I have caught the Ephemera bug! No it's not some tropical disease but a passion for collecting old printed or written material.
Ephemera is defined as items designed to be useful or important for only a short time, for example pamphlets, notices, coupons, tickets etc. The irony that these items were never meant to be retained or preserved but are now eagerly sought after by collectors is not lost on me!
Taken for granted in their time, worthy of only a fleeting (if any) appreciation, each of these 'throw away' items is now a fascinating little slice of history and design. I wonder, if in years to come, people will collect our computer generated tickets, receipts and other printed papers with the same fervour?
So where do you go to start collecting ephemera? There is, of course, eBay which is a great source of ephemera but nothing beats the thrill of rummaging through odd and ends at the sharp end of a car boot sale or an antique & collectors' fair. There are even fairs that specialise in ephemera and it was at one such fair that, amongst cardboard boxes overflowing with loose scraps of prints, maps, pages from old books, leaflets and adverts, I came across a stash of old medicine bottle labels.
They were all curled up and stuck together, faded to the mellow colour of old parchment, but I fell in love with the wonderful array of vintage lettering and promises of cures from potions of days gone by.
The stall holder was selling them in batches but after a bit of haggling we agreed on the price for the whole lot. I had no idea what I was going to do with them!
They sat in my studio for a good few months until one day, and I can't remember what triggered the thought, but the idea for this print was borne. Ask any dog lover and they will tell you how good their dog makes them feel. Whether we are feeling sad, grumpy, irritable or under the weather, somehow dogs have the ability to make us feel better about life. My dog, Figo, can immediately smooth over any family rift - at the first sign of raised voices he comes rushing over wagging his tail and never fails to get us all smiling again.
The first task was to sort out all the labels and try to seperate them into useable batches. I put each type of label into a clear cellophane bag. Then I set about creating a collage of the labels for the background of the print.
I could have created a collage and then had it reproduced digitally (it certainly would have saved hours of sorting, arranging and glueing) but I wanted each print to be unique, so I make a new collage for every print. I wasn't sure how many labels I had or how many prints I was going to be able to make but I estimated that I would be able to make an edition of a maximum of 100.
I then cut lino plate for the lettering and another plate for the dog. These would be used to hand-print the phrase and dog on top of the finished collage. I picked red and black inks to complement the colours of the text on the old labels. The linseed oil based ink is translucent so it's possible to see the labels through the printed letters.
This print is one of my favourites! It is often bought as a gift for a vet or medical professional, but mostly people just love it because it reminds them of a dog's gift to make us feel better, whatever our situation.