Friday, July 29, 2011

Another Workshop for the Books! :D

HOORAY!

I taught my "Collage like an Epemeraologist" class last night - and it ROCKED.

I had such a great group of folks - Sharon, Carol, Beth, Leslie, Kara, Lea and Siri all took my class and it was just wonderful to see/meet them all.  Lea DROVE all the way from SANTA FE to take classes at Inspire my Life - how amazing is that?!  Beth drove from Madison, Leslie from Sturgeon Bay, Siri from Chicago.  This just blows me away.

All I can say is this - as you can see from the photos, they are all very talented folks.  It is my humblest wish that they had as much fun taking the class as I had teaching it.  It was so great to see their AMAZING collages - and this is the fun part, to see the collages they created from (mostly) my ephemera.  I never would've thought to do the things they did, but that's the beauty of using old paper - every person sees something totally different.  I LOVE that!  :D

I hope they don't mind, but here are some photos from last night's festivities!  Check out their wonderful collages and give them a big hand!  :D

Sharon turned a cabinet card
into a super-cool Tokyo street
scene and made the tiniest,
coolest collage EVER!  :D

Beth and her AMAZING
 "Science-y" collage!
Siri somehow seemlessly
melded bathing beauties
and a dog food ad - now
THAT takes talent and
a sense of humor!  :D
Kara made two very awesome
retro collages - one with vintage
cars and one with birds!  LOVE 'em!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Today's the Day....

It's finally here!  Today is a day that I've been looking forward to for the last SIX months!

It's the day that I get to teach my "Collage like an Ephemeraologist" class at Inspire my Life, a 3-day art retreat and Fun Fest hosted by my friend and very talented artist Kim Geiser (and it just so happens to be her birthday today so if you're reading this and you know her, show her some love and send her a note!)!

I can't wait for the class tonight - I've got seven people signed up for it, which is a fantastic number.  I've made packets for everyone,  packed up my supplies, and loaded up the car.  I'm also taking classes at the retreat all weekend so I'll see some great friends and FINALLY be able to meet some wonderful folks with whom I've been friends online for years!  

This is what being an artist is all about for me.  I feel so lucky to be a part of this fantastic event.  I mean, really - I get to hang out with art peeps for three days AND be a part of the instructor team?  When you're a working artist, it doesn't get much better than this.  In the last two years or so I've realized that, as terrifying as the prospect was in the beginning, I LOVE teaching workshops.  I love showing other people what it is that I get to do for a living.  I love getting other artists and collectors excited about the endless possibilities of ephemera and I always learn new ideas from the folks who take my classes (I hesitate to call them "students" because I'd rather think of our time together as just an excuse to make art).  I love the camaraderie and connectivity and meeting new people.

I'll post an update about the class sometime tomorrow, hopefully with pictures (if I remember to take any!).  I sincerely hope that all of the folks who take my class tonight have a wonderful time - I know I will!  :D

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A New Spin on Business Cards

I love business cards.  Scratch that - I love well-designed business cards.  They have to be easy to read, minimalist, with no unnecessary flourishes.  The info should be kept to a minimum and au courant.  Business card design is one of those things where you may not be able to put into words what you like, but you definitely know what you DON'T like.  That's easy!  But here are a few of my favorites:



Up until January of 2010, I had no need for a business card of my own.  I was an accounting clerk at our local paper, so I never met with clients or anything like that.  I felt very important when I got my first batch of cards in the mail.

My business cards have gone through quite a metamorphosis - here, in business card form, is a timeline of my art life:


I don't use Snizzers & Gwoo anymore because I closed my Etsy shop.  The other two were free Moo cards (only pay S&H) that I ordered as a promotion.

Then one day, as I was surfing through Pinterest, I came across a fantastic idea for a business card:


Isn't that SO clever?! It's just a stamp, so anything could become a "business card"! And talk about being in keeping with my own Ephemeraology beliefs!  I loved this idea so much that I designed and ordered my own stamp - but I put my own spin on the business card itself.  I made a trip to our local straight-out-of -1972 office supply store and lo and behold, they had some Avery print-your-own business cards.  Instead of printing them out, however, I'm utilizing my stamp and collaging the edges.  Each business card will be unique, since I can't duplicate the collage.  Here are a few examples:

My goal was to create a mini collage for everyone who gets a business card.  It'll be interesting to see how this idea progresses in the coming year!  :D

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Following Instructions

Let's flash back for a moment to the Christmas of 1990.  I was living in Green Bay at the time and a senior in college.  I lived in this 5-bedroom house with four of my besties and because most of my family was in Madison by this time, we'd meet at my house to open our Christmas presents to each other before going on to various family members' homes.

This particular year, both my sister Jen and I received awesome stereos for our gifts from Mom and Dad.  It was pretty early in the CD years and I got one of those CD changers with a magazine so you could play six CDs in a row, uninterrupted (how quaint that seems now!).

We were in the process of setting it up and I got all huffy because something wasn't working right.  My dad says to me, "Well, are you following along in the manual?" Of course I wasn't - why read the directions?  This used to irk my dad to no end.  :D

I still can't follow (written) instructions very well and if they're written in Engrish, forget about it.

Oh, but the old manuals are SO cool, aren't they?  You can tell some put more time and thought into theirs than others, but they just seem so much more cut and dry than their modern-day counterparts.  Of course, none of them relied on the Ikea-esque pictogram type instructions that you see now because people just assumed that if you bought the item in the US from an American company, you'd know how to read English instructions (and doesn't that seem quaint too!).

I have made a few pieces using old manuals, even if it's just snippets of one.  There's something about their authoritativeness that lend themselves so nicely to work that requires little bits of text.

Monday, July 25, 2011

First Aid / Red Cross

Is there any symbol more ubiquitous, or soothing, than the red cross?  Here is a logo, so pure and simple, that it's recognized the world over as a signal that help is on its way.

I love that!  It does my heart good to know that there are still services out there that aren't politically motivated; or, at least, that everyone can agree on.  Seriously - who's going to argue the merit of the Red Cross?

Switzerland really knows the appeal of this symbol - it's on their country's flag.  :D

Who hasn't learned the basics of first aid in their lifetime?  If you're a Girl or Boy Scout, chances are you at least learned not to move a victim and call for help.  If you earned your first aid merit badge, you probably learned how to dress a wound or wrap a tourniquet or bandage an ankle.  I got my Red Cross certification when I worked for Gannett so that I could legally administer the Heimlich Maneuver if need be, or use the defibrillator.  Thankfully, I was never put in that position - I always panic in those situations.  There's a reason I'm not in the health care industry!  :D

Oh, but I LOVE the ephemera!  I have quite a few things that utilize that wonderful red cross - in fact, some of the funkiest items in my collection display it.  Take for example, this unopened box of lozenges from the 1920s.  Isn't it marvelous?  I'll admit - I am REALLY tempted to open it up and taste the 90 year-old candy inside (don't worry - I won't!).  Think about that, though - how does a box of candy survive for NINETY years?!?

I also love these little pins that I bought at my friend Eileen's shop, The Weller Store, in Rural, Wisconsin.  Aren't they just so sweet?  I'm sure you received one of these when you gave blood - hence, the little droplet shape.  I'm going to guess that these are from the 40s, maybe 50s.  They are a gem in my collection!

And of course, I've done some collages that feature that little red cross.  These pieces really made themselves, what with all of the wonderful items out there!




Friday, July 22, 2011

Golden Years

Reason #485 why I love Wisconsin - the former Western Publishing out of Racine!

If you don't know what Western Publishing is known for, you will when I mention the Little Golden Books.  Those of you who are of a certain age and grew up in the upper two-thirds of North America are probably familiar with these wonderful books.  For many of us, these were the first books we read - The Pokey Little Puppy, The Little Red Hen, Bedtime Stories - all Golden books.  Western also owned Whitman Publishing, which printed many comic books and coloring books you may remember as a kid (more of each of those in later posts!).

Those are all well and good, but my favorite subsidiary of the former Western Publishing has to be the Golden Guides. 

I actually didn't become familiar with the Golden Guides until I began working at Waldenbooks (soon to be obsolete itself!) back in 1998.  I don't know HOW these escaped my radar because I've always been a categorizer and a lover of anything encyclopedic.

Look at how wonderful these little guides are!  There are so many from which to choose and I love them all, even if the subject doesn't interest me.  Even though there were different editions that came out over the years they always maintained their late-50s look.  Oh, how I ADORE the Futura font and these guides are silly with it. The illustrations are the best part, though - regular and detail pictures of trees, mammals, fish, birds, fossils, sea creatures - all sorts of wildlife.  It's like reading a film strip - the only thing missing is the record with the *beep*!

Alas, Golden Guides was bought out by St. Martin's Press in 2001.  Thankfully, they've maintained their look - I guess St. Martin's knows enough that if it ain't broke, don't fix it.  :D  They do have a touch of "remember when" to the guides now, as if to say, "We know you just bought this guide for the nostalgic factor and you're going to use your iPhone apps when you really need to identify a certain object or plant, but isn't it a nice stroll down memory lane?".  Then again, that could be me projecting my own feelings about the buyout.

Regardless of who owns them, I LOVE using them in my artwork!  Here are a few examples:




Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Knit One, Purl Two....

Knitting is cool.  I used to be a knitter and enjoyed it immensely.  I actually did nothing else as a hobby for 7 years because I enjoyed it so much.

Alas, it didn't enjoy me.  :D  I loved the process of knitting - the meditative rhythm that occurs when one is "in the zone".  I loved the clicking-together of the needles.  I loved that I knew the "language" of knitting.  But when it came to finishing the projects, if it wasn't rectangular or a scarf, I always screwed it up.  I'm just not one for the "sewing" aspect of the piece so knitting articles of clothing was out - except for socks.  I LOVE making socks and if I were ever to get back into knitting it would be for the socks.  You know, in my scads of free time.  :D

Oh, but those dreamy colors and textures!  I love that I was able to knit with cashmere and alpaca and mohair.  I love that there are designers out there that made it possible for us to knit with sari silks and bamboo fiber (very soft and eco-friendly!).  Fond du Lac is very lucky in that we are home to The Knitting Room, where they carry every type of yarn imaginable.  It's a thrill to just go in and look around.

On the ephemera side, I always enjoyed the labels that are wrapped around the yarn - all of the info you need is right there at your fingertips, so I always kept those labels.  And because I'm me, even after I stopped knitting I never threw them away (that's my pile in the photo, above).  I'm just waiting for the right project to use them.

One of the most hootful things about knitting is the patterns.  Maybe it's just me, but they seem to fall out of fashion very quickly.  Maybe it's the models they use or maybe it's because they look a little out of date the minute they're printed, but the patterns just crack me up.  Take, for example, the pattern you see here.  Isn't it awesome?  Talk about kitch factor - I will admit, this look does require a pipe.  :D

I haven't used my vintage patterns much, but I do love the look on this woman's face!  She is SO proud to be wearing that very fashionable hat!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Burn Baby, Burn

No, this post isn't about any disco inferno in the news.  :D

Reason #486 I'm glad I'm high up on the food chain:  Design.

Seriously, what trait separates us from other mammals more?  From the Lascaux caves on up through now - our desire to make things pretty is inherent.

Take, for example, objects that we know are totally ephemeral - those that are meant to be burned.  What could be more ephemeral than that?  WHY would we bother with making something look great, only to have it be carried away into the ether with only our memory of it?

Isn't that kind of a cool idea?  :D

I found this old firecracker near our house - of course there are going to be some laying around still from various Independence Day celebrations (July 4 for us in the States).  Isn't it pretty?  Now the Chinese folks who assemble these firecrackers know the sole purpose of a firecracker is to be lit and exploded.  Why bother putting this nice green paper around it, when leaving it plain would do just fine?  Design!

Here's one of those items that I LOVE, just for the sheer fact that it exists at all.  It's incense!  The "papier d'armenie" brand is actually quite old; it dates back to 1885.  It has a lovely powdery-sandalwood scent.  I love that it's in a teensy book form, I love that there's writing on every tiny incense strip, I love the scent, I love that it's paper.  It's one of those "form AND function" items that just makes me happy.  And it ceases to exist in less than 5 minutes after lighting it!  Design at its finest.

I've talked before about heaven/hell money - here's another Chinese object that is decorated magnificently but was created to be destroyed.  This type of money (which is just another form of joss paper - a whole other upcoming blog post!) is used as an offering at funerals and there are several rituals applied to its use (FYI - it's considered to be in the poorest of taste to give living people Hell money as a gift).  Many Chinese believe that currency is essential in the afterlife as well as on Earth, so this money is burned to help the newly deceased on their way.  I used to use this money in my collages but haven't lately due to the notion that it may be offensive to use Hell money in this manner.  Ah, ignorance is bliss - but now that I know better I can't go back to creating with it.

I have used fireworks paper in my work, though!  And who knows - maybe someday I'll make the most perfumed collage ever created with the "papier d'armenie" incense!  :D

Monday, July 18, 2011

We Passed a Milestone!


(Which is far nicer than passing a kidney stone.)  :D

Dear fellow Ephmeraologists,

We did it!  We passed the *300* mark on the Ephemeraology Facebook page!  :D  You may already be able to tell, but I'm quite excited about it.

And, as promised, we're going to celebrate this milestone with a Giveaway!!!  


As any of you past winners already know, I make my ephemera packs WELL worth the effort of signing up to win.  You will receive one manila envelope with a lot of ephemera stuffed in it (by "stuffed" I mean, "lots of stuff carefully packed" - it'll arrive in good condition!).

I'll make it super easy to enter, too!  Here's what you do:

1.  If you haven't already, go to the Ephemera Facebook page and "like" it.
2.  If you haven't also done this, begin "following" this blog (just hit "follow" on the very top left of this page)
3.  In the comments below, tell me your favorite era.  For example, I'm quite specific on mine: 1948-1954 (it has the BEST advertising!).  I will also need your e-mail in the "name(at)domain(dot)com" format so I know how to contact you.
4.  Voila ici!  You're entered!  :D

I'll be drawing the winner this Wednesday at 5 p.m. CDT so get your name in ASAP!

Best of luck to all of you, and I can't begin to tell you how much I appreciate your readership and support.  It still just delights me that you enjoy reading my blog, something that I enjoy writing very much.  It's so nice to know that there are others out there who share my passion for vintage ephemera!  Ephemeraologists unite!

Friday, July 15, 2011

I Got Nuthin'.

Oh July, I know many (northern hemisphere) people love you for your summery goodness (except maybe Phoenix), but you put me in an allergy-induced haze.  Combined with the heat, I become a groggy blob with occasional bouts of writer's block.  Today is one of those days.

So, what to do when The Block hits?  Talk highly of others' work!  :D

You may recall that I had to do this a couple of times before, last December and back in April (apparently cold and allergy meds have a weird effect on me!).  Please allow me to introduce you to some of my new fave collagists once again!

First up is Valerie Roybal.  As you may have already surmised from this photo, we share a love of scraps.  Her collages totally speak to me!  Those strips of paper, perfectly placed, are such an inspiration to me and my own work.  As you probably already know I am a HUGE fan of handwriting and typography and she just nails both in this piece.  You can check out more of her work on her site, valerieroybal.com.


"Qinghai (Map Square)", 2007
Here's another wonderful artist - Chris Kenny.  I nearly plotzed when I saw this piece (I SO love maps!).  Look VERY closely at this collage - it's comprised of tiny map pieces, which appear to be attached to the substrate with teensy little museum pins, like some sort of map "specimen".  If you were to just glance at the piece you could be tricked into thinking that this is just a map.  I love that you really have to study the collage/assemblage to get the full effect.  You can see many more of his amazing pieces (and some detail shots of them) here.


Lastly, but certainly NOT leastly, is Bill Zindel.  Bill is one of those collagists who incorporates his sense of humor into his pieces.  That's a real talent - to find images that aren't intended to amuse and place them in funny or "light" situations.  I've always loved artists who use vintage images almost like poetry, and Bill makes it look easy (although I'm sure it's anything but).  Bill's got a lot of collages to see on his site, billzindel.com.

Well folks, I hope you've enjoyed my Faves Showcase.  I'll be back on Monday, rarin' to go with more original content.  Until then, enjoy your weekends and keep on ephemerin'!  (I don't think that's a word, but guess what?  It is now!)  :D

Thursday, July 14, 2011

What is your Phobia?

Do any of you, dear readers, have a phobia?  I am in the process of conquering mine - the DENTIST.

We're having a Dentist o-Rama in the house this week - our poor Dudley had to be at the vet all day yesterday for his teeth cleaning; his teeth were in such bad shape that three of his teeth just fell out (!) while they were cleaning them.  And he has to go back next week for extractions.  Yep, that's plural.  Poor little guy!

Oh, how I sympathize with our guy.  Coincidentally, it is my turn today to visit our dentist.  I am SO lucky - my dentist's office is Awesome with a capital A.  Actually, all of my dentists throughout my life have been top-notch. So why am I so afraid of them?

Because I have pretty weak teeth.  It started with fluoride treatments at the age of 5 and continues with a bad tartar/plaque issue.  My lucky sister doesn't have this problem but my dad must've - he got dentures when he was 43.  That's my age, folks!   That was pretty typical for his generation (he was born in 1920) but it freaks me out!  Can you imagine seeing 43 year-olds today with a full set of dentures??

From an ephemera standpoint, it's just amazing to me to see how far we've come in the field of dentistry and cavity prevention.  When you think that less than 100 years ago (and even in my dad's childhood!) people were still using tooth powder and a washcloth to "wash" their teeth, it's no wonder there were so many that just had their entire set of teeth yanked out.  Kinda hard to reach those in-between spaces with a swatch of fabric!!!

I love the old ads, though - most of them focused on the "halitosis" issue; how unpopular you'd be (or how few dates you'd have) if you didn't take care of that bad breath of yours.  As we get further into the 60s and 70s we begin to see the clinical side of toothpaste and brushes.  And now?  Only mouthwashes are reserved for the bad breath side of dental health - the toothpastes are all about "total care", like periodontal disease and gingivitis and its newer link to heart health (even in doggies!).

I've even made a "dental" piece of art - subconsciously, I'm sure it was a "therapy" card.  :D


P.S.  We still need 7 "likes" on the Facebook page until I do an ephemera giveaway!  Let's go, peeps!  :D

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

It's Finally Here....



Ladies and gentlemen!  I present to you.....

melkolstad.com!

Yes, it's finally here!  My wonderful husby, who just happens to be one of those programmer-type folks (his brother Rick owns wisnet.com and Brian's a partner), set up this wonderful site for me.  How's this for cool - Brian created his own language (iml/ese site editor) that he uses in place of HTML, so there's this awesome editor that I can use to customize my own site.

Pretty much anything you wanted to know about me (in my professional life, anyway!) is here - the workshops I've taught, the exhibits that I've been lucky enough to be a part of; all of my work for sale, divided into categories; my resume; and even a link to this here blog!

Take a look around - there's even a photo of Yours Truly.  I'm not a fan of having my picture taken, so this is major.  :D  You can find out how to contact me, "like" my Facebook page, see what we're up to at Fond du lac Visual Arts - the whole works.

All of this is terribly exciting, but also a little odd - I mean, to have my name as an actual Site?  I feel like a rock star.  :D

One more thing - I would like to say thank you to all of you who read this blog and who have been tremendous supporters of me in my Ephemeraology art journey.  Without you, my wonderful readers, I really couldn't have done this site.  It's all linking together and I'm thrilled with the direction it's taking!  You all ROCK!  :D

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

REEEEALLY Old Stuff

Nope, I'm not talking about myself - although some days I do feel reeeeeally old!  :D

I'm a "date person".  Even more specifically, I'm a "time person".  I've always been very aware of the time, or time passing, and dates.  Tell me your birthday and I'll remember it forever (that's not to say, unfortunately, that I'll remember it on the exact date, but if you quiz me about your birth date I'll be able to rattle it off for you).  This sense of time is both a blessing and a curse - and most likely the cause of my obsession with old stuff.

One other benefit from being so acutely aware of time is that I'm pretty good at guessing what year something was produced, made or printed judging by its font or style.  For that reason I'm always tickled when I find a real bargain because someone doesn't realize how old an item truly is (most guess 20-30 years newer than the actual date).  On the flip side, there are folks who think something is way older than it is, and price their items accordingly.  Thankfully, I can also pick these out.  :D

So today, I'm not going to talk about vintage ephemera; I'm going to delve into antique ephemera.  Technically, an item is not truly an "antique" until it's over 100 years old (so "antique" malls aren't really that).  And I do have some antique papers, in amazingly good shape!  I can't believe how cheaply one can obtain truly antique ephemera.  Of course, it depends on the type; I can't pick up Abe Lincoln's signature for cheap!  But check out these old invoices:



Aren't they marvelous?  They're over 100 years old!  I always like to imagine what life was like - did they even own a car yet?  Probably not.  And women were still wearing the long dresses, corsets and billowy hats.  They couldn't vote yet, either.  Grocery stores with brand names were just starting to form in the most primitive sense.  Radio wouldn't be invented for another 10 years or so.  And yet, here is a fairly pristine piece of paper that has somehow survived the last 100 years!  When you stop and really think about that, it's astonishing.

Let's take these prescriptions - now, imagine what a pharmacy was like in 1899!  You could still buy morphine and cocaine!  Nearly everything was in powder or pressed-powder pill form, or syrups.  The pharmacist (or "chemist" or "druggist") would mix your concoctions for you, probably with a mortar and pestle.  I'll bet I'm not alone when I conjure the scene of old Mr. Gower from "It's a Wonderful Life"  - how many folks do you think died because of pharmacist error?  Probably more than we think.  I also noticed that there is no phone number on the scrip so I'll bet that Algoma wasn't wired for phones yet (Algoma was, even 20 years ago, primarily farm land.  Now's it's becoming an artists' enclave!).

Here's a wonderful relic from our agricultural past - this farm table book.  It's from 1908 and it's got the prices for different commodities.  I don't get much of what they're talking about, but I LOVE the little tabs!  This book cost $2.50 back 103 years ago - that's the equivalent of $60.00 today!

And you've probably guessed by now that yes, I have indeed used these items in my work.  Why not?  :D  I have multiples of the old things I use and I'll say it again - you just can't beat the patina and look of the old stuff.  :D