I am not sure what I am more jealous of - Michelle's incredible Dennison label collection or her impressive art journaling skills. Michelle from Hold Dear has built a remarkable ephemera collection by raiding thrift stores and estate sales throughout Oregon. She puts these old papers to work in her art journals layered with tags and tickets, labels and tape, book pages and paper scraps. All of her art journaling is finished off with her gorgeous hand lettering. Michelle took some time to share her favorite work, best ephemera find, and tips on searching for your own papers.
Please introduce yourself and your blog / shop.
Hello there, I am Michelle Geller, shopkeeper at Hold Dear and occasional blogger at http://michellegeller.typepad.com/. I am also on Instagram as holddear. I work full-time at an insurance company as a Technical Writer and and I live in Beaverton, Oregon. I have been married to a really great guy for almost 30 years and we have a 27 year old daughter who is one of the most intelligent and compassionate people I know. She inspires me constantly. We also have two cozy cats that I am crazy about. I have dabbled in a wide variety of arts and crafts and am a collector many things. However, these past few years I have honed in on journal making as my primary crafty love and have discovered that vintage paper - the old, crusty and smelly kind - is my favorite thing to collect.
You often share pages from your gorgeous art journals on your blog and Instagram. I have to admit I find your style of art journaling to be a little intimidating with so many beautiful layers and elements. What is the process like? How do you start - with a certain theme or particular supplies? Do you finish a page all at once, or come back and add to it over time?
When you get right down to it, my style of journaling is really painting with paper. I primarily use old paper, ephemera and scrapbooking paper to create layers. I love my journals to have that multi-layered, mismatched, scrappy, and chunky look. Having said that, each individual page is usually be color coordinated with a balance to its composition. The color of a page is defined by the first piece of paper, or ticket, or label, or postcard, etc., that I pick up from my pile of paper scraps. I like to challenge myself that way and sometimes I feel like I’m playing “Iron Journaler!” I have found that creating backgrounds and writing come from two different frames of mind so I generally create the background on several pages at one sitting and will pick it up later to do the writing and lettering. When I write, I clear my desk and just have my pens out. I tend to be very messy while I’m journaling and by clearing the clutter off of my desk before I write helps me focus.
Do you have a favorite project you've created?
So far my all-time favorite project is a journal I made as a souvenir of when my older sister visited me in July, 2011. I was thrilled to have time with her and I wanted document her visit and the memories we made. I used an old autograph book as the covers and made pages from random papers, pamphlets and packaging I picked up during her visit.
In addition to this journal, I will also always have a current favorite. This changes frequently because it is usually the most recent journal I have finished. Right now, my favorite journal is one I made to document an art retreat I attended this past October called Handmade U. This retreat is hosted Rachel McGough and is held in Omaha, Nebraska.
Your art journals are filled with all kinds of vintage ephemera that you find on your thrift store and flea market adventures. Are there certain types of vintage papers you're always on the hunt for? Ever made any amazing discoveries when out and about?
Any time I go out to thrift stores, antique malls, flea markets or antique shows, the number one thing I am always on the hunt for are Dennison labels. Everything else is a consolation (smile). Don't get me wrong I LOVE uncovering just about all kinds of old receipts, invoices, tickets, non-Dennison labels, stickers, etc. (I call these “smalls”); however, it's those red-bordered lovelies that truly make me happy. I think it may be a holdover from my childhood...my sister and I used to play "big office" and so I have a very special place in my heart for old office supplies.
I get out junk hunting frequently and have had a few finds that I would categorize as amazing. My best discovery and best story hands down is when I found a very full box of tiny Dennison labels at an estate sale while I was with my daughter. The labels were in a package with three other little boxes of random office supplies. The box of labels was packed face down and so I thought I was buying a box of Dennison hole reinforcements (that was the ad on the back of the box). When we got to the car, I wanted to see the contents of each box because I was anxious to see what I was getting for the $1.50 I paid for all four boxes. When I opened the package and realized the true contents of that little box, I gasped so loud that my daughter thought that there was a dead mouse in the box! I carried that little box with me the rest of that day, peeking at it often and occasionally sliding it open to gaze at the contents. It was an amazing find and having my daughter with me to witness my goofiness was priceless.
Any tips for those looking to build their own vintage paper collections?
I frequently get asked the question, "How do you find this stuff?" My answer is I go shopping often! I live in the Portland, Oregon area and have several "tours" that I've devised that take me to some awesome Goodwills, thrift stores, independent antique stores and antique malls. I also occasionally go to estate sales and flea markets. Most of these shops put stuff out every day which is why I try to go often. Also, check to see if there is a university or college in your area and if there is a rebuilding center in your area such as Habitat for Humanity. These types of repurposing stores are starting to pop up more and more and you just never know when vintage paper will show up there.
When I buy vintage paper, the main criteria is it has to be cheap. I tear things up and so there are very few things I buy at collector prices. When I go to a small shop, I enjoy talking with the shopkeeper. I'll ask if they have old paper and/or specifically ask if they old tickets, receipts, Dennison labels, etc. I recently shared with a shopkeeper that I made journals with vintage papers and ephemera. She was a lover of old paper herself and so she brought out a large box of unsorted papers she had recently acquired and allowed me to go through it before she did. What? I pulled out some super cool, unique ephemera and random bits, paid a fair price and a relationship was formed!