Jumping into the digital ephemera arena

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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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

 

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:

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.

 

Mail this week

I’ve been getting some pretty neat mail lately. I’ve also been working hard, creating some nice pieces to send out. Here’s what I’ve got to share:

For a postcard swap I mailed in a few postcards with a map theme. Here was one I made.

map post card

In return I got some neat ones:

mail collage postcard 1

mail collage postcard 2

mail collage postcard 3

 

I’ve been motivated to make art with postage stamps so I also made a few postcards with stamps:

colorful queen

These I made with postage stamps and a type-writer rubber stamp:

typewriter postcard

typewriter postcard

And here’s one I received:

stamp collage

Here are some really cool envelopes I received. This one is made from a junk mail catalog page.

envelope art

This one is from my creative friend Pamela. I have to read up on where she gets her template from. I love how the ice cream float stamp goes with the 60s yearbook theme.

yearbook page envelope

She sent something colorful inside.

stamp napkin

Recently some art friends and I have come into a bounty of cancelled stamps. At next month’s meeting of correspondence art enthusiasts we are going to make more postcard art with stamps. I’m very much looking forward to that.

A “Priority Mail” junk journal

priority mail jj

Last year I made a journal using ordinary printer paper, a USPS priority mail envelope I received in the mail, and embellished my pages with random stamps and a bunch of forms from the post office.

I never shared my little journal for two reasons. First, I made the book for me to use on a daily basis to write my “to do” lists or notes to myself. I wasn’t planning on keeping it forever, just use it up and throw it out. Second, I didn’t think anyone would be interested in what I thought was a boring little book.

I decided to share it with the group of encouraging folks who do mail art, and now I see that I should have mentioned this project before. There is some interest in it.

So here are a few photos of what it looks like inside. After making many vintage-style junk journals the white paper in this one is really stark, even with the bits and pieces of added elements.

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Here’s the video for more information and a flip-through.

I Found a relative

Hughes children

These two adorable children are Leola and Orville Hughes. I bought this photo at an antique shop in San Jose. I didn’t have any project in mind for the photo but just loved how these kids looked. It was only after I brought it home that I noticed the names on the back.

Just for kicks I thought I would look up their names online. I didn’t find anything for Leola Hughes, but I did get a hit for C Orville Hughes b. 1905 who had a sister named Leola Belle.

When I clicked on the link it brought me to a genealogy site called Wikitree. I read through the description of the Hughes family from Missouri and concluded this could be the one. There was a name and email address of the person who added the family data on the site so I went ahead and emailed her, describing the picture and asking if that might be relatives of hers. That was at 10pm. Less than a half our later I received her excited reply that indeed it sounded like the children in the photo were here aunt and uncle on her father’s side.

The next day I scanned the photo and sent it off to her. She received it and said she had been in touch with the grand-daughter of the girl in the photo, and the grand-daughter had never seen a photo of her grandmother at such a young age. They were both so excited to see it.

It’s amazing that I was able to find these Hughes relatives and get the photo back to them. It’s not easy first, tracking down the right relatives, and then second, finding a member of the family who is excited about having a piece of their family history. Some people just don’t care.

I asked her how she thinks the photo got to California and she said that her paternal grandparents had 9 children who all had several children each and moved all over the country. When I mailed the photo to her I mailed it to Arizona.

Hughes photo envelope

I made her a pretty envelope since I’ve been experimenting with “correspondence art”. Fancy wrapping for the precious photo inside.

Ever heard of “correspondence art”?

I came across an art term I had never before; never even considered that such a thing could exist: correspondence art. Correspondence art, also mail art is the concept of sending small pieces of art through the mail service. Materials used are typically postcards, rubber stamps, collaged pieces of paper or other recycled materials — or pretty much any kind of material turned into art that can be put into an envelope and mailed off.

There are networks of people who love to send and receive mail art. Naturally there are websites devoted to this. I haven’t joined an internet group, but I did find a group in San Francisco of mail artists and letter writers and will go to a meeting at the SF main library in a few weeks. How fun it would be to chat with others who love the USPS and make small pieces of envelope-sized art. Here’s my first piece of mail art from one of the members. It’s awesome!

mail art postcard 1

Here's proof

Separately, I joined a post card swap called Postcrossing. I completed 5 post cards and mailed them to 5 different countries (they sent me the names and addresses). Once they receive my post cards they log it with the website through a code I write on the card, and then I will receive 5 postcards from 5 other individuals. I think it sounds kind of cool. Mostly I’m looking to see what kind of stamps and images on the postcards I get. I want the kids to see what comes too. Here are a few I did (don’t mind the stars. That’s just to cover the address and bits):

mail art sent

Anyway, I’ve begun thinking about envelope art in a new way and that’s intriguing to me.

The Smallest of junk journals

Mini junk journal of postage stamps

Last week I saw a blog post by Bonnie about making a mini book from packaging of a deck of playing cards. I thought it was the cutest thing ever. A few days ago I was opening a new roll of cello tape (my kids go though so much tape I now buy it in bulk) and I was left with the little box. Hmmm, I thought. Maybe I could make this into something… .

Mini book, covers and spine

I cut down the box so that the spine remained between two covers. Then I reinforced the cardboard to make it more sturdy. I cut down to size pages of a travel book that was translated into 3 different languages. I took some pages from each language until I had 3 signatures.

3 signatures postage jj

In all I have 72 pages to embellish (12 sheets per signature = 24 sides, in 3 signatures = 72 pages). I thought that was an awful lot to take on until I realized that some of the pages I stamped with a rubber stamping looked good just like that. I didn’t need to add anything else. Other than the rubber stamping, I’ve been embellishing with vintage postage stamps and bits of pattern papers. The pages are small so I put the cap on the number of decorative elements to 3. No more than 3 things on a page.

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It’s a super cute book. I haven’t finished all the pages but I don’t mind that some are blank. I’ll add to it when I feel like it. I have a nice envelope full of vintage stamps I can still take from, so I have plenty of material to work with.