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.

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.

Summer projects with the kids

The kids and I are home, mostly, through the summer. The kids had a wonderful vacation down in San Diego with their grandparents for the majority of July, but now we have another 3 weeks before school starts.

We’ve been doing plenty of crafts to keep us busy. Here’s what our dining room table looks like at the moment:

dining table with crafts

Everybody has got something going. V who is heading into the 2nd grade has a blank notebook she painted entirely with watercolors and now is embellishing it.

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T is now 4.5 years old and heading to pre-kindergarten. He also has a notebook with blank pages that have been painted, glittered, covered with stickers or simply drawn in with markers.

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I like that they have books where they do art, and then put them away at the end of the day. This way we can store it away easily and I can hand them over to their care as they get older.

I have a few projects out as well. I’m working on a few “journals for no reason”, inspired by Shannon Green, and of course, one of my collage journals out. I had a few pieces picked up from San Diego. IMG_8258


Koby stole the markers a time or two but we always managed to get them back. He likes to do what we are doing, even if it’s done passively.


A Journal made from junk

junk mail junk journal

Lately I’ve gotten into this hobby called junk journaling. A junk journal is a book that is made of scraps or other papers that would otherwise be trash but when assembled together makes art. A junk journal could also be a book where you collect the ‘junk’ one accumulates through life.

Now I’ve been working on a book made entirely of scrap book pages pages, left over scrap papers, junk mail, and food packaging boxes. I can’t say it was easy. It took me months to accumulate enough of the right kinds of material.

Here are some pictures; these aren’t all of them.

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Because I wanted the book to present a kind of organized chaos, I took extra time to make sure the layout was as I wanted.

For sure it’s a strange collection of things. I’m not sure if I will make another of these. I have a shoe box of papers I collected and so I still have plenty of paper to work with.

For now I’ll just flip through this one once in a while.

Here’s my youtube video of the flip through:


A Collage challenge

I thought to myself, what if I made a collage only from vintage papers, say, at minimum 60 years old. Would I have enough papers to be able to actually assemble something interesting? How would I do this?

Altered book cover

I decided on taking an old book and prepared it by tearing out some pages, and then gluing others together to make thicker pages.

altered book page spread

Then I covered both facing pages almost entirely, making a collage of images. Sometimes there was a theme like with this flying ace.

flying ace collage

Other times it’s just what I think looks good together.


I found the picture of the flying ace at an antique mall. I googled this pilot’s name and it tuned out that this is a picture of Brigadier General Wallace Gordon Smith.

Wallace Gordon Smith

I’ve sent 2 emails so far to different departments in the Air Force trying to locate an email address of a living relative to return the picture but thus far have had no luck with a response.

Meanwhile, I’ve done about 5 spreads. When I’m up to 20 I’ll do a video and a flip through. Here’s one more.

WWI soldiers collage

Most of the material I have is 80 to more than 100 years old. Everything I use is original. No paper copies of anything. The only exception I made was of the pilot’s photo. I reprinted that one so I have the original to return to a relative.

Canvas tapestry of Vienna


Vienna tapestry canvasHere’s my latest finished project: a collage tapestry on canvas. It seems like a lot of my projects are inspired by my experience of living in Vienna for a short time but I’ve had this canvas project in mind for quite a while.

This one I started a little over 3 years ago and just finished it this week. Why so long? Well, my little guy is 3 1/2 and I guess I’ve had other things on my plate. It also took me a long time to choose my images, scan and print others, and then assemble everything as I liked.

Some of the pieces like photos, ticket stubs, maps, and letters are mine. Everything else I found on the internet. I scanned things to make the paper sources all the same. I wanted everything to react the same way when I glued it down to the canvas with matte medium.

I really like the divider on the piece, about 2/3 of the way down. I like how it breaks things up a bit. I painted it using 4 different colors of acrylic paint. Then I decided I wanted to add a few metal pieces there of things I picked up on my excursions to Naschmarkt in Vienna. I have a coat collar fastening, a Helason key, and some Kärnten buttons. I sewed them or glued them directly on to the canvas.

Austrian coat fastenings

Austrian Helason key

Kartner buttons

I was inspired to do this kind of art on a canvas after I saw this blog post by Diane Bouchard. I fell in love with her concept and knew I could create something similar that was entirely my own. Diane and her friends used beeswax to seal the canvas. I was thinking about it for mine but then decided I would use a varnish instead. I used a satin finish varnish from Liquitex. Nice stuff.

A few more notes and pictures:

Otto Wagner

I photoshopped Otto Wagner on to a copy of one of his building sketches and then printed it out as a single piece.


After I glued everything down, I went around the edges of each image with a black oil pastel to make a border or frame. It kind of compartmentalized everything.


There are a few tiny details of structures like this little one of Peterskirche. I scanned them out of a travel guide and then fussy cut them out before gluing them on.


Using scrap paper for making a junk journal

junk journal page1

I find that collage art is not easy. I love making collages but it doesn’t come naturally to me. Some people can easily throw something together while I take what seems like forever to do a single spread of pages.

I’ve wanted to start using up lots of the bits and pieces of scrap paper I’ve been accumulating over the years. I don’t consider myself a hoarder, by the way. I don’t collect or hold on to scraps or junk mail and papers intending to use them someday. I set aside pieces (magazine images, stickers, receipts, tags, etc) that I like and keep them in a small accordion file folder. When I need something random I go through my file folder and use it. My collection is pretty controlled because the fact that I have a collection of scraps seems a little crazy to me, and I want to make sure it doesn’t get out of hand.

I bought a blank little notebook for a dollar from Target and tore out a bunch of pages to thin it out. When I was ready to start collaging scraps I first used washi tape to reenforce the bind.

junk journal page 2

I tried not to over think my layouts. I mostly went with color themes when looking for pieces that would work well together. Sometimes it wasn’t about the coloring but about layers and making them work together.

junk journal page3

This spread has a theme with birds and nature.

junk journal birds

In addition to papers I used stickers and rubber stamps. I also used a few stencils.


This was a great exercise for me. I felt like there wasn’t a lot of pressure to make things look beautiful. I simply wanted to fill pages with whatever scraps I could put my hands on. I tore edges instead of cutting them exactly straight. I used a smeared stamped image instead of throwing it out. I really liked the low expectations I set for myself and how it helped me relax with this.

junk journal page 5

For the complete flip through, see my video here.