Postage stamp art

In the last few months I’ve been playing with postage stamps, using them in collages and art projects here and there. A very talented artist and a friend of mine who is very interested in working with postage stamps, has been working on a postage stamp glue book that I fell in love with.

I’ve been holding on to the perfect little travel notebook that I found in a giftshop some years ago and there I began experimenting with series postage stamps, paint, and pigment color.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

These “painted” pages are a little more time consuming, though I thoroughly enjoyed working on them, but I also wanted to do more straight gluing of stamps in groups. These have been a lot of fun to make. I’ve only started. I’ve got a lot more to do.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I get the stamps from a couple of different places. Ebay, of course, is an obvious place to search for stamps in large quantities. They are relatively cheap and there is such variety to choose from. I also get some stamps from my local stamp club. It’s worth it to do a little research to find out what kind of stamp connections you might have near by. I’ve also attended my first stamp show not too long ago and enjoyed it. It definitely was a new experience.

I love working with postage stamps though I have to stress that I am not a collector. I’m not looking to have anything of value. I like to sort by theme and color, and I like the cheapest stamps best. That way there is no guilt when I glue them with a glue stick into my pages.

 

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!

 

 

I’ve been inspired

Last Saturday I took a day-trip to San Francisco to meet my friend Pamela. Pamela is an amazing collage artist  — one of the most talented that I know. We’ve discovered that we share a similar style, or at least are drawn to similar types of images and illustrations.

We’ve been admiring each other’s work for several months now and knew that if we’d get together we’d have a lot to talk about, so when we made arrangements for me to come up to her studio I was so giddy, I couldn’t resist telling my kids, “Mommy’s got a play-date on Saturday!”

Her workspace is filled with so much inspiration and neat projects. Here’s some of the loveliness on her desk.

Pamela's desk

And her tower of index cards. I love all those tabs.

index card tower

One of her awesome projects to make a piece of art on a Rolodex card, every single day.

Rolodex card art

Other artists also contribute to her collection, including me (yay!). She’s been doing this for a couple of years so her collection is extensive. See her blog post for more amazing photos. All those cards represent a work of art. It’s astounding, really. It would take a pleasant period of time to go through them all. I’d love to do that some morning, along with a cup of tea.

Rolodex collection

Another of her interests is in correspondence art, and actually this is where our paths crossed. We share a love of all things postal, so of course I wanted to see art she makes, she collects, and some of the ephemera she has for creating more.

letters and glassine

postage stamp book

Here are some of the postcards she has received from all over the world.

mail call

Field Notes

Another project that is very unique is her work on altered passports. She takes an old passport and tells a story with photos and ephemera of where this person has traveled. It’s so creative! Read her description of how she comes up with the ideas on her blog. I want to create something with one of my old passports. I’m going to do some studying of these for a while first.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

She also has glue books that I found fascinating. The covers come from hardcover Reader’s Digest compilations.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

All in all, we had a wonderful time. I brought some of my journals to share so with all of our sharing we didn’t have that much time to create. That’s ok. We’re going to do it again someday 🙂

rubber stamps

bingo cards

gummed labels

 

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.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

 

How do you know when it’s done?

How do you know when you’ve done enough to your art project, and it’s time to call it quits? How do you know when you’ve added enough color, embellishments, texture, when enough is enough?

I started putting together a collage in an altered book. I put down some vintage paper scraps, washi tape and slickers, and covered it over with gel paste. After that I used some distress inks to put some color on it and used brown paint around the outside for some contrast. I was ready to stop there.

phase 1

The rubber stamping was on the scraps that I tore up and glued on to the page. The letters were just random alphabet stickers I wanted to use up.

phase 1 close

The more I looked at it, the more I thought that it was missing something. I was thinking that it all looked a little too monochrome and needed something to stand out. I decided on using a stencil in bold black ink.

phase 2 - black stencil

I liked it but then thought I went a little too bold on the left. The black was too dark. And the one on the right, though lighter, just seemed to be floating on the page; it wasn’t grounded. Not good.

black stencil closer

So then I thought, what else could I add? How about lace? It definitely adds something.

phase 3 - lace

The stencil on the right doesn’t look like it’s floating anymore. And the lace balances the starkness of the stencil on the left.

lace corner

lace above

Okay, now I think it’s done.

 

The Process of making a junk mail journal

junk mail process

After I collected and bound some pieces of junk mail, I couldn’t decide what to do with it or how I wanted to decorate it. So I decided I would make two and leave one with simply being collaged, while with the other I would also collage it but then add some paint and do some additional embellishing, such as rubber stamping or stenciling.

This turned out to be a useful idea. There are qualities I like in both stages so having that documented is great.

This is the first booklet, which doesn’t have any painting or stamping in it:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This is the second booklet with the painting and stamping:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I originally wrote about this second booklet here, where I posted pictures of what it looked like without the additions. I’m not sure what looks better. I think I like the acrylic paint. It just adds another layer of interest.

I went back and made a third booklet, this one just with the junk mail — no embellishing. That’s good to have on hand as well.

Of course I made a video about the process with all 3 journals:

Experimenting with junk mail

junk mail
I’ve been convinced for a while that junk mail can be of some kind of artistic use. I’m still not sure exactly what or how it could be of use, but I wanted to start experimenting.

I started setting aside pieces to make small book bundles. I was looking for heavier- weight catalog covers, tri-folded letters on good, heavy card stock, slick oversized postcards, and maybe some return envelopes.

After I gathered them and staggered them as I wanted, I sewed them with a pamphlet stitch to make a single-signature “book”.

junk mail book

I had the idea to empty some of my scrap bins and just glue pretty much anything that I thought might work in a particular spot, not caring much about detail. First, I quickly and lightly painted over some of the glossy pages so that when I glue my scraps they would stick.

Then I got started gluing.

collaging junk mail jj 1

collaging junk mail jj 2

It took me a few days to get everything.

collaging junk mail jj 3

collaging junk mail jj 4

collaging junk mail jj 5

Here’s the cover:

junk mail jj cover

But now that’s done I have to choose to leave it as is, or do something else to it. I think I’m going to put some paints out and see what it looks like if I add smudges of color here and there. There are already tons to colors on these collages so I’m going to pick muted and dull colors. I want to tone the whole thing down.

We’ll see how it turns out.

Stay tuned.

My first “Journal for no reason”

paint collage journal

It seems like I’m posting a lot these days but the truth is I completed this journal some months ago and am only now getting caught up on talking about.

I exercise on an elliptical several times a week and while otherwise engaged, I watch things. Sometimes I read on my kindle but the majority of times I’m on YouTube watching instructional crafting videos. I discovered one amazing artist by the name of Shannon Green who has hundreds of chunky, art filled journals that she has produced through painting and collaging. She is someone who has inspired me greatly in trying things with paint and watercolor. I’ve been convinced that I’m useless in those areas. Now, even if I try, I don’t mind that I begin by making a mess.

Crayola paints

It all started when the kids began bringing home school supplies they were done with for the year. I didn’t want to throw away their paints, for example. So one summer afternoon I sat the kids and myself down and began with putting watercolors on small blank notebooks. I reinforced the seam with washi tape so it wouldn’t come apart. That helped.

watercolor on paper

Once I had dried pages I could decided how I wanted to decorate my pages. For the kids, they decided to decorate with glitter glue, rubber stamps, markers, etc. For mine, I decided I wanted photos as the focal point and use a few elements around the photos.

4-square journal 1

Shannon Green makes many “journals for no reason” and that’s what I was going for. No reason = no initial value = no pressure on myself to create something beautiful. When the pressure is off, it’s easier to create something.

4-square journal 2

I’m calling this journal for no reason my “four square” journal. The notebooks are 8 inches x 8 inches, in other words perfectly square, and I’m using no more than 4 elements when decorating a page.

IMG_8279

IMG_8277

The photos are by photographer Elena Shumilova. She is from Russia and takes amazing pictures of children and animals in picturesque settings. I found her pictures online and printed a few for myself in low resolution. I like to look at them. They make me happy.

IMG_8281

IMG_8282