“Ephemera” is a word used to describe items of collected memorabilia, typically written or printed ones that were originally expected to have only short term usefulness.  We all have ephemera around the house.  Those old birthday cards, valentines, letters, calendars with pretty pictures are all ephemera.  I love to use these items to make a decorating statement in my home or to make gifts for family members.

For years I carried this old diploma around in a trunk and then in a tupperware container.  It belonged to my great grandfather and is a Commission of Pharmacy for the state of Iowa for William S. Shaw.  I found it in my grandmother’s attic after she passed and decided that I should keep it.  William S. Shaw worked hard to get it and he should be remembered.  The date is August 14, 1891.  As I type this it is August 14, 2012.  So, 121 years after it was issued, I am posting a picture of it on my blog!  I saw an article in Better Homes and Gardens a few months back.  They were encouraging people to display old diplomas. I thought, “Why not?”  So, here it is resting on my book shelf in the family room.

Another of the decorating magazines showed pictures of pages torn from old books and the pages were used as the background for other printed pictures.  I had some black and white pages of pen and ink drawings of flowers and wanted to frame them, but they were too large for some pre-cut mats and too small for others.  When I added the book pages, the negative space was filled and the result was really nice.  I don’t feel badly about tearing the pages from this book.  Contemporary Social Problems is an old college text book that would most likely be thrown away.

Here is a photo showing what these matted pen and ink drawings look like when they are hung on the wall.  You can find books of themed pen and ink prints at craft and hobby stores and book stores.  I happen to love flowers and sea shells, so I used the flower prints.  If you don’t want to frame the original, just put it on your copy machine and frame the print.

One of my favorite stores, Restoration Hardware, featured rolled book pages that had been almost carelessy placed in pots, vases, etc.  So, I took some more pages from good old Contemporary Social Problems, and used a small piece of scotch tape to secure the edges after rolling.  I like them in this piece of pottery on my book shelf.  I think that Restoration Hardware tied a small piece of twine around their pages.  That is much more attractive, but I was in my usual hurry.

Here is another idea for book pages from Stylemepretty.com.  I have lots of pages left in the textbook, and I plan to use them like this one day as a table runner.



Another document that I found when going through the papers at the family homeplace was a recommendation that was written for my grandmother.  She was a teacher and her Board of Education was giving her a recommendation for another job.  She arrived in Moulton, Iowa and met my grandfather and they were married.  This is maybe a pivotal piece of ephemera in my life!  It is dated April 2, 1901 and among other complimentary things it says, “…has taught the seventh grade in our schools the past four years with imminent success.  Her methods of teaching are modern, government most excellent…her social qualities are of a high order and moral character stainless…”  I’m sorry that I did not get to know her.  I have this letter framed because the paper is very brittle.

My maternal grandmother learned to do the Palmer Method with pen and ink.  Her hadwriting was just beautiful.  I always loved a high school science notebook that she had made around 1913.  I have displayed it in a case with sea shells.  Another idea is to photocopy the pages of an old notebook and then use it as wrapping paper for a small gift.  Possibilities are endless. I have to wonder why schools are no longer teaching cursive?  Such a terrible shame!

My father wrote 185+ letters home when he was in WWII.  The first ones were written from Camp Shelby Mississippi and the last ones were written from France. The originals had rested in a shoe box under my bed while I was growing up.  After he passed, I transcribed them on the computer and added photos he had taken so that our girls would know what their grandfather was doing when he was their age.  I gave a copy or the spiral bound book to them that Christmas.

After I had published my father’s letters, I thought that I should publish my mother’s beautiful drawings.   She should have been a commercial artist, but she became a secretary and then a wife and mother.  Her favorite subject matter was to look at movie magazines and then draw the movie stars.  I made a book for each daughter and one for my sister.

Here are just a few of the many pages from the binder. 

I can remember when she drew the next example.  I was a little girl and home sick with a cold.  I begged her to draw a picture for me and she did this one.  I think that it was the last one she did.  If you have a talent like this, don’t stop…you may be busy, but make time to create.

After our youngest daughter received her book, she had some of the images made into notecards and gave them to me s a gift.  You could make great notecards from your child’s drawings, old family photos, etc.

Manilla tags are fun for making collages. A few years ago in Victoria magazine there was an artist featured by the name of Sarah Lugg. It is great fun to make collages in her style.  My friend and I called ourselves the “Luggalikes,” one summer as we spread paper and objects all over the ping pong table and made one collage after another. On this one,  I added a few of the stamps from 1892, some shells, some twine.  Glue your work to a piece of paper and then to a piece of mat board.  You can get the mat board from your local frame shop.Sarah always added a small hang tag that gave the scientific name or common name of the object on the manilla tag.  Make a collage of things you found on your last fun trip or use some pieces of lace, old family photos.  Just be creative.

And the last idea may be just the most simple.  However, I think that it is pure genius. My dear friend sent me a valentine this year.  But, it was not just any valentine.  She made a photo copy of one that had been sent to her in the 1950’s.  Then, she folded the left edge of the photo copy and cut around the image to make a reproduction of the card.  I loved receiving it….so simple and so creative.  You could do the same with old Christmas cards, your child’s drawings.

I hope that I have given you some inspiration to organize the ephemera that you may have and to display it or to make it into a gift for a loved one!  Create and be happy!