Trash into Treasure: Using Ephemera

Have you ever heard the word “ephemera” and wondered what it mean? Have you noticed that both mixed media and digital artists sometimes use seemingly random kinds of elements in their pages?

The term “ephemera” refers to everyday items – usually (but not necessarily) paper – that were never intended to be collected. Receipts, transportation tickets, invoices, movie tickets and book paper all fit into the category of “ephemera.”

Those items you might otherwise throw away can find a new life in your art. Mixed media artists and art journalers use ephemera to add “texture” or interest to backgrounds – sometimes visible, sometimes covered under layers of paint or gesso. 

 Digital  artists do the same, layering bits of ephemera with other elements to form clusters behind page focal points; to blend into backgrounds to add texture and dimension. It generally isn’t important that there words on the ephemera and the piece itself doesn’t have to relate at all to the theme of your page, journaling or layout – it’s just there as eye-candy. Of course it’s best if the colors don’t clash with the page, but adding contrasting bits of ephemera imagery or text to a page will instantly add interest.  

In my “Friends are flowers in the Garden of Life” canvas, which was a birthday gift for a friend, I used bits of advertisement and book and ledger paper. Although they are barely visible, they had a bit of life to the piece.

In ‘The Feather” – a not quite finished piece I’m doing for one of the Life Book 2015 classes, I layered decorative paper napkins (the blue and green squares you see at both the lower and upper left of the feather), book paper and torn piece from a vintage advertising card (on top of the book paper, but below the feather). The ephemera adds visual interest and creates depth –  and by painting or adding gesso on top of them they become part of the piece as a whole and don’t distract from the focal point of the piece.

Gina has a piece of a digital dictionary page on her digital “The Perfect Shot” page which uses elements from The Journey and other products.


Here are some pages created by my fabulous Creative Team using some of my products. Can you spot the ephemera?

Ephemera Products in my shop!

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  1. Su Hall

    Well, you just captured it with this one, Vicki! Who wouldn’t want to give ephemera a whirl after this? Those layouts are so cooool! LOL I love ephemera, myself. Some of the online museums have collections that are what we would call ‘ephemera’ – baseball cards, vintage greeting cards, cabinet cards, etc. This site has a registry of sorts of museums that have their collections online. – https://archive.org/ You may have to select ‘Images’ from the top menu bar.
    You have me inspired to go play! Darn you! LOL Truth be told, I already cranked up Photoshop! I was away from my pc for a few days and I am ‘Jones-ing’ to get back on PS! LOL
    Love your new ephemera! Must go shopping! I have all the dancers. I had to have them!


  2. Ann

    I enjoyed this article, Vicki, as well as the inspirational pages. 🙂

    • Vicki Robinson

      Thank you so much, Ann! And thanks for stopping by my blog – I really appreciate it!


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