect item to use in said project, so I took my IKEA gift card that Brian and I got as a wedding gift over five years ago and put it to good use. I was on a roll!  I got in and out of there in an hour, including a trip to the cafeteria for some Swedish pancakes. 

Everything was going great until I hit Milwaukee.  I had to be back in Milwaukee by 1 p.m. for our ATC live trade.  I reached the outskirts by 12:35 and I was feeling quite proud of myself, being on time and everything.  Unfortunately, the directions I had printed out didn't account for the massive construction going on, so I got all turned around and it took me nearly an hour to finally find the place (I had to call Brian to get me back on track!).  To make matters worse, they had WAITED for me to get there to start the meeting.  I felt absolutely terrible about this.  I pride myself on my puncutality and I HATE being late.  It's a fate worse than death.  I thought I'd be able to just sneak such luck. 

"Stock" (more like "investment"
into the auditorium), and the letter
from an angry "shareholder" who
discovered the "stock" was
worthless after the '29 Crash
But I did get there and the meeting finally began.  After introductions were done, my friend Robin, who I had met through the Bay View Book Arts guild and Bibelot shop, handed me a pile of ephemera (shown above and here).  I asked her how much she wanted for it, because as you can see, there is some incredible stuff here!  But she explained that she got all of it when the Milwaukee Auditorium was being renovated and they were just throwing this stuff in a dumpster (first of all - how can people be so callous about this amazing stuff, and secondly - how cool is it that I have friends who dumpster-dive?  It's a dream of mine).  So she got it for free and was passing some of it on to me because she knew how much I loved this kind of ephemera.

See what I mean about being lucky???  In the past year or so I have had so many amazing encounters like this.  I honestly don't know how to thank everyone - I try to pay it forward but I don't know if I can even come close to repaying these kindnesses.  But you know I'll try.  :D  Thank you again, Robin - I appreciate your generosity so much!  I WILL get you back - I just don't know how yet.  :D

Speaking of repayment - here is a piece that I made for my friend Julie.  Some of you may remember a post I did about a month ago regarding an ENORMOUS pile of cabinet cards and postcards that I'd received from Julie.  Well, I took one of those postcards and made this collage and had it framed.  Believe me, it was the very least I could do.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Oh, to be Able to Sew....

Update:  YAY!  We reached 100 blog followers! :D  Now all you have to do is comment on this blog post to be entered to win the "Thread the Bobbin" collage seen below!  I'll draw the name on Monday evening at 5 p.m. CST.  Good luck! :D

As a lover of nearly all things vintage, I also love the history behind that vintage stuff.  There are certain themes or ideas that appeal to me, even though I have a hard time applying that theme or idea to my own life.

One such theme is vintage sewing items.

A little backstory on my reverence/fear:  I come from a long line of non-sewers.  My Grammie, who will be 87 in August, was a young wife in 1945.  When my mom arrived just a year later, she wanted to learn how to sew some baby clothes.  After several attempts, the instructor very politely told my Grammie that "perhaps sewing isn't for you."  This comes as no surprise, as even my great-grandmother didn't sew.

Fast forward about 26 years to when my mom has already had me and my sister (we're only 13 months apart).  It was the early Seventies and my mom thought that making our clothes would be an economical alternative.  We each got one outfit and then we promptly went outside and sat on a log full of tar.  I think my mom decided that all of the swearing and sweat she'd put into those outfits, only to have them ruined in one day, wasn't that economical after all.

Our next stop is about 10 years later, to my 8th grade year.  For a unit in our Home Ec class we were required to make a reversible vest.  I very unwisely chose pink flannels (!) for my materials, some of the most unforgiving fabric available.  Oh so very many things went wrong with that vest but here are a few highlights:  I made the chalk marks on the right side of the fabric; I had a hard time with my left and right (still do sometimes!) so I sewed the opposite sides together, and I had no foot pedal control so the fabric would jam, oftentimes so badly they'd have to dismantle the machine.  I got a "D" on the project - the only reason I didn't fail is because I actually stayed after class and tried to get it right.  The best part about the whole story is that two or three years later, after the vest had been stuffed in a back closet for that long, my dad found it and very gently asked me if he could use it to wax the car.  I still crack up every time I think of that.  Hey, it IS flannel, after all! 

So when I see all of these mid-century ladies very confidently making these lovely outfits and boasting how easy it is, I've got four generations of family women reminding me that it really isn't for everyone.  Which is why I bow to you who can actually sew a stitch.  (Incidentally, I did needlepoint for years and had some of my works displayed at the museum in Green Bay - ironic, no?)  :D

I may not be able to sew, but I LOVE  using vintage sewing stuff in my art!  (Oh, and if you've read this far, perhaps you'll be one of the few privvy to some info - check out the caption on the collage for more info on the giveaway!):

Want to win this 4X4 collage from my Etsy shop?  Just comment below and I'll draw a name!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Pick a Card, any Card

I grew up in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  It's a predominantly German, Catholic area (about 90% Catholic) with a Belgian enclave to the northeast and some Polish outposts here and there.  When I was a kid it was still quite agricultural, but of course like every place that's changing.

Neither of my parents were born in the area but they lived in Green Bay for a long time.  My mom and Grammie had the Green Bay accent down pat and would talk to each other in a very exaggerated rendition of it.  I still think it's hysterical and my sister, mom and I still talk that way with each other (or should I say, we tak dat way wit each udder, n'so?).

One of the things I closely associate with that accent is card-playing.  I grew up in a household where the strongest card games played were Go Fish and Old Maid.  My mom and dad played a lot of Cribbage before we were born, but for some reason gave it up after we came along.  My parents were/are avid readers, so that's how we spent our evenings (or Jen and I would watch TV or listen to the radio).  So I had no idea how to play "Crap on Yer Neighbor" (also called "Screw your Neighbor), Euchre, Sheepshead (this one was HUGE in the Green Bay area!) and Couillou (I have no idea if this is spelled right, but my former husband played it in his very Belgian hometown of Casco).  If you were to visit 100 homes on a Saturday night, I'd bet 45 of them would have some kind of card game going, especially if the residents of those homes are over 50.  Drinking goes hand in hand with these games, which is probably why my parents didn't play much (when I was growing up, I lived in a pretty dry household - never anything stronger than a Rose wine and NEVER hard liquor!).

I've discovered the joys of Cribbage thanks to Brian, and we oftentimes play Dominoes (the very un-PC version called "Mexican Train") with my in-laws.  It's FUN!  In fact, this is how we normally spend our Christmas Eves.  Talk about laid-back and relaxing - and hootful!

Playing cards are EVERYWHERE.  But like other games, sometimes a card gets misplaced and the deck's no good.  And of course with the onset of the all the casinos in the country, they have to replace decks constantly and you can find those decks for sale for CHEAP! 

They're also the same size as an Artist Trading Card!  Talk about a very inexpensive substrate for your artwork!  It's also a great way to recycle them.  Of course, I like the vintage ones - I don't have many but the ones I do have I love.  :D   I also have a lot of teeny-tiny ones, because I adore mini stuff!

And I have done artwork with them!  Here are a couple of examples: