Those of us who love vintage things tend to be inspired by vintage items in our crafting, too.
Whether it's the look of a Victorian post card... a quaint ancestor photo... the turn of an antique chair leg or the cheerful graphics of a 50s cookbook... we might just work a little bit of the past into our modern crafts and decorating.
With interesting old items, we see not just the item, but the possibilities for those items-- transforming them with fresh ideas, decoupage and a lick of paint.
But when we get swept up in the creative moment, the tricky part is still keeping in mind the following important points:
- "What exactly is the value of this item I'm using?"
- "Am I actually destroying something that I should be trying to preserve?"
- Or even simply, "wouldn't it be nice if I could reuse this image again and again, instead of just working with it for a one-shot deal?"
I bring this up because every now and then, I'll see a decorating magazine where an article encourages the reuse (and consequential destruction) of something which might actually have monetary or historical value on its own.
For instance, Country Living (a magazine I really tend to like) had a craft project where Victorian postcards were crafted into billfolds. While the end product was lovely, the article never took into account something which worried me greatly-- the value of the cards themselves.
I mean, yes, there are a ton of postcards out there. But how rare cards are (and their value) varies greatly.
In reading the article, I admit I had a small panic attack-- having visions of well-meaning crafters out there, hole punching, cutting and gluing rare Santas... one-of-a-kind cherubs... and prized artists' artwork... all for the sake of crafting. How do you know if you're ruining the last of its kind? How can you be sure you aren't taking something wonderful from the world, with your craft? It may sound silly when you're in the creative zone, but it's worth a moment to think about it.
I admit, I also get minor heart palpitations when I hear about decoupage projects snipping away at the beautiful illustrations in vintage children's books.... or old cookbooks... or antique magazines.
I've seen so many antique books pulled apart at their bindings so people can remove and frame (or resell) the illustrative book plates. How many Maxfield Parrish illustrations have been taken from their original tomes just to be displayed or resold? The book's value goes down. Intact books become a rarity. And without careful attention to the remaining ones, they may be lost to time entirely.
I find myself thinking the loss is all of ours.
The good news is that today's technology allows these items to be used and enjoyed-- but safely. Quality scanners and color printers can be had cheaply these days-- and they replicate vibrant colors well and are ideal for decoupaging.
Not only does it mean the ephemera we love will be around in its original state, to be enjoyed for years to come. But it means as crafters, the scanned images can be used again and again. That way, it's possible to develop a large, versatile image library in no time!
At the risk of being preachy (which is certainly not my intent), I do urge crafters doing this kind of work to at least consider investing in a scanner and printer to preserve the ephemera which inspires you. I think you'll find that while it's a little more work up front, the collection of images you'll develop will be well worth it in the long run.
In the same vein, thoughts of preservation cross my mind when I see antique furniture being painted. Paint can do wonderful things to freshen a piece of furniture. But giving a new look to a drab vintage piece of without a lot of value is quite different than covering the finish of an antique heirloom.
Good questions to ask when faced with the question of painting, can include:
- Do I know the age of the piece?
- Is the finish on the piece flawless or would paint help cover over something that would be difficult to restore?
- Do I know the value of the piece?
What is that old saying about how you can't go home again?
I guess I feel the same is basically true with vintage items-- they're from a time past, and they become the tangible embodiment of their time period.
Once these things are gone-- barring a swift trip with time traveler Doctor Who-- we simply can't go back.
As crafters, we're responsible for bringing the imagery we love-- the designs that inspire-- to life again for new generations to appreciate. But we're also custodians of the items themselves.
A little responsible crafting can go a long way toward preserving the beauty of the past. And making the art of creating a fulfilling, rich and beautiful experience.
I appreciate your taking the time to read my thoughts on this today!
- If you missed Wednesday's chili recipe, click here and dish yourself up a bowl.
I'll be having some myself today! Hope you all have a great week ahead of you.