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How to Find Ephemera for your Mixed Media Art

Updated on January 4, 2013


Ephemera is often prescribes to use in many mixed media art projects, whether it's straight collage or a mixed media painting where collage is used to some degree to create an interesting background. When you are starting out with mixed media art you may be wondering what all the fuss is about this ephemera, so here ail will look at what ephemera is, where we can find it and what we can do with it.

What is Ephemera?

According to Wikipedia, ephemera is any written or printed matter not meant to be retained or preserved and this is close to the mixed media art definition as well. In mixed media terminology, we define ephemera as the bits and pieces of papers, pages from books, sheet music, photographs, tickets, brochures, dress patterns, newspapers, envelopes, postcards, swap cards, wrapping paper, greeting cards, postage stamps, playing cards and any copies of these items. The desirable ephemera for mixed media also needs to be vintage or retro to make our artwork interesting.

Where we can find ephemera?

Starting your mixed media ephemera collection is easily because, as you can see from the definition of mixed media ephemera, it is every day items that are all around you. As you come across these bits an pieces you begin to build up your collection. You can search for older and more interesting items in your family's collection of old photos. Yard sales, thrift stores and antique stores can also be treasure troves for many mixed media items. Second hand books can be found at your local library's book sale, or at the church fete or thrift store.

For the mixed media artist, there are many online sources of ephemera, both the real, vintage items and copies of these items, either printers our or available for digital download, so you can print them yourself. Some websites offer free images and printables, others sell their items. With digital images, you need to familiarise yourself with file sizes and resolutions to understand how clearly ephemera copies will print. Printer and paper choices will also affect the final quality of the printed items.

The key to finding these ephemera items is to be mindful of what you want to use them for. We don't want to pay too much for items we are going to turn into a collage or other art form. If the item is valuable, them we can make copies of it rather that using original pieces in our work. In the mixed media art community there is an ongoing debate about using original items of ephemera in artwork or using copies. There are no right or wrong answers; it is an artists preference. However, the consensus is that we would never use the original of a historically valuable item or pull part a valuable book

How do I store my ephemera?

Storing your items of mixed media ephemera quickly becomes a problem as your collection grows. As these items are mostly paper, we need to store them in a dry, insect free location and keep them flat. Expanding files, display books or document envelopes all offer cheap solutions that can assist you in grouping like ephemera and labelling it so you can easily find what yo are looking for at a later date. Consider how your collection may grow and start with a storage system that can expand as your collection grows.

What we can do with ephemera?

Including ephemera into your artwork is the fun part and there are many techniques you can use, You can use your ephemera items as part of a collage background to create interest or feature part of it. You man then paint over this background, letting only a vague shadow of the originals show through. An assemblage may feature a photograph or part of an interesting document in an item to put on display. The opportunities to use ephemera in your mixed media artwork is limitless, so get creating.

In Conclusion

Now you have an idea of what mixed media ephemera is, where you can begin your collection and how to store it. Once you have a collection, don't be afraid to use it. It's original intention was that is was not meant to be retained anyway, so we are presenting these items as part of our mixed media art.


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