Another successful trip to the flea market means one thing: new free ephemera downloads! For September, we’ve got some awesome vintage images for you that you can print today and use in all of your mixed-media artwork. I’ve also cooked up a few projects for some inspiration, so let’s get started.
These detailed images are absolutely stunning, and celebrate Victorian femininity at its best. Some of the illustrations are of the fashions of the day. There’s also a lovely portrait in cobalt blue, plus a chatelaine. I was so excited when I found these at the Brimfield Antique Market recently, and I couldn’t wait to get them scanned and ready for you. All this was done with the expert help of talented Interweave production designer Janice Tapia.
Mixed-Media Projects Using Free Ephemera Downloads
What I love most about these images is that they transcend time. Yes, they are of a specific era, but in an artist’s hands, they can be anything. Two out of three of the projects below have a definite contemporary look. Give them a try—they could shake up your mixed-media artwork in ways you never thought possible.
1. Monoprint Collage
Starting with gel plate monoprints is never a bad idea, and I thought they would make great backgrounds for these ephemera images. I brayered a few light analogous colors onto a gel plate, stamped some designs, and pulled prints on lightweight cotton rag paper. When the monoprints were dry, I desaturated one of the images until it was black and white, and printed it over one of the monoprints. This worked fine in my printer, but models vary, so make sure this is something your machine can handle.
I love that image on the right as is, but we mixed-media artists can’t leave well enough alone. Starting with another similar print, I stamped some flowers and French text, created stencil motifs with white acrylic paint, added some white ink drips, and punched a few flags out of book pages. The flags were machine stitched to the edge of the paper. The ephemera image still stands out, but the techniques definitely give this piece a modern style.
2. Fabric Collage
Printing ephemera images on fabric is a great way to get even more use out of the designs. I have a plain denim tote bag that was in need of some embellishment. So I sized and printed the blue portrait onto a cotton inkjet fabric sheet and trimmed it with a rotary cutter along the borders. That focal image was auditioned with some kantha quilt and vintage quilt scraps until I decided on an arrangement. The pieces were attached to each other using Mistyfuse fusible webbing. You can skip this step if you like, but I like elements to be stable before I sew them.
Then it was off to the sewing machine. I stitched the hexagons first, then the portrait, then the kantha piece, using a straight stitch. I also added beads and sequins to the corners, stitching them by hand. In this collage, the portrait looks timeless with a modern edge.
3. Handmade Book
You knew a book was going to be in the mix, didn’t you? Glad I didn’t disappoint. This project came about because I wanted to see how the images would print on found papers, including ledger and music sheets. Since my ledger paper was smaller than 8-1/2″ x 11″ I glued it to a piece of copy paper with repositionable glue. The paper acted as a carrier sheet, and it printed beautifully!
I decided to use this image for the cover of a small handmade book and glued it over lightweight chipboard. For the spine, I made my own fabric washi tape by pressing the sticky side of heavy-duty carpet tape to the wrong side of a piece of cotton fabric.
After trimming the fabric to the edges of the tape, I removed the tape’s backing and adhered it to the covers, leaving a 1/2″ gap. For the back cover, I printed another of the images onto vintage sheet music.
For the inside pages, I gathered some ledger paper and more sheet music. I cut a piece of bookcloth the height of the pages and the width of the fabric tape. The book cloth was folded in half lengthwise and sewn along with the pages, using a five-hole pamphlet stitch (you can find complete instructions in this blog post). The entire piece was glued to the inside of the book.
Decorative paper (I used wallpaper scraps) was glued to the inside covers.
I added a stamped label and a vintage postage stamp to the cover, and my book was ready to go.
So even if vintage isn’t your thing, I urge you to incorporate these images in your mixed-media art projects. You never know what’s going to spark some great new ideas. Happy downloading!