Monday, June 15, 2009

I SWEAR this book followed me home.

About a year or so ago Mrs. Hughes and I went to a new antique shop in Nolensville, Tennessee. It's in an old cinder block church building on a hill. I think it's called Hill Top Antiques. While rummaging through the rooms I came across this Pro-Prohibition tome from the turn of the century.

"The Curse of Drink, or, STORIES OF HELL'S COMMERCE."

The book cover and title alone where enough to make me want it. But when I flipped through the pages I saw this AWESOME illustration that I thought would make a great poster. At least I thought I saw it. I flipped to where the prices usually are on books in antique stores, on the top
right of the first blank page in pencil, and was wowed to find a price of $2.00 SOLD.

I went to check out and when the clerk saw the price he became sure that the book dealer who's booth I pulled it from didn't intend to sell it for $2.00 but that was probably what HE paid for it. So I asked him to call the guy to get the price, nicely, he was out of town. So, I left my name and number and asked him to call me with the price, which he did about a week later. $15.00 which was fine with me. For some reason however I never got back to get it. When we finally went back through the shops in Nolensville about six months later I searched for it but couldn't find it, and assumed it had been sold.

SO yesterday Mrs. Hughes and I are back in Nolensville and we go to Hill Top. Two minutes in the door and the book turns up sitting right in front of me. Without looking through it again I've got it in my hand headed for the checkout. Again it wasn't marked, but I was in luck as the dealer on duty for the day was the book dealer. He remembered giving me a $15 price on it from a year ago. I asked him if it had been in the shop the whole time and he said he had actually taken it back and forth from home a few times looking at it and had only recently brought it back.

Now it was just as easy as paying for the thing. Then of course Mrs. Hughes and I remembered that the place only takes cash, and we didn't have a dollar between us. I asked the dealer to hold the book and that we would be right back. We made a quick run up the street to an ATM not associated with our bank where we were promptly charged a $3 convenience fee to take out $20.00, DO WHAT? Did it anyway. I ran back in the shop and paid, got the thing home and was looking through it last night and there is NO TRACE of the illustration that I wanted to blow up as a poster. DAMN.

In my head there is an image of the illustration. It's done in pen and ink and it depicts a snaking line of men raising beer mugs and shot glasses going from saloon to saloon in perspective. So in the back the line is small and far away, and then towards the front they are larger, oh, and, they are falling into a big pit in the ground with a sign next to it that says HELL.

Apparently I spent a year in my head collaging five different illustrations, plus the cover, together to form this perfect image of an awesome poster that would look fantastic over someone's home bar. That's what being creative will get you.

So was it all in vain? I'm going to say no. Now that I've flipped through this thing 20 times, I even checked the page numbers to make sure the mythical illustration wasn't ripped out, I've decided that I am just going to start scanning in all of the different parts and then I'm going to collage them together in Photoshop and just see what I get. It may turn into total crap but at least I will finally get to see it on paper the way it all combined in my head.

I will post a blog about the finished product, unless it doesn't go well, in which case you will
never hear about it again.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Vintage Ephemera Wall Art

I’m at it again with the paper and books. I’ve got so many old ones lying around that I’m constantly trying to come up with new things to do with them. This time around I’ve used several old book covers as “frames” to hold old postcards as well as “collections” of clipped etchings from old encyclopedias and the like. Flipping through an old encyclopedia it occurred to me that it might be fun to group like etchings together. So I’ve done that with birds, insects, sea animals, etc… What emerges is a piece of art that seems to be an educational aid like you would find hanging in an old school house.

I’ve also used some great old postcards. I really like to come across the antique postcard books that are from a specific area, Italy is always fun, so is France. I found a set of 24 in a booklet from Versailles a while back and have used some of those for these items. There is even one of the Eiffel Tower.

The construction on these is pretty simple. It boils down to ripping the covers and backs off of old unused books. Personally I like using the good and abused books for this. The wear and tear on them adds great character as do the ink and water stains that appear on several of them. I like to layer them to give it more of a frame and matt kind of look. I just use wood glue to hold those together, I also use it to stick the postcard in place. If I’m doing a menagerie of etchings I like to use good ol’ Mod Podge.

Once I have them all glued together I like using the ends of old flatware bent into a “U” shape has clamps for the tops. I then run strips of fabric trimmings through them to use as a hanger. These look great on a wall or hanging off of a door knob. I would guess you could easily make them into OPEN and CLOSED signs for shops to hang in the window.

Please email me at if you have an interest in purchasing one of these. I can let you know what themes I have available and the sizes. I can also do custom hangings, all I need is a theme and size requirement.

Vintage Ephemera Notebooklets

Paper, paper, paper. My “office” AKA the place I keep my paper, is over run with old catalogs, encyclopedias and the like. Mrs. Hughes is to the point of barely tolerating my paper pack ratting. While flipping TV tonight, real men don’t watch they flip, I paused for about 3 minutes on a show about hoarders. People with such a compulsion for obtaining things that they will drive down the street ahead of the garbage truck and pluck out “finds.” It made me think of all of the time I’ve spent digging through boxes and shelves at little antique stores looking for a cheap book with a leather cover that I can rip apart and make into, yes, another book.

And so it goes, I’ve got old paper that’s not good for much unless it’s remade into something else. The encyclopedias are awesome to flip through as they are filled with etchings, but most of the information can be found with a few clicks online. Not to mention that the books themselves have seen better days, usually they are falling apart by the time I find them. So sitting and looking through my pile one day I started to notice that there were a lot of blank pieces of paper in them. At the front of the book were a few blank pages, then at the back, then the etchings where blank on the back. So I started ripping them out with the idea of creating little notebooks made from what I call “blanks.” I used the covers off of old books as well as the cover for my notebooklets as I call them. They are bound with post screws, which allows for them to be filled with more paper once you start to run low. The covers are hinged to make them easy to open. I’ve hinged them in several different ways but my favorites are black ribbon or the little twist ties that come with garbage bags. Finally a use for those things.

Below are a few samples of my notebooklets, they average about 3 inches wide by 4 inches tall and contain around 35-50 blank pages. They are small enough to fit into most purses. I hope to have these in a few shops around town soon, Scarlett over at Scarlett Scales Antiques,, has expressed some interest in carrying them. I’ve got a pile of them on the window sill waiting to be finished up. My thought on it is, I might not make much on them but at least I will get some of this paper out of here. Which will make Mrs. Hughes happy, and that’s really what it’s all about.

If you would like to buy one of my notebooklets drop me a line at I’m still working on the website but we can do it through email. They run $20 each and include the shipping within the United States. I take PayPal or good old fashioned checks through the mail. Please also contact me if you have a shop and want to carry anything you see on my blog.
I’ve got to get some of this stuff out of the garage!