Vintage Ephemera:



MARCH, 2018
Art Materials

Artist’s Life


New Finished Artwork

The photo at right is of a page from someone’s old botany lab specimen book, dated 1919. Apparently, it will be considered antique in one more year.

Part of my collection of old books. Some of these are more than 100 years old, but most are not. I always look up the ones I’m not sure about, to see if they’re worth anything. After all, I don’t want to cut up a book that belongs on Antiques Roadshow!

Persistence is a newer piece that I haven’t shared on my website or blog before. I used a black antique book cover as the substrate, because I liked the dark background as well as the textured surface. All of the materials in this collage are vintage or antique ephemera.
Persistence, mixed media collage on vintage book cover,

7.75 x 4.5 inches

I’m often asked what I mean when I say ‘ephemera’, so I thought this might be a good opportunity to explain. It’s not a word you hear every day. Since they’re frequently listed in the ‘ingredients’ of my art, I should probably say a bit about the terms ‘antique’ and ‘vintage’ as well.
Trying to track down the definitive meanings of the terms ‘antique’ and ‘vintage’ turned out to be a lot harder than I had anticipated. The difference between them is not as cut and dried as you might think. For instance, if it’s furniture or glass, 100 years is generally accepted as the cutoff for something to be considered antique. For jewelry, 30 to 60 years old is considered vintage by some, but others say vintage means less than 25 years old. (To me, that’s new!) Confused? Me, too.

According to Antique HQ:

There is a debate over what makes an antique an antique. The definition of an antique is “An object of considerable age valued for its aesthetic or historical significance”. An antique does not become an antique until it meets the age requirement of 100 years or older. … The term vintage originally applied to bottles of wine. For example this is a 1915 vintage red wine. This term was poached and used as a general term. Vintage is now applied to anything that is less than 25 years old or have cycled back into fashion. However this is generally applied to the era of 1960 – 1979.

So there you have it. I’m not going to belabor the point any further, because in regards to my work, it really doesn’t matter. How something looks is far more important to me than how old it is.

Ephemera, on the other hand, is a pretty simple concept. As the very helpful man in the video says, it’s stuff that was meant to be thrown away after use, usually made of paper or cardboard. I like his quote from the Encyclopedia of Ephemera defining it as,”Minor transient documents of everyday life.” Of course, not everybody throws things away. Sometimes, they get put aside, stuck into a drawer somewhere, or end up in a box in the attic. Years later, someone discovers them and sells them at a garage sale or flea market. Some of those items may be collectible, and some may become part of a work of art.
Below, some examples of ephemera from my studio storage drawers. My kids call me a hoarder, but what choice does a mixed media artist have, right?
some bits and pieces from one of my vintage ephemera drawers, lying on a 1944 ledger
cards, letters, and ads from the early 1900’s
stuff from an old school binder I found at a flea market, and some stamps
old maps and cabinet card photos on an engineering drawing from 1920
Persistence contains an assortment of ephemera, including old sheet music and part of a book cover spine, as well as lace and a piece of a package that contained a part for my grandmother’s antique sewing machine. The stitching adds to the vintage mood of the piece. This collage will be available soon in my Collage and Book Arts Gallery.


  1. Hilary

    Hi Linda, There are a few different patterns going on, several of them antique. The soup cups and saucers are modern Lancaster Cobalt by Spode. The two dinner plates are antique Royal Doulton, from the 1890s. The soup plate is antique Minton. I”m going to post a blog soon, and it may help clarify. Later this week, I”ll get professional shots and post those they did a number of close ups of the tableware, so that may help, too. Thanks!

    • Sharmon Davidson

      Hi Hilary, I think you must have left your comment on my blog by mistake. I hope you’ll visit again anyway!

  2. elfi

    j’avais de la difficulté de trouver ton nouveau lien… en vacances je vais rattraper la lecture… bises

    • Sharmon Davidson

      Hi Elfi! Thanks for visiting my new blog! I hope you have a great vacation!


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