Tuesday, May 31, 2011


We all know that life can be unexpected - that was certainly true for Brian and me yesterday!

Much to our amazement, we are now proud Pomeranian parents.  :D  It happened so suddenly that we didn't really have time to process it; in retrospect, that's a good thing.  This wonderful doggie friend, whose name is Dudley, is approximately nine years old and had been adopted from a shelter by neighbors of my sister's about 2 years ago.  Apparently, the daughter who adopted it soon moved out and left Dudley with her parents and younger siblings, who already had two big dogs and really couldn't take care of him.  My sister Jen would be on walks with their own dog Jo-Jo and see Dudley in the garage, where he was kept.

Yesterday, though, Jen saw that he was loose.  She texted me that she was very sad about this, as she noticed he was in DESPERATE need of a good grooming and haircut.  But she also realized what a sweet boy he is!  She actually inquired whether they were willing to sell, and they seemed relieved to find out that he may have a new home!

Dudley, pre-grooming (he goes today!)
It took some gentle persuading to get Brian to acquiesce but we finally agreed that if everything fell into place, we would take him.  Everything did, and that's how Dudley came to be ours.

I've always loved doggies but growing up in an apartment, they were never an option (we had guinea pigs instead).  I feel very fortunate to have Dudley be a part of our lives for the rest of his life.  It already feels like he's been here forever!

I really don't have much doggie ephemera, but that may be because doggie ephemera is a pretty recent phenomenon!  From what I can gather, owning a dog in the mid-20th century was a very common occurrence but dogs weren't worshiped like they are now.  They got canned dog food and that was it.  No fancy dog clothes, no special dog beds, no scents especially formulated for them, no water purifiers - just plain old Alpo (or Pard, whatever that is!).  To be perfectly honest, I'm still in the "simple is better" mode, but I greatly fear that I could become one of those dog owners who tote their pup everywhere and construct shrines to it.  I need Brian to be strong and tether me to Earth so that doesn't happen.  :D

I do love using dogs in my artwork and I will probably start doing more of it.  I'm starting to realize what owning a dog can do to you - it's not only a change in lifestyle but a new hobby as well.  Vive les chiens! :D

Friday, May 27, 2011

Fire up the Grill!

Here in the U.S. (and Canada too, I believe), it's Memorial Day weekend!  I'm going to bet that a great deal of people took the day off today so that they could have a 4-day weekend.  It's also the "unofficial" start of summer, but you'd never know it in these parts - we dipped down to 41 degrees this morning!!!

Nevertheless, one will be able to smell that overwhelmingly powerful smell of nostalgia this weekend in the form of meat on the grill.  Besides the smell of freshly cut grass tinged with gasoline, is there any more perfect summer smell than a cook-out?

The cook-out (or grilling out or bar-b-que) that we know is really not that old - it's definitely a post-WWII suburban  phenomenon.  Almost right from the start, if you believe all of the ads and cookbooks, it was the man's job. Perhaps it has something to do with the primitive "I make fire!"-mentality?  I don't know.  But even in my quasi-feminist household it was ALWAYS my dad's job and he never would've relinquished it.  If dad wasn't up to grilling then we just didn't grill (to be fair, I don't think Mom was interested, either).

Check out the photos - see what I mean about the old print advertising perpetuating this idea?  Mom stays inside and does everything else but Dad's the hero when those T-bones come a-sizzlin' off the grill.  And because nostalgia is indifferent to gender inequality, I'm going to come right out and admit that it tugs at the ol' heartstrings when I see ads like this.  Why?  Ask my past-soaked brain.  :D

And I LOVE making artwork that perpetuates this stereotype/myth/reality (check one or all that apply to your own situation)!

P.S.  Don't forget to enter the Citra Solv giveaway contest, going on now through tonight at 5 p.m. CDT!  :D

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Go Fish!

Fish - it has to be one of the oldest sources of protein on the planet.  It's one of those safe foods in pretty much every religion (unlike MY favorite meat, called "any type of pig").  Yes, most of it here in the US contains traces of mercury but overall it's still far healthier than red meat.

And yet I still didn't fully embrace it until a few years ago, when Brian and I were married.

Brian really likes fish, even the non-salmon types (salmon was the only fish I could tolerate most of my life).  I've always liked seafood, and living in Wisconsin you'd think it was written in the state charter that I HAD to eat fish - around here, you got da Friday fish fry, ya know!  Cripes, I tink everyone in da area goes out fer fish on Fridays, 'specially during Lent when ya can't have meat on Fridays (for the uninitiated, I live in a VERY Catholic region and one of their dietary laws is no meat on Fridays during Lent.  Hence, the Friday fish fry.  Do you like my Wisconsin accent, hey?).

The cats can have their tuna, as far as I'm concerned!  :D
Perhaps this is another regional thing, but we had a lot of casseroles (or for some, "hot dish") growing up.  Heck, I still make one at least twice a month.  The most common casserole around here is tuna casserole.  Not in my house - my parents changed it to (canned) ham casserole because of my aversion to (canned) tuna.  EWW.  I STILL can't eat it - the only other food I enjoy less than (canned) tuna is lima beans.  So if you ever want to kill me, just cook me a (canned) tuna-lima bean casserole; I will die of starvation.  :D  (Notice the parenthetical "canned" in front of tuna - that's because I could eat tuna steak any day of the week. I'm just prejudiced against the canned stuff!)

But apparently I'm in a minority!  Just look at these marvelous labels for all sorts of canned fish!  What cracks me up is how utterly unappetizing the tuna looks - if these companies were trying to convert anyone to eating canned fish they'd have to do better than that!  :D  Granted, these are all from the 50s and 60s, so the printing technology wasn't quite there yet.  But I love them all the same.  They're quite wonderful in their primitiveness, aren't they?

And I LOVE using them in my artwork!  There are so many different ways you can use them and not just for fish-themed artwork, either, although admittedly that's what I did.  :D

For these pieces I used the labels for the frames!  :D

P.S.  Don't forget to sign up to win a bottle of Citra Solv!  You have until 5 p.m. CDT tomorrow (Friday) night!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Let's do a Giveaway! :D

Happy Wednesday, everyone!  :D

I wish I could say it was a beautiful day outside here in Fond du Lac - alas, it is not (just the right day to stay inside and make art!).  I hope it's nicer in your neck of the woods!  It's so dreary here today!

I'll tell you what always cheers me up - that sunny orange scent of Citra Solv!  :D  And I'll get to smell it all day today because I'll be starting a project using my CS/Nat Geo papers that I made!  What? You're new to the blog and you have NO idea what I'm talking about?  Well fear not - head on over to this page and you'll learn all about the process! :D

And because I'm working with this miracle stuff today, I thought maybe I should share the love!  So I asked Melissa over at Citra Solv if we could do another giveaway.  Being the super generous and sunny person she is, she said, "Of COURSE!".  So that's what we're gonna do!

You'll have three chances to win!  Here's how it's going to work:

1.  Begin "following" this blog (to do this, you have to do more than read it every day; you have to hit the "follow" button on the top of the page);
2.  "Like" my Ephemeraology Facebook page and
3.  "Like" the Citra Solv Facebook page !

When you've done all of these things, let me know how many you've done in the comments below and you'll be entered that many times.  Don't worry if you've already done these things - just let me know how many you had done before and you'll still be entered! :D  Oh, and one more VERY important thing - if I draw your name and I have to hunt to find an e-mail, that's a no-no!  IF YOU DON'T  HAVE A VALID E-MAIL ADDRESS THAT I CAN EASILY FIND, IT'S ON TO THE NEXT PERSON.   Oh, and because shipping costs are crazy high, we're limiting this giveaway to Continental U.S. only.  Stupid gas prices! :)

We'll run the giveaway until Friday night at 5 p.m. CDT.  Best of luck to all of you, and have a great day!  :D

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Math and Me

Oh, Math.  You made my life a living hell for three years.  You made me doubt my ability for rational thought.  You kept me awake nights, worrying if I'd ever get through the next day.  You got me in trouble with mom and dad one semester, when I flunked you and was grounded from TV for four months.  You were utterly confounding and nonsensical.

Until you weren't.  Then I actually liked you, a little.  You definitely grew on me and when I could learn more about you on MY terms, you didn't seem so bad at all.  All the heartache drifted away when I bought my own workbook in my 30s and rediscovered you in my own way.  I am very happy to say that sometimes I actually get you.

Through our tumultuous relationship, I always wanted to understand what you had to say.  Why did you have to be so cryptic?  Yet you continued to reel me in with your sexy curves and matter-of-fact lines, your ability to be acute AND obtuse, and your logic.  I'm glad I gave you a chance.

Now, almost 30 years later, we're stronger than ever.  I respect you more than ever (Brian has a lot to do with that).  I may rely on you for different reasons but you allow me to use you for art's sake, and that's quite a sacrifice for someone who always has to be right.  I love that I can take your books and use them at will, and I'll never forget you for it.

Thanks to you, my collages look more put-together.  Thank you, Math, for coming through for me when I needed you most.


Monday, May 23, 2011

Collecting Celebrities

I love movies.  Ever since I was about 13 and able to go to the movies myself (we had a theater really close to our house that I could walk to) I've loved spending afternoons or evenings seeing movies.  My friend Robin and I saw a LOT of movies in high school and her taste ran really mature for our age, so when everyone else was sneaking into "Porky's Revenge" we were sneaking into "Sweet Liberty" and "Compromising Positions".

As much as I love movies, though, I'm not big on celebrities.  Growing up, there wasn't an actor that I was in love with where  I'd HAVE to see his movies.  Now, I certainly have my faves (George Clooney, I'm looking in your direction) but it's because he's in wonderful movies and he's a fantastic actor.  Okay, so he is very nice to look at.  But that's just the icing on the cake.  Really!  :D

In the past century, it seems as though the entire free world has been at the least, interested and at the worst, obsessed with celebrities.  Case in point:  these German-Austrian collectible cards from the 20s and 30s.  Do you know who Mady Christians, Lil Dagover, Jack Buchanan or Lillian Gish are?  Me neither (okay, I DO know who Lillian Gish is.  Have I mentioned that I was one of those geeky kids who used to watch "Matinee at the Bijou" on PBS on Sunday afternoons?).  I love that at one point, beginning with the silent era, all of these actors had enough star power to land them on tobacco cards.  Yet here I am, 80-90 years later, still talking about them but only in their anonymity with all but the most fervent film buff.

On the flip side, if you're reading this and you're an American over the age of 35, I'm pretty sure you know who Roy Rogers is, if only because of his roast beef restaurants (I can't believe those still exist!).  These little cards came in a lot of ephemera that I purchased off of Ebay and Roy is pretty darn young here! Alas, the era of singing cowboys is long gone, but Roy seems to have staying power.  I was surprised to learn that Roy would've been 100 this year and Dale Evans, his wife, would be 99.  Roy's horse, Trigger (who in his heyday was as big a star as Roy himself) is stuffed and mounted in the rearing position.  I believe Roy and Dale's museum, late of Branson, MO, is now permanently closed.  But that's where Trigger was displayed.

All of these anecdotes beg the question;  when we're long gone, will someone be writing a blog post (or telepathically sending a blog post or whatever people are doing then) about forgotten actor George Clooney?  Or will he survive as a celebrity like Elizabeth Taylor or Paul Newman?  Chances are we'll be forgetting celebrities like Paris Hilton and Charlie Sheen (which is sad, because at one point the guy could actually act).

I don't use actors or musicians in my cards very often, and when I do, they're pretty obscure.  For example, the two cards I've made below are of Ossi Oswalda and Richard Barthelmess, respectively.  Nope, I didn't know who they were, either.  :D

Friday, May 20, 2011

Spreading the Ephemeraology Gospel!

I have another workshop today - this time, I'm teaming up with my friend and colleague Suze Fiebig (yep, the same Suze who gave me all of the amazing Chinese books!) for "High Interest Day" at a local elementary school.  We'll be making ATCs (for the uninitiated, Artist Trading Cards) with the kindergarten-5th graders.  It should be a hoot!  Suze has been doing this for a couple of years now and I was able to join her this year.

Tomorrow evening is the gala and auction fundraiser for Art Attack!, the non-profit organization where I taught my "Intro to ATCs" class back in March.  I can't wait - this group of energetic artists really has their stuff together and are making a difference in their little town of Chilton and the surrounding area!

On  July 28th, my "Collage like an Ephemeraologist" workshop kicks off Inspire my Life, a wonderful 4-day weekend retreat created by my friend Kim Geiser.  Here is another energetic artist who is, along with other like-minded souls, really making a splash in Manitowoc.  I am thrilled and honored to be a part of this REALLY cool event (incidentally, if you'd like to attend, you can read all about it and register here).

Why am I telling you all of this?  Well, I just got to thinking about all of the places I've done/will be doing workshops this year and it dawned on me that I really love what I do.

Oh, I mean I KNOW I love it but just going through my daily routines I may not have fully realized what I've done:  I have hand-crafted a life filled with paper.  I love it so much that I want to spread the word.  I want others to see old papers and say, "COOL!  I never thought of using those in artwork before!".  I hope I inspire people to look at art a different way and maybe try something new.  I want people to realize that even if they don't consider themselves "artists" (a moniker I shunned myself for many years), they ARE artists.  And perhaps working with "unconventional" art materials like vintage checks will boost their confidence about creating original works of art themselves in a manner that I couldn't have imagined.  Maybe a light bulb will go off when they discover that they don't necessarily have to know how to draw to be an Artist!

I received this beautiful ATC made of napkins in the mail from Jen (RubyDragon), one of the ephemera pack winners here on the blog.  Isn't it fantastic?!  She also included the most wonderful note (and it arrived on a day when I needed to hear that!).  Not only was I thrilled to receive the beautiful card, but it made me so happy to hear that this blog had inspired her.  Thank you so much, Jennifer, for the awesome gift!  I appreciate that so much.

And thank you all for loyally reading and following the blog!  Being here five days a week fuels my ephemera passion and gives ME confidence to teach others what I know - that you can "take the discarded and make it arted".  :D

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Grazin' in the Grass

I live in Wisconsin, so we have two seasons - shoveling and mowing.  :D  We've just come into the mowing season here - it's been a really cool spring and not too rainy, so thankfully we're not out there every five days cutting the grass.

And when you think about it, "cutting the grass" is a fairly new thing.  Really, it's only in the last 100 years or so that people had lawns - before that you either lived in the city or on a farm and even if you did have a landscaped property it was probably mostly gardens.

But then came suburbia.  Now, of course, a lawn seems ubiquitous - not only that, you're a pariah if you don't properly maintain your lawn.  So unless you live in places like Phoenix, where it's not only acceptable (and beautiful!) to have a "lawn" made of stones and decorative rock but also environmentally friendly, you have to succumb to the joyous task of lawn care.

Think of how much easier lawn care is now as opposed to 1945, when these brochures were printed by the Scott's company.  The idea's the same, but we have power mowers now!  Back then, most people used the human-powered lawn mower - the push mower.  There is a movement afoot to bring back the push mower for environmental reasons but first - can we PLEASE get rid of the gas-powered leaf blowers?  Those things are not only bad for the environment, they're bad for my ears.  I HATE THEM.  Okay, sorry for the rant!  :D  Back to the brochures.  Isn't it interesting that the product Turf Builder was in existence even back 66 years ago?

There are other lawn-related products that just seem hilarious now - take, for example, the myriad examples of chemical-laden insecticides!  These products would obliterate small villages, yet people thought nothing of spraying them willy-nilly over their lawns.  DDT?  Harmful?  Who cares, as long as my roses look good!  Let's pave paradise and put up a parking lot!

Thanks to one of my most fervent supporters, Marybeth, I was able to create this piece on commission.  Marybeth specifically wanted a collage that featured one of those old sprayers and as good fortune would have it, I actually had just the image from one of my vintage magazines!  Doesn't she just look THRILLED to be obliterating those pesky insects?  :D

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

It's Wacky!

Early June, 1980.  My sister Jen and I are up early, and we're on a mission.  We've got our 10-speeds ready to go.  We make the 1.5 mile trek to Hansen's Dairy to see if we'll discover the treasure.....

SUCCESS!!!  We've both snagged the elusive Wacky Packages stickers once again!

And such was the routine during the Summer of '80.  Perhaps I should've commiserated with Jen before writing this post; I believe I've amalgamated my memories of this summer.  I can't remember whether this was a daily, weekly, or monthly occurrence.  But the soundtrack of this memory always includes Gary Numan's "Cars".

I also don't know if this was just a Green Bay/Ashwaubenon thing, a Wisconsin thing, a regional thing or if this was a nationwide craze that summer.  All I know is that the good people at Hansen's Dairy were geniuses for selling these packages.  It didn't hurt that they had amazing ice cream, too! (Sadly, all of the original Hansen's stores are now gone; the last one closed last year when the owner filed for bankruptcy.  There's a reincarnation but as they say, "You can't go home again.")

For those of you uninitiated into the world of Wacky Packages, it's a great concept:  take iconic brand names, spoof them, add R. Crumb-esque illustrations, and package them for kids and advertising aficionados. Collect 'em All!  Incidentally, my collection here was part of my "buy back my childhood" phase; these are from Ebay.  There is only one of my original stickers in existence and it's stuck on an avocado green storage compartment box in my basement.  :D   I know it was Wacky Packages that fueled my love affair with print advertising; I've always loved advertising in all forms (first with TV, of course) but I would pore over these stickers, marveling at every little nuance (even the weights and trademarks are spoofed!  That's high art to an 11 year-old).

To both my sister's and my wonderment, Wacky Packages have returned - and THIS time, they've got erasers.  As you can see here, there is also a corresponding sticker that's much smaller than the original, which is fine with me!  The price is a little different, too; I paid $2.99 for the new set and I recall the old ones being either $.69 or $.99.  Such is 31 years' inflation.  :D

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Matchbox labels

When's the last time you saw a matchbox?  I know that you can purchase blank ones now for crafting and art purposes, but honestly - when is the last time you saw a restaurant or bar (or any other place) offering matchboxes?  Wisconsin is entirely smoke-free now so it's very rare to see new matchboxes with the name of an establishment.

I'm saving matchbooks for another post (because I have so many!) - and those you still see from time to time (I was at a funeral in November and was very surprised to see that the funeral home where I was had matchbooks printed with their name; smoking = future customers?).

I LOVE matchbox labels - like stamps, each is a tiny little work of art at best, and a record of where one has been at its most mediocre (and I love those too!).  I just looked it up - the act of collecting matchbox labels is called phillumeny.  :D

In my collection, my favorites all seem to be foreign.  (This actually comes as no surprise to me - for some reason the US is just catching up on design.  We seem to have had an edge in the 40s and 50s, and possibly the early 60s, but then lost it to Europe and South America.  There's a lot of great design out there right now, though - we may have our mojo back.)  Czechoslovakia (Czech Republic) has a TON of great ones!  They're so stark and almost primitive - I love that.

A while back I got some marvelous vintage Chinese labels from Wackystuff, whose collection I totally admire as it's probably 100 times larger than mine (he used to own a company called Ephemera, if that's any indication of how much stuff he has).  These babies are OLD.  But check out the lithography!  Just gorgeous.  Thanks Jeffrey! :D

Collecting matchbox labels (and using them in your art, of course!) could allow one to get quite specific regarding the subject of interest.  German food labels?  Check.  :D  (Incidentally, I bought these off of e-bay - the seller's dad apparently collected like I do - only he collected for over 30 years.  This is probably 1/1000 of his collection and as you can see, he was extremely meticulous about it.)

And of course, I LOVE using these little guys in my artwork!  Because the designs are oftentimes so colorful and stark, they always enhance whatever I'm creating.  Here are a few of my faves:

Monday, May 16, 2011

Oh, You Beautiful Doll....

Here's a question for all you parents of little girls (or boys) out there - do paper dolls still exist?  If so, do your kids play with them?

I LOVED paper dolls as a kid.  I remember getting a Brady Bunch set and playing with it, although I remember my sister Jen and I both wanting to "be" Marcia (of course - it's always "Marcia, Marcia, MARCIA!").  :D Unfortunately, the Bradys are lost to antiquity but we also has this set to play with:

Isn't it wonderful?  I am so thrilled that this set is in my possession.  This was my mom's paper doll set!  There are actually photos of her playing with it.  She was about three or four when she got the set - the photos are from the late Forties/early Fifties.  And check out these clothes!  The best part (besides the adorable suitcase that houses the clothes)?  They're FLOCKED.  And they were preserved so well that the flocking isn't even worn.

Here's another set of my mom's - these girls are named Melinda, Belinda, Polly and Becky.  They have to be from around the same time period - those hairstyles give it away!  There seems to be a "Southern Belle"-type aura about these girls - maybe it's just their names.

Poor "Georgia Lou" has some ankle issues.  :D
THIS set is my favorite!  These "date gals" were named after my mom's older cousins Josephine and Georgia Lou (whom I've met - they're in their mid-to-late seventies now).  I love the wholesomeness of the "teenagers" (a new term back then!) and their handsome dates.  I have a feeling, since "Jo" and Georgia Lou are about 10 years older than my mom, that these dolls may have been theirs first - it would make sense, since they're clearly from the Forties and my mom was born in '46.

I suppose it goes without saying that I won't be using any of these clothes in my artwork.  :D

Oh, but that doesn't go for the rest of the paper dolls in my collection!  What strikes me as amazing is that these sets are in existence at all.  Maybe kids took better care of their toys back then because they didn't have a whole room full of them like kids seem to today.  Maybe some moms kept them in the attic for safe-keeping in case they had granddaughters someday.  Whatever the case, I feel lucky to have them.

Here's a set from 1966 - they're much smaller than the previous ones and include boys, too!  It strikes me as kind of sad that this set is in nearly pristine condition - great for me, though!  Check out the awesome fashions - I will definitely be putting these to good use!

This next set is probably from one of those "dolls around the world" sets - I bought it from The Paper Flea Market.  It's in wonderful condition and Trina at PFM says they're from 1964.  You don't see many "native dress"-type dolls anymore, do you?

Lastly, here's a Klutz set that I bought for my niece Natalie's 9th birthday five years ago.....and I loved it so much, I bought one for myself!  :D  It's not a "paper doll" set, per se - it's definitely geared toward fashion design and the assembly of outfits rather than playing with dolls.  It's a lot more sophisticated than the "dollies" of yore, yes?  And yep, I've used the set, too - the stencils are awesome!

Here are a few pieces I've created using my paper doll stuff - more to come, I'm sure!