Embracing the Joy of Ephemera

JRS Fall Ephemera Friday

It’s busy in the studio! We are in production mode for the #first100 print copies of the Studio Yearbook. This is always a lively and chaotic time. The kitchen table is covered with lists and labels and envelopes and ephemera. It’s a collective effort, as my sisters, Shannon and Suzie, help with putting it all together. We have a tradition called “Ephemera Friday” where we fill Shannon’s handmade envelopes with treasures we’ve been collecting for the season, primarily images from books and magazines.

Ephemera is a wonderful addition to any journaling practice. Gluing in an image, a memento, some words or paper scraps can add a moment of visual interest, inspiration to draw on and a connection to the present. It doesn’t have to be precious, fancy or fussy – and it doesn’t have to take a lot of time.

  • ​Cut out that pretty picture from a real estate flyer.
  • Save a piece of the blue pattern on the inside of an envelope.
  • Give gift wrap a new purpose.
  • Glue in your movie ticket or bus transfer.
  • Keep that golden metallic paper from your chocolate bar.
  • Use that sticker from your piece of fruit!

If you discover you enjoy gathering and using this kind of ephemera in your journal practice (or in your art, for that matter), you can start to invest a little more time and energy:

  • ​Cut out images from magazines.
  • Go treasure-hunting for old books. (Check your library. We have a great used book store at the library in Toronto.)
  • Check out yard sales or vintage shops for all sorts of paper materials – maps, music books, postcards.
  • Look for free printables and collage sheets online.
  • Purchase bundles of ephemera from online sellers.(It is particularly fun to get ephemera from different parts of the world!)

Create a ‘stash’ of interesting materials that you love and that you’ve enjoyed gathering – and then ​use them!​ Don’t let them gather dust as you keep gathering more and more and more. Add one or two or five to your journal every day. Create a card for a friend and send it. Start collaging or art journaling. Experiment with mixed media. Put a favourite in your wallet or daytimer to bring some joy whenever you open it. (I kept a badger in my wallet for years!) 

If your stash starts to get out of control (which can happen easily) have fun putting those papers in a glue book! A glue book (or I sometimes call it a picture book) is simply a book that you glue things into – whatever you like! It’s a fun and relaxing creative activity which leaves you with a visual journal that you can continue to enjoy. You can see one of mine here. With all the ephemera floating around our place, I’m thinking of starting a new one!

Gathering papers and images is something I’ve been doing just about my entire life.  When I was a teenager I kept things like concert tickets, restaurant matchbook covers and newspaper movie ads. For years I kept style inspiration journals, where I pulled together images of the colours, silhouettes and fashions I loved. For over 20 years I’ve created dreamboards full of inspiring images that help guide me on my journey. Now, I put at least one image into my Studio Yearbook every day.

The most important part of each of these processes has been the way that the gathering, curating and creating has helped me know myself and my preferences more and more and more. Whether I was a teenager finding my way, a woman finding my style or an entrepreneur finding my brand, engaging with the visual ephemera of everyday life has been both a delight and a guide.

Amazing what little snippets of paper can do!

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