Above: Page spread from an “Ephemera” journal I kept for two weeks in February 2000. Size: 16 x 10 inches; rubberstamps, paper scraps, receipts, etc. (There’s a scanning artifact at the base of the image—the spread was scanned in two segments.)
In yesterday’s post on collage I wrote about using collage in journals to create “something wholly new, abstract or concrete, which has meaning for you, even if its meaning lies only in the fun you had playing with those materials.”
But I also mentioned another aspect of journal collage: including bits of ephemera from your day. That’s what today’s post is about. In the above image I used bits of ephemera I picked up on my errands, along with scraps of decorative paper and rubber stamps, to create a map of my day.
Why? Because it was fun. Because I had just emptied my wallet and there were lots of things in it. Because we often travel all about with only short stops that don’t allow for even a quick sketch break and this is a great way to keep track of your day.
It is also a good way to keep track of the small details of your life that otherwise don’t get noted down. This collage was created in February 2000 when Dottie was still alive. One of the notes mentions that I decided, after getting gas for the car, to not go and pick up more dog food for Dottie. I had “frozen kibble.” This note reminded me how every time I opened a new bag of kibble I always froze two large freezer bags of it. I had forgotten I did this. I did it because the kibble was fresh that day and if I wasn’t able to get to the dog store I would have a grace period of a couple days as long as some frozen kibble was on hand. With only one dog we went through food more slowly than with two. And Dottie always liked fresh kibble best (who doesn’t). Those days when she got thawed fresh kibble, she was very happy indeed. Dottie has been dead now for 6.5 years and until I looked at this page spread to scan it for this post I had forgotten all about this. Sure something else could have jogged my memory, and I probably have a note about this activity in one of my written journals, casually mentioned in the course of describing my activities, but it’s good to have it here.
Suggestions on Making an “Ephemera” Map of Your Day
Prepaint the page spread with a light color of watercolor, or a light glaze of acrylic paint. A raw sienna will give a nice glow to the page without over powering other items you place on the page. A Pipestone red earthtone is also a good choice. If you are painting the day you are collaging select a color that harmonizes with your ephemera.
Instead of prepainting the page spread cover the entire spread with decorative paper as a base. In my example I used two pieces of 8 1/2 x 11 inch stationery made from recycled maps, because they supported the theme of running around from place to place, and provided a nice background texture.
Because the pieces were not large enough to cover the entire spread I glued one sheet to each page, joining them at the center, and covered the center with a strip of decorative paper and one of my pieces of ephemera. The colored paper scraps used here are bits of Hahnemühle Bugra, which is a wonderful paper for journal work. It has a laid texture and comes in a wide range of colors.
Tip on Gluing Paper to Cover a Page or Spread: start with decorative paper that is larger in all dimensions than the page or spread. For a page covering, glue out the back of the paper and position it on the page to be covered so that the edge of the decorative paper falls in the gutter or just shy of the gutter, or just over the gutter. Exact placement will depend on how wide your paper is and the look you want. I recommend that you miss the gutter on either side by at least 3/8 inch. This will make the opening and closing of your book easier. When you try to hit right at the gutter, over time the paper’s edge will start to work loose because of all the flexing at that point.
Your paper will extend past the head, tail, and fore edge of your page.
Once the paper is in place, cover with a protective sheet of waste paper or wax paper and burnish with a burnishing tool or bone folder. Leave the wax paper in place, or insert some, and close the book and weight it until the glue is dry. When dry, open the book, insert a small cutting mat or piece of mat board underneath the decorative paper where it overhangs the edge of the page (work on the reverse side so you can see the page edge) and trim with a straight edge and X-acto blade.
To cover the entire spread fold your decorative sheet in half before gluing. Apply glue, and fold unglued parts closed. Then lay the folded sheet's fold carefully in place at the gutter. Let one of the glued flaps fall gently on the page as you smooth out from the gutter across the page while burnishing into place. Then smooth the other glued flap of paper up onto the other page as you keep the book half way closed, by holding one end of the book up. This allows you to get the fold of the decorative paper into the gutter and smoothed out while avoiding creases or and unadhered stretch across the gutter.
Remember that all paper will stretch a bit when glue is applied. Some will stretch a lot. Work quickly, but methodically to avoid gluing the paper where you don't want it, or creating creases. Using a ruler that is taller than your book, and smoothing the page down from the gutter to the fore edge with the ruler's edge may prove helpful. Let dry, weighted, and trim as indicated before.
If you would like to see this process you can view my video on supporting glue seams in a case bound book, as I go through the process of gluing in a strip of paper (not a whole sheet but you can extrapolate) and you can see how I hold the book half closed.
When you background is ready arrange your ephemera the way you wish to present it. I was starting and ending at the same destination so I organized my materials in a circular arrangement.
Decide whether you are going to use other elements such as stamps or stickers or collaged text and get those items ready, and consider placement before gluing your ephemera in place.
Then glue everything in place, add your stamps as needed, close and weight the book until the glue is dry, and then write or stamp your notes as needed.
I use the purple Uhu Glue Stick for adhering background papers covering entire spreads, and for the collage layers. It doesn't smell, leaves no lingering smell when dry, and adheres just about everything, especially when you take time to burnish in place, and weight until dry.
You can make an entire travel journal this way, working through an accordion book, or simply from page spread to page spread in a casebound book. You can take time to incorporate your sketches. If carrying the book as you tour a new location is too cumbersome, leave it in your car or hotel room and work in a small sketchbook with removable pages. Collage these with other ephemera at night when you return to your hotel room.
You can see an example of a travel journal I made using journal cards in this way here. I prepainted and pasted decorative papers (on some) cards and then during the day, while traveling I sketched on archival drawing paper in a portable pad, made rubbings using small squares of lightweight paper brought specifically for rubbings, and collected ephemera.
Document a process—the painting of a picture, the making of a quilt, etc., with the same approach, gathering and keeping ephemera such as swatch tests and thumbnail sketches. It’s great fun to see your creative process unfold from the beginning of an idea to its final execution.
Create a journal simply for the ephemera in your life. The spread pictured above came from such a journal. Each page in that journal deals with ephemera tossed up in those two weeks in February. Several page spreads deal with materials taken down off my bulletin boards and saved in my journal. Those pages are particularly interesting to me because they show a snapshot of an otherwise constantly evolving part of my life. (And the journal allowed me to let go of those things and start new creations on those bulletin boards.)
What does the ephemera in your life tell you about yourself, your lifestyle, your needs, your wants, your indulgences, your kindnesses, your style and taste at this moment in your life? You won’t know unless you save some of it for later consideration.
A Word on Rubber Stamp Inks
This spread has black and red rubber stamp inks on it. At the time (2000) I used Ranger's Archival line of inks. Within 3 months the images I had stamped with this ink had bled through the papers they were stamped on. It didn't matter what type of paper—any paper, from heavyweight printmaking paper like Rives BFK to 90 lb. bristol type pages. I stopped using that ink at that time and eventually found Brilliance Inks which originally came in a metallic range but now have additional colors. They always had Graphite Black, which is the richest, darkest, black I've ever used. Also it doesn't have any SMELL or involve solvents. (Remember I can't tolerate smells that are either floral or chemical and many pads have one or the other.)
If you are looking for a versatile black ink I wholeheartedly recommend this brand. It also dries quickly. Once it is dry I find I can wash watercolor over it without any problem.