Surrealist Scrapbooking
July 27, 2007 7:56 PM   Subscribe

I am making a scrapbook for a friend of mine. The challenge? Neither one of us is the type to groove on the tacky "Precious Moments" aesthetic of most scrapbooking materials available. What's an aging goth to do?

I am looking for craft and scrapbooking materials and ideas that are more Dark Victorian, Weimer-esque, Art Nouveau, and antique-y than "cute n' country". My idea is to make something that looks like an antique Dadaist/Surrealist art book out of the photos I have. I have scoured the internet, local second hand stores and craft shops for months, with little success. My stock of "found" items is limited at the moment and mostly too contemporary for my needs. Any suggestions for where I can get cool materials online or in the Seattle area would be appreciated. Thanks!
posted by evilcupcakes to Media & Arts (23 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Don't be boxed in by the pre-packaged scrapbooking materials out there (which do seem to trend toward the cutesy). Just buy more "raw" materials and create your own.
posted by amyms at 8:01 PM on July 27, 2007

Have you seen the Teesha Moore site and ArtChix? Teesha Moore has pages and pages and pages of stencils and stamps and amazing journal pages and scraps never ends. You can buy the papers, some you can just save and print out. Here are some of her journal 'em. The ArtChix site has some really cool old paper scraps - bits from old books and stuff like that. Another site I like is art-e-zine - they have pages and pages of inspiration and things you can download and print, or buy.

For the backgrounds of your pages, I've found that old children's book pages, yellowed dictionary pages, and vintage illustrations from medical journals work really well as starting points.
posted by iconomy at 8:12 PM on July 27, 2007

I'm not sure what you mean exactly by dada art book style, but making your own textiles might be useful.

How about lace spray painted in interesting offbeat or metallic colors, pewter leaf (the craft store of objects or colorful textures clipped into borders, homemade yarns from any fibers you can find (shredded nylon, cat fur?) lint paper (you know, dryer trap contents mixed with water and glue and formed on a mesh frame... you can stamp shapes into it as it dries or embed things in it), pressed flowers or leaves with our without added color, brocade, silk or velvet scraps, lengths of chain woven through rivets, or dyed plaster as paint?
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 8:50 PM on July 27, 2007

my touchpad likes to eat pieces of text so I don't notice. please add the following to the above:

...craft store ^ kind that comes in sheets or jars used to smudge on something an antiqued finish) or blown up close ups of ^ objects...
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 8:52 PM on July 27, 2007

I suggest stopping the search to buy found items intended to look good, use items that do actually have some significance - even if ugly or trivial. Dredge through your drawers for all the detritus of life that has seeped to the bottom - the throgh-the-washer remains of a ticket stub from a concert you both went to, the remaining half of a necklace that broke while out one day and you never found the rest, those mundane things that have memories attached and either need to be thrown away or put in a scrapbook :)

For decorative elements, don't use items that will look like they have some significance (examples from the usual kitsch that you're avoiding, that would be the old rusty keys, or postage stamps), use elements that are clearly just decorative. The reader should not be able to mistake the items decorating the book with the items the book is about.

I know of one case where part of the humour was in finding the most cutesy flowery happy butterfly-puking page in which to frame party pics in trampy outfits and other general highly non-cutesy pics :)

Don't weather or faux-age it. If you want that look, build it from modern materials, like a dadaist would have done, and let it develop its ageing for real over the next few years.

So perhaps hit the hardware store instead of the antique store - don't try to make it like an antique, because then the scrapbook is faking it. Make it informed by those works, influenced by them, but a high quality modern production. Modern materials and modern techniques. That's were value comes from - being the real deal. Things trying to be things they're not have their work cut out for them just to rise above the level of kitsch, which is an unfortunate position for something like a scrapbook.
posted by -harlequin- at 8:54 PM on July 27, 2007

In my never-at-all humble opinion, scrapbooking supplies are just regular craft supplies in new shiny boxes. People have been scrapbooking for ages without kits, and you can too. You just have to think a bit laterally. Got to craft supply places and look at the regular trims - you know, the type used for clothes. Beads and charms from the jewellery making aisle. Black lace is cheap by the metre, especially the nylon types that will age the best. Go to second-hand places and buy frilly 70s clothes and hack off the lace and buttons, harvest worn and patches fabrics. Leave them in the rain for days. Stain them with tea, fruit and whatever, iron them then wash them. Take apart cheap watches and paint the cogs any colour you please. The Dadaists used to hack up magazines for a lot of their collage work, so replicate that by either chopping up some cheaper, niche publications (for that black-ad-white non-glossy paper thing) or print your own images to appropriately coloured paper and mash them up that way.

Hit various image archives online and Photoshop them to size. Antique medical images here. Historical Anatomies here. Antique book engravings here, a monster collection including classics like both of Lewis Caroll's Alice books. Piranisi 's gothic architecture here. 19th century photos. Vintage fantasty monsters. Vintage Naval charts and maps. Just make sure anything that you print out is on acid-free paper to prevent your photos being damaged. Of course, this being a surrealist excercise, a little decay may not be out of keeping. I also print things to overhead transparency, so I can layer them over another image. This is an example of how it can look here.

If you do really want some pre-done stickers, I've recently acquired a bunch of Kelly Panacci's Victoriana style stuff for a totally non-scrapbook project. They look a bit like olde-skool shipping tags, hinges and faceplates.
posted by Jilder at 9:00 PM on July 27, 2007 [2 favorites]

I forgot to add that Teesha Moore's husband also has a great journalling site that has lots of inspiring things to look at.

I think you might like the simplicity and timelessness of this girl's scrapbook - this is what scrapbooks used to look like before all the cheese.
posted by iconomy at 9:08 PM on July 27, 2007

the quintessential surrealist scrapbook is max ernst's une semaine de bonte. buy a copy, chop it up & reassemble!
posted by judith at 9:17 PM on July 27, 2007

"Just make sure anything that you print out is on acid-free paper to prevent your photos being damaged."

I don't think you have to worry about this. My understanding is that basically all modern paper manufacturing is ph-neutral, and has been for a long time. Acidity is worth checking if you're using, say, a hobbyiest-made paper made out of old banana-skins, but if it's factory made, acid-free comes standard).

posted by -harlequin- at 9:20 PM on July 27, 2007

You can stain paper so it looks old with tea. And wax seals are pretty easy to make too with red wax and whatever stamps or medallions you like.
posted by fshgrl at 9:59 PM on July 27, 2007

The prissy scrapbooking mommies set is really into making things that aren't antiques look old too. And I know that comes off snarky but ... why try to make something look old that isn't old? It's just so damn cheesy! But if you must, any crafts store will have at least one huge shelf of inks and crap to help you make your stuff look "weathered" and beaten up.

Scrapbooking is really hip right now, but, as was mentioned above, people have been doing it for decades...cardmaking too. And you can find supplies that range from precious to simple to modern to whatever you want.

Find a stamp store. Ignore the dumbass product names and look past the aisles of baby-shower-print patterned papers. A good independent stamp or cardmaking supply store will have quality cardstock and patterned paper in more colors and patterns than you can imagine, and yes, a lot of it is dorky, but a lot of it has some great potential.

You should have no problem finding antique-style stamps, and you can make them look a little dark/moody by your paper and ink choices. Make subtle images on colored cardstock by using Versamark ink or dark ink on dark paper. You can find black photo corners anywhere. Find scraps of cloth and ribbon that appeal to your style.

I think the main way to avoid being too precious with the things you make is to keep it relatively simple - yes you can fill a page with a million embellishments and stamps and cutesy phrases, but when you create a subtle but impressive background on which to display your photos & keepsakes, it will look a lot classier and meaningful.
posted by tastybrains at 11:05 PM on July 27, 2007

Also, I think it needs to be said - the reason all our answers are crap is that you have already scoped out the place. Antique stores, craft stores, thrift stores, ebay and the internet. That's pretty thorough. There isn't a shop you've missed that is full of tasteful well-executed stuff that everywhere else doesn't have. You knew this in your gut when asking :-)
Finding specific, well designed stuff is hard at the best of times, and for a project like this, the more you know what you want, the more likely it is that no-one caters to you and you have to make or modify it yourself. Of course, with tools like Photoshop and Dremel, (not to mention the local library) anything is possible - you take something that's vaguely in the ballpark, and you alter it so that it fits. The trade-off is that good things take time and/or money.

posted by -harlequin- at 11:20 PM on July 27, 2007

Don't use a prepackaged aesthetic at all. Just lay your mementos down down upon the page, chronologically, geek style: chronologically, by concert, people--what have you.

Photo album. Your stored material. That's it.

If some sort of "framing scheme" comes to you later--so be it.

Otherwise, you will compromise your aesthetic.

The "Surrealist" approach is an art question. Either you got it in you or you don't.
posted by sourwookie at 12:10 AM on July 28, 2007

I made a sketchbook out of a really old illustrated book once, from the 1950s. I mutilated pages, glued random items in it, wrote on top of text. It turned out very interesting. The weathered pages gave a nice background that I didn't have to worry about filling (plus it had that nice old library smell).

I think a wallpaper sample book would be a neat scrapbook as well, especially if it had the victorian style velvet.
posted by idiotfactory at 1:10 AM on July 28, 2007

If you're looking for stamps too, you can try Cherry Pie stamps. They're unmounted plates, but you can find some of the individual designs in her eBay store.
posted by artifarce at 5:06 AM on July 28, 2007

Library book sales are a cheap way to get old books to chop up or make into altered books. I've used dictionaries, encyclopedias, foreign language books, japanese manga (esp. lolita gothic style) and creepy children's books from the seventies. Chinatown is another place for amazing papers (even better are japanese paper places). If you are not using the scapbooking binders and instead using a book or sketchbook as your foundation be sure to remove pages between the pages you are building up; nothing looks worse that a book whose pages are thicker than the spine.
posted by saucysault at 6:08 AM on July 28, 2007

I'm not so into scrapbooking anymore, but a few years ago (when I graduated high school and started college), I went nuts. I used black paper and fun gel pens as my most basic supplies, and then I bought normal stickers that I found amusing (I really loved the ones that looked like ants), and I put them together. I'm a big fan of DIY scrapbooking in the sense that if you need a box to frame something, draw one in an interesting way. It was such an awesome, creative challenge to come up with new and interesting shapes and things, and if you have a good sense for page layout, you won't have a big problem.

My favorite pages came from my freshman year of college, though. I used pages from atlases as backgrounds for cities I'd visited, and I made sure to snag business cards and flyers and playbills and things to use to frame things or emphasize them. And I made use of anything I had around me. I covered pages with a layer of duct tape or with crepe paper to create texture. There's so much stuff out there that's happy to lie flat and be glued down.
posted by monochromaticgirl at 8:58 AM on July 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

Didn't artists like Hannah Höch and Kurt Schwitters put their collages together out of the photographs and print media available to them? Why not do the same for your scrapbook? A plain album or artist's sketchbook with heavy pages gives you a fine foundation on which to glue things. Then just print or xerox your personal and found photographs at different scales, in different colors, etc, grab a pair of scissors and some glue, and go to town. Give your friend oversized lips and balance her chin on her upturned foot, or whatever.

Saucysault's suggestion to troll library book sales for deconstructable materials sounds consistent with the dadaist collage aesthetic.
posted by Orinda at 9:31 AM on July 28, 2007

You need a paper store, not a scrapbooking store or craft store.


Here's something at paperzone you might like. These seem like the sorts of stores that have more in stock than what they put online.
posted by yohko at 10:06 AM on July 28, 2007

I think this seems fairly obvious, but thought I would add:

You will need to do some digging to find what you want. Don't expect it to be on the front page of the website, or the front of the store, or even all in one little section. These are reserved for the top selling items, and you are looking for hidden gems.
posted by yohko at 10:12 AM on July 28, 2007

Lunagirl's Etsy shop has all sorts of downloadable goodies you can print on to sticker paper. You can also find lots of images available as stickers on Cafe Press. Gorey Details has all sorts of cool rubber stamps.

Perhaps you've seen all these already, since you scoured the internet and all I did was search for "art nouveau stickers" and the like- if so, maybe I'm just not quite getting what you're looking for. (Um, that sounds snarky and it's not meant to be, I'm just feeling like it was far too easy to dig up stuff, so I might not be getting exactly what it is you're looking for.)
posted by oneirodynia at 6:53 PM on July 28, 2007

My friend Elly is a scrapbooker who does stuff that's pretty much in your vein (she's quite goth/punk/whatever) and she's... I don't know how to describe it, but kind of a mod or a leader in some prominent scrapbooking communities. Here is a link to some of your work. It's not all wrought iron and drapery, but it's certainly more along your lines than the cutesy stuff. Hopefully this will give you some inspiration; she's got a wide variety of offerings.
posted by Madamina at 11:34 AM on July 30, 2007

er HER work :P
posted by Madamina at 11:34 AM on July 30, 2007

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