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Paper Trail

Posted on July 23, 2014 by Justine | 1 comment

I feel very lucky to collect vintage paper as part of running Hector & Haddock. People often donate things to me- something I didn't expect, but something I completely understand and welcome. Although people do want to keep certain paper pieces to form a memory paper trail, they can't quite keep it all, but they also don't want to throw precious items away- it feels too final. It makes sense I suppose, to pass these precious items on to someone who will use them in some way:  Everything I make is either created from vintage paper, or I use vintage printed paper designs as the inspiration for new linocut, letterpress and screen print pieces.  My eyes light up when someone approaches me with a carrier bag or box of paper: I see it as absolute inspiration and treasure. Like a small child leaving the best till last, I often postpone opening the bag or box until late at night, when everyone is asleep, and I am in my studio- and I carefully go through each piece, reading the text, reading the personal messages often scrawled on theatre programmes and dinner menus, and quietly admiring the graphics of bygone years.

It’s quite an earnest moment, as I am also always aware that I am going through someone’s life and memories, and I sort of feel that I have to acknowledge the life that has gone before. I will never know these people, but here, in my house, in my hands, I have their Wedding Telegrams, their diaries, their receipts for first teddy bears, and so much more. We forget that people of a certain age never, ever threw anything away. They believed in the value of things, and probably could remember a time when there wasn’t much to go around. Keeping things was a way of ensuring continuity: we are what we have, in some respects. I am grateful for the hoarding of a generation, as I believe in the beauty of the everyday paper that surrounded them. I know that a first edition book is beautiful, and valuable, as is an important oil painting of its time: but for me, an original wedding telegram or a printed invitation, an opera ticket stub or butcher’s receipt are as important as anything of traditionally accepted value.

I have always been drawn to the everyday: my Printers' Tray on my bedroom wall when I was a girl was always filled with paper mementoes, misshapen stones, bottle tops and anything of sentimental value that could possibly fit in the tiny boxes. My mother thankfully was the same. She kept all of my First Birthday cards, all of my “News” books from Primary School, and for this I am so grateful, as it provides a link back to who I was, and more importantly, because my mother died when I was 13, these kept items are a link back to her. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t hoard very single piece of paper that comes my way: rather I don’t immediately relegate everything to the recycling. I package up the significant certificates, drawings, letters, cards, and notes and store them safely away, in marked boxes. And, if in many years to come, my son decides they are not worth keeping, then so be it. I somehow doubt it though: he has already, at the age of 5, requested to go through his “baby drawings”, and he laughs in disbelief at the mess on the paper, and smiles inwardly to himself, quietly acknowledging the progress & change that have taken place within him.

These are some of the thousands of items I’ve received over the years: I thought you’d like to see them. I’ve also included the front page of a book I won at a prize giving years ago- for “Neatness and Writing”. Things don’t change much.

 

 Gorgeous collection of Driving licences, Highway Codes and Tickets

Wedding Telegram, 1968

 

More Transport and Ticket Ephemera: I love the top two!

Always a Paper Freak...

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Comments

  • Deborah Reakes

    I love these little pieces of social history – I think it’s great that you collect things like this. There’s a second hand shop near me and recently they had a huge album of 50s and 60s greetings cards that someone had lovingly collected. It was amazing – I would have loved to buy it but, with 4 children I’m already swamped with my own collection of family mementos, I shouldn’t really take on someone else’s :)

 

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