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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

 

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.

 

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.

 

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

 

envelope journal - cover

I’ve broken a personal record for the amount of time it took me to make a little journal: almost no time at all.

No sewing, no stitching, nothing complicated. It’s just envelopes, washi tape, and decorative embellishments.

envelope journal pages 1

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envelope journal pages 3

envelope journal pages 4

envelope journal pages 5

envelope journal pages 6
I’ve been admiring these little journals made from junk-mail envelopes for some time. Of course I’m not the first; not even the second. Shannon Green made a really elaborate one with lots of doodling and drawing. Hopefully I’ll fill this one up similarly!

Here’s my flip through:

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.

 

cover us stamps jj

In addition to all the wonderful postage stamps I got from the SJ Stamp Club, I also got a few old stamp catalogs that I’ve been thinking about what to do with. As I started going through the US stamps in my collection, I had the idea that I could make some collage art using the stamps. When I was looking at the individual pages of the stamp catalog I realized I had several of the stamps on hand and that’s where the idea of the journal came from.

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The catalog is from 1947. It’s a bit fragile so when I took out the staples that held the pages together, I realized I’d have to reinforce the creases on the pages with washi tape.

washi tape crease

I made the cover of the journal using the original pamphlet covers that I glued on to cardboard and then covered with tissue paper. I used tea dye distress ink over the top and then covered it with a coat of varnish.

The journal pages are a mix of catalog pages and blank tea-dyed paper. I’ve started making collages on blank pages where there is a facing catalog page.

stamp collage 1

stamp collage 2

stamp collage 3

I also added some pockets for unused vintage envelopes.

pocket page

I’ve got a lot of stamps that I still plan to collage. It’s a nice task to look forward to.

additional stamps

And here’s the youtube video:

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:

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This is the second booklet with the painting and stamping:

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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:

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.

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.

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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.

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