Jumping into the digital ephemera arena

digital ephemera

I enjoy making vintage junk journals. Every time I make one, I try to think of creative ways to embellish the pages. I don’t like to write or “journal” in my books, I prefer to add collages or do artwork to fill the pages. In turn they become tomes of paper treasures that I have fallen in love with.

Over the years I’ve been collecting paper ephemera that I use in my collages. When I go to antique malls or search online, I’m looking for papers that are typically from 1945 to the 1800s. I look for receipts, postcards, letters, legal documents, photos, trade cards and advertisements, calling cards, and currency.

ephemera organizer

Now that I’ve got a nice collection, I have a better selection to choose from when collaging pages in my vintage journals. Sometimes I scan pieces before I use them, other times I don’t. There have been a few times when I have found that there are a few pieces that I like to use again and again because they are so interesting to look at, and so versatile. It is these pieces that I have decided to make public and sell as collections through Etsy.

Thus far I have created two collections: the Theo Jessup Collection and the Lucile Holt Collection. Each one consists of 4 pages and each cost $4 to download.

Jessup-watermarks2

Here’s my Etsy site, if you are interested in seeing them:¬† https://www.etsy.com/shop/mellowmiller

Additionally, I made a video on how I use them to give people ideas on how they might use them in their own projects:

The pieces in the Theo Jessup Collection were inspired from making journals using the digital download kit Gentlemen and Scholars from Ephemera’s Vintage Garden. I’ve made two journals with this kit and have been really happy with the results of adding my pieces to this amazing journal kit. Debbie-Anne Parent, the artist who creates many wonderful digital kits at Ephemera’s Vintage Garden, recently posted a video showing how she integrated my ephemera pieces in a journal she made with her Gentlemen and Scholars kit. It’s such a lovely book and am so pleased to have contributed a little bit to its charm.

Global Priority Mail journal

Recently I put together a postal-themed journal for a postal-friend of mine who has sent me some wonderful no-longer-in-use forms and papers from the USPS. I constructed the cover using a flat Global Priority Mail envelope that I cut down for the front and back.

I used another envelope to cut the length of the spine. I used a piece of Tyvek sandwiched between the 3 cover pieces, and cardboard I used as a backing and to make it more sturdy. The Tyvek allows it to bend at the hinges to make a cover (See my post on making journal covers if this makes no sense to you and you want to read more).

After I sewed in the three signatures to make up the journal, I asked some fellow mail artists to make some postcards to include in the journal.

The whole thing came out beautifully and I was so excited to mail it off to its destination in Tennessee.

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The recipient loved it, I am happy to share. She sent me a wonderful response saying, “There has never been one made that is more loved or appreciated than this one!”

I’m so pleased ūüôā

The Process of making a journal cover

I’m not sure if I’ve shared much about the process of making journal covers. I do them all pretty much the same way, so I thought I should write a bit about it.

I start with cutting down some heavy weight card stock to the size I want. I don’t have specific measurements but it’s usually around 5 x 8″ with a spine of 1.5″.

covers cut to size

After I cut the board, I cut a piece of tyvek paper that will cover the width of the spine and a half inch over to the front and back covers. Tyvek is a “paper” made with plastic fibers that help give the joints strength so the book covers don’t tear off over time. I use double sided tape to attach it.

Once the tyvek is in place I cut down the paper I want to decorate the cover with and glue it or attach it with double sided tape. I create 6 pieces: 3 for the front, spine, and back, and then 3 for the inside front, spine, and back. In this photo I’ve moved¬†the pieces below the cardboard so you can see the layers. Normally the pieces of decorative paper would be flush, or very near the edge of the page.

decorative paper for the cover

The cover should be in one continuous piece by this point. Lay it flat on your work space with the side you want to be on the inside covers lying up and take 2 large pieces of white tissue paper, laying them on top of your cover. Cut the two pieces of tissue a quarter of an inch larger than your covers, on all sides.

With a paint brush and some matte medium or glue, attach the first piece of tissue paper over your cover. I usually start with the spine and move out to the covers. With the tissue paper glued on, there should be a bit of extra paper hanging off the edges.

Once it is dry (I usually use my hair dryer to quickly dry it), take your scissors and carefully trim off the extra tissue paper. Turn it over and lay your second piece of tissue paper down. Use your paint brush to glue down the second sheet. With the extra quarter inch, wrap it over the edge and use the medium to glue it down.

Dry everything again. Now the fun begins with paints, dyes, and whatever tools you’d like to use to decorate your covers. I like to use Distress Stain, acrylic paint, rubber stamps and permanent ink, and lately Gelato pigment crayons.

17239687_217384358666802_8931572734548874719_o.jpg

Here’s the cover I made with these:

This cover has a simple element from a rubber stamp and ink. Simple but effective, I think.

This one also has a rubber stamped impression.

After you have done enough to your covers, seal them with a varnish. I use Liquitex Satin Varnish but I think just about any varnish will do. If you have experience with Mod Podge that might work too. I ruined an important piece of art with Mod Podge (I couldn’t get rid of the tackiness, even after days of drying it, and it stuck to something else causing major damage to the cover and the other piece next to it) so I never touch the stuff anymore.

I sometimes attach metal pieces or other decorative elements. Some planning is needed for that, but they do get attached once the varnish is dry.

 

 

Un petit cadeau — of postcards

One of the neat things about sharing your art through the internet is that other artists reach out to you and connect with you over shared styles and interests. That’s how I came to be in contact with Trishia at the French Kissed Postcards shop online.

Trishia and I both love collage art from vintage paper sources. We initially connected through our interest in Mary Green‘s glue book art, and then I learned that Trishia herself is a wonderful source of some really gorgeous vintage postcards.

But first let me explain about my interest in postcards.

I use postcards a lot in my artwork. When considering a postcard I look for several things:

  • The image on the front: is it in color or black and white (I look for both kinds). Is it interesting?
  • The back for writing: is it blank or has someone written a note? What does the handwriting look like? Is it legible? What language is it in?
  • A stamp: does the postcard have any stamps? More than one? Are the stamps attractive and in one piece? Is there a postmark? Is it legible?
  • A date: is there a date either written by the author or on the postmark?

Sometimes I place the entire postcard in my journal, in a page pocket for example.

Other times I will glue a postcard down so that just a single side is showing. I do that if I am making a larger collage and need only one side as an element in the over all piece.

It’s handy when you have a bunch of old postcards and either the picture on the front is ugly or boring and therefore you don’t feel guilty about covering it up permanently, or if the note on the writing side is dull (or it’s blank), then I don’t feel guilty about gluing it down.

Trishia knows I use a lot of postcards and she sent me a packet of vintage postcards that are just beautiful. She sent me some that are a perfect example of classic penmanship and some that are written extra fancy.

Here’s one with a nice illustration and a stamp with postmark all on the front. I haven’t see many like this.

She also sent some with neat illustrations or photos. My absolute favorite are postcards with architecture. This one is of architecture with the bonus of writing on the same side. Wow!

Trishia specializes in French postcards. At her shop she sells vintage postcards as well as digital images of postcards for quick download. Those are useful too for printing at home and using for personal projects. Check out her shop if you are looking for some really unique pieces of postcard art.

She sent me more postcards but I didn’t photograph all of them. I did take a picture of the card she sent them in. It’s so pretty I’m tempted to use this in a collage too!

 

 

A Couple of “diary” vintage junk journal

Lace journal

For 6 projects I will be making vintage junk journals using different collections from the designer Ephemera’s Vintage Garden, who makes digital paper kits for download.

The first two journals are done, and being that I am behind in posting, I’m going to post about both journals here. I can also note that I used the same paper kit for both journals; I’ll be switching to a new collection for the next two projects.

For these first two journals I used a collection called “Mabel’s Diary”, which consists of colors in red, black, cream, brown, and white. If you’ve read some of my earlier posts you’ll know that red is my favorite color, so it’s not surprising that I was drawn to this set. It’s very dramatic and elegant.

Mabel's Diary order page

Since I have such a nice collection of vintage illustrations and photos I’ve been collecting over these last few years, I wanted to use up a lot more of it, as well as use vintage lace.

desk organizer

For my first project, I’ve called it “Dear diary”, and made a cover with a lock that hooks over ¬†knob. The cover is a book page layered with a single piece of tissue paper that was then inked in some brown stains until I had the right look. There’s also a bit of lace at the left side.

cover Dear diary

setting aside pieces and once I had my book assembled with my printed journal pages along with many tea-dyed pages, I went to work collaging and filling up the journal.

 

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Here’s the flip through:

For the second journal, I’ve called it “Vintage lace” because it is meant to be a journal created entirely to hold samples of lace that I’ve collected from the Sunnyvale Lace Museum.

vintage lace

I had a Tim Holtz blank journal cover that I decoupaged ¬†with papers and tissue paper. I have to admit, it’s not a very exciting cover, but the inside makes up for that.

Every 6 months or so, the Lace Museum holds a vintage lace sale where they sell lace they’ve received as donations, or some of it is from their collection. I’ve also begun to volunteer at the museum, and so am learning more about the different types of lace that exist. I brought in my book and had some of the experts identify my pieces. Where I could find out more information about the pieces, I wrote a short description on some of the journal pages facing the lace.

 

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I still have a few unidentified pieces, but I will get them recognized sooner or later. This one is still a bit of a work in progress, but it will be easy to complete.

Here’s the video on this one:

The Little red book

red stencil and postcard

Red is my favorite color. Even from my earliest years, red was the first color out of the crayon box. I’ve wanted to make a little art journal with a red theme for some time now and decided the time was right after I found these index cards at a used book sale.

index cards

The cardstock is so dense and heavy — ideal for book covers. I took 4, cut off the tabs and then painted them in reds. After the paint was dry I used rubber stamps and black ink to cover the surfaces from corner to corner.

I used a little Tim Holtz grunge board over the spine. It didn’t need the extra reinforcement but I just liked how it looked, especially after I put the silver and gunmetal brads along the borders.

little red jj cover

I used a watch piece that I attached to the cover as the fixed portion of the fastener. I glued a few “jewels” on the piece to give it a little more sparkle. On the bottom portion of the watch piece is stamped, “U.S.A. PAT. MAY. 24. 1904” It also says “7 jewels” in fancy lettering. So neat!

watch jewels

On the inside I have some of tea-dyed pages but also added papers from several different sources. Mostly it’s recycled book pages, and art scrap pages. In all there are 3 signatures that I stitched in using the 5-point pamphlet stitch.

I wanted to include a lot more art in this journal. Sometimes I created the art myself with ink or paints, or collaging. Other times, if I found beautiful images of art or pictures from magazines that work with the page layouts, I used those types as art.

 

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I added small bits here and there from postage stamps, pieces of decoupaged napkin, vintage lace, ribbon, postcards, playing cards, rubber stamping, a few die-cuts, and washi tape.

It’s a very busy book, which is exactly what I wanted. I’m still adding to it and will be for a while.

 

Junk journal from a cognac box

Cognac cover
“Do you want to do something with this box?”

A few months ago in October, my husband received a bottle of Martell cognac in beautiful packaging. Interestingly enough it was he¬†who put the box in my hands and asked if I wanted to do something with it. It hadn’t even crossed my mind, but yes, I did indeed want to.

martell cognac

I loved the blue hues and started thinking about the colors that would go along with it — black, gold, gray, and cream. I decided¬†make a junk journal and fill it with an eclectic mix of images and papers. I wanted to make it for the people who gave us the cognac, my husband’s uncle and aunt.

I wanted the book to be interesting; something that inspired curiosity, spurred thought, or at the very least was entertaining in some way, so I used papers of multiple languages and various alphabets, black and white images, rubber stamps, and several stencils.

 

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After I was finished, I wrapped it up and mailed it off to Slovakia for Christmas. Hopefully I’ll hear back in a few days if it was a hit or a miss. You never know with junk journals. Some people “get it”; others don’t and just think it’s weird. I’ll see.

Here’s the flip through:

For the littlest journal artist

kids junk journals

This Christmas I’m gifting a few of my nieces and nephews little junk journals. Inspiration from several talented craft artists gave me the idea to make the covers from candy boxes.

I have so much interesting paper of all different types that it took me just a few minutes to gather enough for several small books.

Each book has only two signatures. There are approximately 8 papers, including an envelope, folded in half that make up the signature, so there isn’t too many pages; I didn’t want to make the book overwhelming.

I used papers from¬†comic books, old book pages, maps, graph paper, ledger paper, music lessons, coloring books — pretty much anything that was colorful or had an interesting design on it.

comic book page

I used lots of clothing tags I had been setting aside.

batman jj page

And I used plenty of food labels. I had been saving stickers I peeled off of fruits and vegetables. Those went in here too.

food labels

My kids wanted one immediately so we went to work on separately making junk journals for them. We used chocolate packaging.

junk journals from chocolate packaging

The simplest and fastest way to get the signatures in is to use the long-arm stapler. I love that thing! It has saved me so much time. Yes, it’s a little ugly, but honestly, who cares?!

staple spine

Inside I let the kids pick whatever they wanted. My 7-year-old daughter was quite specific on what she wanted. She already has experience with making these books so knew what to do.

kids junk journal inside

My 4-year-old son did his own thing too.

Ts journal

Of course he went to town with the stickers. That was great too!

Ts journal with stickers

The kids seem to think that they are done. Now I need to get them used to the idea that there is lots of opportunity to keep on adding and embellishing. We’ll see if I can get them to add anything else.

 

Another mail-art junk journal

mail art junk journal 2

I’ve been receiving so many postcards and beautiful envelopes filled with such lovely mail art that I decided I needed a “book” to contain it all. That the was the inspiration for putting together this junk journal.

In addition to that, I’ve been steadily going through my postage stamps and when I found blocks or groupings of stamps on paper I found ways to include them in my journal.

mail art junk journal 1

mail art junk journal 3

There is so much color in this book, and so much to look at. I never get bored thumbing through the pages.

The cover was made with a large manila envelope. It came in the mail with some kind of advertisement that I didn’t keep, but I thought the envelope might be good for something, so I kept it. At first I painted it with red, blue, lilac, and beige acrylic paint.

cover mail art jj

After that I collaged it with random bits of rubber stamped papers. I rubber stamped on top of that, and then added blocks of cancelled US postage stamps.

close up of the cover

I used a varnish as a top coat and added a little brown paint into the varnish just to mute and blend the colors a little. After everything was dry, I sprayed a little gold mist just to add another element of interest.

A friend of mine from the mail art group I hang out with sent me a bunch of old postal forms she received from someone who works at the post office and knew she was interested in those kinds of things. She sent very neat pieces to me and I dispersed as many as I could within the pages.

mail art junk journal 4

This political campaign mailing tag is cool, as well as the dispatch unit postmark slip on the facing page.

mail art junk journal 5

Here are a few more pages

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And here is the flip through in its entirety:

Adding pages to my US stamp journal

I can honestly say that it has been tremendous fun working on pages and adding content to this vintage US postal stamp junk journal that I made. I brought it along with me to the San Jose Stamp Show a few weeks ago and sat down with a local stamp dealer who helped me locate some of the sets of stamps I was looking for. There is a whole culture of stamp collecting that I know very little about. With my little journal, I am learning a lot; more that I ever expected to.

I wrote about the journal a few posts ago. It looks like this.

cover us stamps jj

I took apart an old 1947 catalog from the H C Harris & Co and interspersed pages along with blank tea-dyed pages to make a new journal. Since I have blank pages that face catalog pages, I thought it would be fun to make collages with the stamps shown on the catalog page on to the facing page. Here’s an example:

Railroad time book collage

I was looking for these parcel post stamps issued in 1912-1913. I showed the stamp dealer my page, and he was able to locate them pretty easily. I purchased these 5 for about 35 cents a piece. I could have gotten all of them, but I didn’t want them all. I just wanted enough to make a nice collage.

Fo the background, I wanted something that conveyed “transportation”, so I went with an old California map and tore a page out of a railroad time book I have.

I found a couple a couple of these pamphlets at a local antique dealer a few months ago. They contain so much information about a single month of work.

Railroad time book 1910

Time book page 1903

record of work done

The pamphlets are fragile and falling apart so I decided to use some of the pages in some of my art pieces. I tore out a page for my parcel post stamps.

Parcel post collage

Parcel post collage 2

In addition to completing this page, I completed a page with stamps of national parks. I got all of these stamps for free. The folks at the San Jose Stamp Club are so generous!

National parks stamp collage

I used a survey map as a background on the left side.

survey map

survey map 2

On the facing page I had an old envelope with three national park stamps (by the way, an envelope is referred to as a “cover” in the world of philately), and an old, damaged postcard that I tore to use. I love how it’s so bug-eaten.

bug-eaten postcard

Since the catalog includes¬†US and North America, I have pages with Canadian stamps too. Here’s one I did using a whole lot of repeats.

Canada goose

I have more to do, but I am happy to wait — to put it off for a time when I will happily sit down to it and make something interesting to look at.

additional stamps