Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Any Requests?

I was thinking the other day how most of us take music for granted.  I just signed up for Spotify, which is an app where you can make your own playlists of music and listen for free (with the occasional promo or commercial interruption).  It gathers information from your own iTunes cache and their library, which is immense.  I mainly like to kick it old skool (what a shocker!), so I have playlists like "Horns of Plenty" (Chicago; Blood, Sweat & Tears; Herb Alpert), "GROOVY!" (Stan Getz, Ramsey Lewis, Dexter Gordon, Traffic), and "Late Seventies" (The Babys, Boz Scaggs, Steely Dan, Frank Zappa, Joe Jackson).  This is a far, far cry from my days of waiting around to hear my favorite song on the radio and then hoping I was near enough to my boombox to record it on cassette. Even that method, though, would seem positively space-age to those whose only form of "canned" entertainment was a player piano!

I've written about pianos and sheet music before, but not about the player piano.  If you think about it, the player piano was the first iPod!  :D  Imagine how amazing it must've been to have an instrument that could play the music for you.  No longer were you at the mercy of having a musical relative or friend - you could hear the popular songs of the day anytime you wanted, in your own home!  According to Wikipedia the Aeolian Company, maker of the player piano rolls, had over 9000 titles by 1903.  The first pianos cost $250 (about SIX GRAND in 2009 dollars), but people bought 'em!  The peak for piano players was 1924 but after the stock market crash in 1929, coupled with the advent of radio, the player piano was virtually wiped out.

Here's the good news - you can still get player piano paper!  Isn't it wonderful?  I got these sheets from The Paper Flea Market.  I love that the words are included for you. I photographed it in a plastic sleeve because it rolls up so quickly.  (hey, you try being rolled up for 95 years and straightening out!  :D)  It took me a minute to realize that the works are rolling "up", so you'd read them from bottom to top (and "I dreamed alone" makes much more sense than "Lone-a Dreamed I").  Here is one of those items of which the Millennial generation may not even be aware, unless an older relative has one in their home.  They're going to be more and more scarce as the years roll on, so why not collect the rolls or use the paper in art work?  :)

I've only used this paper in one piece so far, but now that I have more of it I really want to build a collage around it somehow.  Stay tuned!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Happy Birthday, Adeline!

Monday, January 30.  My brain was not cooperating with me this morning.  In a room FULL (embarrassingly so) of ephemera, I just couldn't think of a thing to write about today.....

Until I scrolled through my news feed and found this status update from my friend Alyce:

Happy Birthday, Mom.♥♥♥ Missing you.♥♥♥

That's it!  A tribute to Adeline.  :)

Friday, January 27, 2012

Household Labels

For as long as I can remember, I've been enamored of labels and stickers.  If they're tiny stickers, even better! I've talked about Columbia House LP stickers, fruit stickers and awards stickers but somehow haven't done a post about some of my favorite ephemera - these household labels!

Oh, how I love these!!  The bigger booklet was my discovery - I was scanning a booth at the Fox River Antique Mall and the slightest amount of this booklet was peeking out from under a pile of children's books.  I saw that glorious font and knew I had to investigate further - you know that feeling, Ephemeraologists.  :D

I couldn't believe it!  As you can see most of it is intact.  As with all gummed labels there is that danger of 60 years of basement dwelling wreaking havoc, causing pages of labels to stick together.  And yes, there is a tiny bit of that here.  But who cares?  It's page after page of beautifully lithographed labels for ID, canning, monogramming...you name it.  I love that I can choose between that gorgeous red and that dreamy blue, too.  This booklet cost me eight bucks (which is pretty steep for me) but it's worth every penny.

Then there's this little beauty.  I'll give you three guesses where this wonderful item came from - if you guessed my friend Robin, you'd be right!  This tiny book was included in a box crammed full of amazing items, and it was one of my favorite things in the box.  It's very similar to the larger booklet, with its beautiful red labels and gorgeous fonts.  The sheer size of it makes it highly prized to me but when an item like this is useful to boot, it just plain makes me happy.  :)

We probably will never see booklets like this ever again.  Why would we, when it's so easy to either print templates out online (saving the company oodles of money), designing our own with printable label sheets, or using a local print shop?

While these are in my possession, though, I will continue to use them in my art work.  They are so very versatile and those colors always add a nice *POP* to my collages.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Font of Knowledge

Tee hee - sorry about the pun! :D

I'm going to continue on the gratitude train today.  I am such a lucky Ephemeraologist, and I want to make sure that everyone responsible gets their credit owed.

Amy, today's your day.  :D  You may recall this post, whereby I raved about all of the fun goodies that were given to me by Amy back in July.  Well, she's at it again!

A couple of weeks ago, Amy was cleaning out her basement.  She came across some items that she was keeping for collages but then decided to purge.  Guess who won the lottery?  :D

There's all kinds of fun stuff in this folder but two things really stuck out for me - these font catalogs being one of them.  I can't tell you how much I love these!

Amy is a graphic designer and artist.  You can see some of her work here (she did the illustration on As You Wish's home page).  She also designed the logo for our Tour the Town art walk - isn't it wonderful?  As you can see, she is very talented.  Her font choice is exceptional - hence, the punny title of this post.  :D  Clearly, she has studied how fonts can make or break a design - and very clearly, she aced the test.  As for my use of these books?  I haven't decided yet.  I just like having them around.

One of the other awesome items that I got were these vintage printing blocks!  I have spoken about my love of these blocks before, but I will never tire of them.  To me, these blocks are an important part of 20th century printing and they need to be preserved.  I am quite enamored with printmaking as of late and I've been taking some classes on various techniques.  I absolutely want to incorporate these old blocks into my collage work somehow and I can't wait to learn how to use them to their greatest potential.  Stay tuned!

Because I have such generous friends, I want to be sure and use all of this great ephemera that's been given to me so selflessly.  I have so many ideas - now, to find the time!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Lithuanian Ephemera!

I have the BEST friends!  I swear I have chosen the kindest, most thoughtful people to have as my guides in this life.  Just how thoughtful are these wonderful souls?

I've got plenty of answers for that question, but today I'm going to single out my friend Elise.  :D

I've known Elise for ten years now - we met because we were in the same musical ("Cole") for Fond du Lac Community Theatre.  I knew we'd be lifelong friends even then - we have very similar personalities and outlooks on life.  Sadly, for the majority of our friendship she has lived in Tennessee, so I see her only about three times a year (actually, as crazy as most of our lives are, I probably see her more than some of my local friends!).  She was only 17 when we were in the play together but in the last ten years she has graduated college with a degree in vocal performance (emphasis: opera), met and married her soul mate and is now a mom to two of the cutest little girls you've ever seen.  A lot can happen in a decade! :D  Incidentally, I'm also very good friends with Elise's mom Julie, who is the super-generous benefactor of these marvelous cabinet cards.  Actually, the whole Thelen family is wonderful!  :D

I was able to see Elise over the holidays and we had one of our marathon chats at the local Starbucks.  We did a little exchanging of ephemera that day - I gave her a bulging envelope filled with Campbell's Soup labels, and she in turn gave me this:


See what I mean by thoughtful?  She sent away for some amber teething beads for her youngest smoosher (apparently Lithuania is a hotbed for Baltic amber!) and she thought I would like the envelope!

WOULD I?!?!  It's got all of the wonderful things any Ephemeraologist could ever want on an envelope - a foreign "priority" label, a cool postmark, a Lithuanian barcode, a neat customs label - even the envelope itself is in Lithuanian!  It's perfect!

I know I'll be using almost every last snippet of this envelope - it'll be unrecognizable when I'm through with it.  And because of Elise's thoughtfulness, it's one less (awesome) item for the recycling bin!  Thank you again, Elise - I love it!  :D

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Mental Floss Ahoy!

Check out this awesome freebie I got yesterday - I love it when this happens!  And it wouldn't have made its way to me had it not been for my obsession with magazines!  :D

I've written about my love of periodicals before - and now I have another one to add to my subscriptions.

Actually, this is the second time I've subscribed to Mental Floss.  The first time was through a fundraiser for my nieces' school and I got it for so cheap that I couldn't resist.  My sister had turned me on to this great magazine for "knowledge junkies" (what they call their subscribers) and I just loved it.  After the first year, though, I unwisely thought that perhaps I should curtail my subscribing.  

Thank goodness I realized the error of my ways!  If you like trivia, you'll LOVE Mental Floss.  Not only do they have their wonderful magazine (which is one of the three, besides Entertainment Weekly and Professional Artist, that I read cover-to-cover), they also have fantastic Twitter and Facebook pages and a fun-filled Web site.  I'm warning you, though - once you're there, you'll be there for a while, especially when you discover their  Amazing Fact Generator.  Don't say I didn't warn you.  :)

Okay, on to the ephemera!  Part of my subscription this time around was this free gift - a compact "matchbook" of twenty perforated bookmarks!  Each bookmark depicts a different historical figure, complete with a horrible pun.  As you can see on the front, "Betsy Ross has FLAGGED your page!" is one of them.  There are others that are just as groan-worthy:  "Get LOST in books!" (Amelia Earhart), "I VOTE that you keep reading!" (Susan B. Anthony), "There are still more WORDS TO CONQUER!" (Alexander the Great), etc.  See what I mean?  They're BAD.  In the best way possible.

Am I going to use these bookmarks?  Heavens NO!  I have oodles of them already.  No, this whole thing is taking its rightful place in the Perpetual Ephemera Depository.  Decades from now, when an actual book will be a rare and wonderful object to be cherished, these babies might be worth something, at least from an ephemera standpoint.  In fact, Mental Floss jokes about this on the back of the matchbook, seen here:

Clever, no?  :D

Monday, January 23, 2012

Happy Chinese New Year!

Today is the first day of 4709!  How are you going to celebrate?  :)

In Chinese (and other Asian countries') culture, this year marks the year of the Dragon.  I've always thought that these New Year celebrations trump our Western ones any day of the week.  I like their horoscope better, too - I'm a "monkey".  Brian is a "tiger".  You can discover your Chinese animal symbol here.

I've written about my love of Chinese ephemera before - from the wonderful books that my friend Suze brought back from China to interesting hell and heaven money to fun matchbox labels.  I guess it makes sense that there'd be a lot of Chinese ephemera floating around, considering that there are many Chinatowns in the U.S. and Canada, not to mention the over 1 billion Chinese folks living on the planet.  :D

Here are some more wonderful Chinese items I have.  I love the use of color!

Interesting joss paper with cut-out faces

Very thin printed paper - NO clue what it's for!

Here are some more collages I've done using my stash of Chinese ephemera - SO much fun to work with!  :D

Friday, January 20, 2012

Mid-Century Marvelous!

Oh, how I love the middle of the 20th century.  The jazz, the clothes, the decor, the post-war optimism - from my standpoint, it just seems like a cool time.  I'll be the first to admit that I don't know if, knowing what I know now, I could ever live back then - the racism, gender inequality, political climate, homophobia - are areas that are not gray to me and the repression would be STIFLING.  Nevertheless, the period between about 1948 and 1960, my favorite, very generously willed us some wonderful music, design and fashion.

Well looky what I have here!  Isn't this catalog AMAZING?!  My very generous friend Suze bequeathed this to me a couple of weeks ago.  It's intact and fabulous!  It's also a little heartbreaking, considering that it's a Montgomery Ward catalog.  I always get nostalgic for department stores that used to be so popular but are now relegated to the history books (head to Pleasant Family Shopping for the most comprehensive Montgomery Ward history you'll ever read).  Speaking of history books, if you really want kids to learn how life was in any particular era, hand them a copy of a catalog and a Life magazine.  In my opinion, these two things capture the zeitgeist better than any textbook!  Throw in a couple of You Tube videos of old commercials and you're all set!

Okay, back to the catalog - it's page after page of wonderful clothes, linens, toys, household items, furniture sporting goods, tools, appliances....you name it, Ward's had it!  Look at these wonderful pages - and of course, this a minute fraction of what this glorious digest contains:

I hope shirtwaist dresses come back into fashion!  :D
Ride 'em, Coyboys!

SWOON - paint-by-number sets!

Great example
of the huge
change in

Chenille bedding - now with AVISCO!  :D

UPDATE:  I just finished a collage made with the "lady in red" from the shirtwaist dress page!  :D  Here it is:

And it's for sale at melkolstad.com!  :D

I also love creating collages with this mid-century fodder!  Here are just a few examples:


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Brain Freeze!

Happy Thursday, dear Readers!

Currently here in Fond du Lac, it's 1 below zero actual temp, with a wind chill of -23.  I believe my brain has frozen, as I am suffering from a severe case of writer's block this morning.  So what does one do in this situation?  Recycle!  :D  For those of you in the upper Midwest to the Pacific Northwest and frigid points in between, I offer you a brief respite from the cold.  Think Summer, and I'll be back with fresh content tomorrow!

Remember when you were a kid and your mom would hand out Popsicles or Eskimo Pies after a long day of playing outside? 

Ah, those were the days.  Alas, it's been about 30 years since I've had a Popsicle, but I can remember the taste like it was yesterday.

There are SO many ice cream and novelty treats out there now, that sometimes I wonder if there'll be the same nostalgia for Haagen-Daas or Starbucks treats.  It doesn't sound right, does it?

Check out these amazingly pristine wrappers of the summery treats of yesteryear!  I especially love the truly vintage Popsicle and Eskimo Pie labels - they're the oldest in my collection.  Judging by the very primitive "cellophane" wrapping and font styles, I'm going to say these are from the early 50s. 

And of course, who could forget Big Boy restaurants?  For me, as a kid, this was about the best restaurant in the world.  And even when I was 8 or 9, I was fascinated by the different names that the restaurants had in different states - to me, it was like being in a foreign country if we ventured into an Elias Bros. Big Boy, as opposed to the Marc's Big Boy that we had in Wisconsin (as a 20-something, I would make it a point to "collect" as many Big Boy restaurants as I could - Bob's, Schmidt's, etc. in my travels).  And I LOVED the California burger!!  It was like summertime in a hamburger.  I'm going to say that this wrapper is from the late Sixties/early Seventies.  Notice the generic "Big Boy", so that every franchise could use the wrappers.

And Dairy Queen!!  We were lucky - by the time I was old enough to ride my bike around Ashwaubenon (the suburb of Green Bay, WI, where I grew up), I was also getting an allowance.  And a lot of time, that allowance was spent on Dairy Queen.  Now by the time I was 10 or so, Dairy Queen had that fantastic red logo with the swirls on either end and white lettering in the middle.  So I'm thinking that this straw label (with straw still intact!) is from the 50s.  I can't believe that I found this, and what good shape it's in!  I actually have a lot of three, so if there's ever a straw shortage, I can bust one out.  :D

And because I almost always buy pairs of things (one to keep and one to use in my artwork), I've utilized these beauties in a number of collages:

There's something about working with these great bits of nostalgia that sends me right back to 1978, when summer days lasted forever and all we cared about was swimming and playing outside.  Someone invent a time machine, so I can experience that again!  :D

*Dairy Queen Image Public Domain 2009 courtesy B69D

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Going Dark

Today is the day that many Web sites are "going dark" in protest of the PIPA/SOPA bills that are being considered by the House/Senate in the U.S.  Essentially, these bills would make it possible for the government to shut down any site they feel has violated copyright law.

Google has a great explanation on their site today, and can explain it far better than I.  This sort of legislature greatly concerns me, as I have content on my site quite often that could technically be considered copyright infringement.  I'm certainly not abusing the copyright, but the problem with these two bills is that any site can be shut down, and the owners of the sites would have no say in the matter.  I wouldn't be able to defend myself when I would try and explain, for example, that the Coke ephemera on my site are items I've collected over the years.  If the Coca-Cola company doesn't like it, BOOM.  I'm shut down.

How dire is this?  Well, Google, Wikipedia, Cake Wrecks, Regretsy, Reddit, WordPress and others are all taking part in the "blackout".  This is pretty major, considering that all of these sites are losing money from their advertisers/donors today.

I honestly don't know what's going to happen.  All I know is that I love my little blog, and it would make me very sad if I couldn't freely write about my vintage ephemera anymore.  We can't live in fear that one little logo slip-up could ruin all the work I've done to hopefully bring a smile to your face every weekday.

I'm not going to ask you to sign any petitions or anything like that, because I don't want to get too political.  But I just thought today would be a good day to talk about what could happen.  I would miss you, my dear readers, like crazy!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

What Matters to You

Do you keep a scrapbook?  I've always loved the idea of scrapbooking (funny that this word can be a verb now as well) but never really had the gumption to get started.

Ironically, it was a trip to a scrapbook store in Green Bay that set forth my collage journey!  My friend Kim had just had her third child and was excited about making scrapbooks for each of them.  The place seemed foreign and odd to me and frankly, more than a little overwhelming.  There were a lot of tools and items for which I had no clue how they'd be used.  It all seemed like a lot of...work.  But then I discovered the loose paper section and that all changed!  :D

In the days before matching papers and inks and chalks and stencils and brads and ribbons and punches and special scissors and adhesives and Copic markers and even rubber stamps, there were construction paper-made "journals" with newspaper clippings adhered with rubber cement or cellophane tape (isn't the yellowed tape so lovely?).  I love this type of scrapbook, especially ones like this:

The owner of the book, one Miss Inez Smith of Madison, Wisconsin, began the book in 1949.  She even titled it:  "Helpful Hints to Health and Happyness" (sic).  The first part of the book is mostly articles about diet and getting rid of a double chin; exercise and hand creams and hairstyles.  Then, rather abruptly, we see the book taking a different turn - articles appear about "sick rooms" and laxatives and Asia Flu shots.  The date also changes around this time, to 1957.  Did someone else continue this book or is it still Inez?

After those articles, the new entries take another turn - now there are clippings about cancer prevention, pain management, sprains, and many articles from a column called "Uncle Ray's Corner", which appears to have been a syndicated column.

The end of the book, which dates to 1977, deals mainly with hearing and eyesight - there is even a hearing aid ad affixed to the last page.  From start to finish, the book covers 28 years!  It's a veritable diary of what was important to Miss Inez Smith as she aged - from a "Lovelier You" to hearing aids.  If she was 25 when she started the book that would've made her 53 when she finished - a little too young for a hearing aid, perhaps.  I wonder if she ever got married?  The book gives no hints about her personal life (marital status, kids, friends, etc.).

Once again I have to give a huge thank you to my friend Robin, who included this scrapbook in a huge pile of ephemera last September.  What a find!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Reuniting with Ephemera

When I'm on the hunt for "new" (to me!) ephemera, I usually look for items with bold graphics that are small enough to store easily.  If it's tiny, even better - I love tiny things!

This item is wonderful, isn't it?  It's in pristine condition, which always fascinates me.  It's probably close to 60 years old and I always wonder how it is that a paper artifact could so beautifully withstand the test of time.  When I purchased this item at Assemblage Studio in De Pere (Wisconsin), I remember thinking that I'd never use it in my art, because it's much larger than I normally use in my work and very heavy cardboard.  If you notice, the piece is scored so that a shop owner could fashion it into a scoop!  That's another wonderful thing about it - it still lay flat!  My guess is that a bunch of these were in a box somewhere, dormant until just a few years ago.  When I brought it home, I placed it in my Sterilite box of vintage packaging until I could figure out what to do with it.

Flash forward to this past Saturday evening - Brian and I were invited to a dinner party at our friend Sally's house.  It was a lovely affair, with delicious food, good company and sparkling conversation.  I had never been to her house before so she took me and some others on a tour of her home, which had recently been remodeled.  She has dubbed one of her bathrooms the "cranberry bathroom", because it's decorated entirely with cranberry-related items.  Sally explained that her dad owned a cranberry bog in Tomah (western Wisconsin) when she was growing up and has such fond memories of her childhood and the bog.  It is very apparent, when speaking with her, that this is true; her eyes just light up whenever one mentions cranberries.

After dinner a few of us were hanging out in the kitchen.  I noticed some old crates that Sally (our friend) had displayed.  As she was explaining how much she loved them I said, "Oh!  They're "Eatmor" boxes!  I have an old scoop from that company!"

Sally blanched and gave me a look of disbelief.  At first I thought maybe I had said something wrong but she said, still incredulous, that Eatmor was her dad's company that he started to be in direct competition with Ocean Spray.  She said she had never met anyone who had even heard of Eatmor, much less owned anything with its logo!  What are the odds of this happening??

When I heard this, I knew instantly that this scoop had found its rightful owner!  This is what it's all about, dear readers - connecting with ephemera.  THIS is the main reason I love what I love!  It makes me so happy that I could reunite someone with ephemera that means so much to them, yet they didn't even knew existed.  A piece that I bought purely for the colors and graphics will now be in the home of the daughter of the company.  My week is complete.  :)

Friday, January 13, 2012

In Case of Fire....

Early this morning, I awoke with a start - and my first thought was, "Did I remember to turn off the space heater downstairs in my studio?!"

Don't you hate that feeling?  I'll be honest - I didn't go downstairs and look.  I figured that if I did leave it on and it started a fire, I'd smell the smoke.  This rationale only works at 3 a.m.  :)

It did get me thinking, though - if there were a fire, what's the first thing I'd grab?  What would be the one thing out of my whole collection that would devastate me if it were destroyed? (By the way, I'm not counting precious family ephemera in this scenario - those are a given.  I'm talking about items that I've procured through my wonderful online shops, gifts and antique stores.)

My answer may surprise you - it's nothing.  And everything.  Let me explain:  there is truly nothing that I would lose sleep over if it were lost.  I don't collect rare and valuable ephemera - if I did, I'd never be able to use it in my artwork!  It would cause me great angst to cut up labels and books and in my line of work, that just wouldn't work.  Nothing is so precious that I couldn't cut it up if it were absolutely essential to a piece.

On the other hand, I would be totally bummed if I happened to lose these items to a flood or fire:

1.  My Cohen Department Store trading stamps.  I honestly don't know if I'd ever be able to find these ever again.  But I'd try.  I would put the call out to elderly Green Bay residents to check their junk drawers - but I know I'd never find a group of 250 of them, like I have - especially for three bucks!!

2.  My NCR receipt folder.  I'm fairly certain this is a one-of-a-kind item.  If another exists, it's probably in NCR's museum somewhere.  Okay, now that I think about it, this would be heartbreaking to lose.  Yep, I love this item and feel very fortunate to have it in my collection.

3.  These little Chinese books.  They were actually bought in China for me by my friend Suze.  I suppose there are other copies out there, but I'd never get them!  Plus, they were a gift, which makes them even more special.

So I guess I'm not as hard-hearted as I thought!  Now let me put the question out to you - what ephemera do you have that you'd hate to lose?  I'd love to hear your answers!  Comment away!  :D

Thursday, January 12, 2012

That's a Bingo!

What do you think of when you hear the word "Bingo"?  Does it conjure images of paneled church basements? Or Bingo Halls?  Perhaps the repetitive eponymous song?  Or Christoph Waltz's famous line from "Inglourious Basterds"?

I remember playing Bingo at birthday parties and at school and I was always afraid that I'd miss the number called because I couldn't scan the card fast enough.  I do have one fabulous bingo memory - in 1997 my first husby Dan and I were visiting a friend in Seattle and she took us to play Bingo.  I won $100!  I promptly spent it on embroidery supplies.  :D

Even as a kid, what I liked most about the game was the game sheet.  There's something so pleasing about rows of numbers.  Nowadays I also enjoy the various brand names that are sometimes printed on top - like this Trans-o-gram specimen.  The color's great too!

I've used the bingo numbers, markers and cards countless times in my work - sometimes they're just the thing I need to finish a piece.  They're so versatile and fun!