My New Favorite Hobby — Junk Journaling

Have you guys heard of this? I feel like it’s a trend that’s been gaining traction for awhile now, but it’s kind of taken me some time to find my own way to it (and to do it in my own style, rather than the way everyone else does, because there’s a small but contrary part of me that always wants to be a little different).

A found envelope that I decorated with my new collection of stickers, tapes, and ephemera, plus a scrap from the introduction of that sheet music book I mentioned.

It turns out I was pretty well primed to start yet another new crafting hobby, because I had a lot of the supplies already from my book-binding days (though I hope you don’t believe for a second that I didn’t shop for more supplies, because that’s my other favorite hobby). I have literal boxes of scrapbook paper, glue of various types, magazine clippings, handmade decorative papers, and even an old book of sheet music purposely saved for collaging with.

One of my newest friends does bullet journaling (which is related but not quite the same); she and I were at Hobby Lobby together one day and discovered that all their Washi tapes were half off. There were so many fun patterns and colors! I also realized that, with junk journaling, I’d have a reason to buy all that fantastic Tim Holtz ephemera and such that I eyeball longingly every time I pass through that aisle. This same friend also introduced me to two of my now-favorite Etsy shops, Mopapo and Wawa Stationery, which are both chock-full of paper stickers, Washi tapes, and stamps, among other goodies. Suffice it to say, I never have a problem meeting the $35 threshold to get free shipping (which both shops offer), and it’s not because their items are expensive — on the contrary, I got 8-10 items for less than $40 at each shop.

Envelopes are my favorite thing to collage on, in case you couldn’t tell… this has a mix of ephemera, scrapbook paper, stickers, and a piece of a business card I got at a craft show.

I’ve kept a journal on and off since I was in about third grade, and I have probably a dozen blank journals on hand waiting their turn to be used. One in particular has a nice loose binding which makes it perfect for cramming full of stickers and little collages. I’ve been slowly adding to it over the last couple months; some spreads get just a sticker or a line of tape, while others get full-page treatments.

As an added bonus for me, I work at a library with a used book store attached; not all the donations they receive can be resold, so they get discarded into giant canvas bins and recycled. My greatest find to-date in those discards has been a handful of magazines from the 1920’s-50’s, complete with some amazing vintage ads for everything from corsets and dress patterns to school desks and crepe paper. (I’ve also found old dictionaries and atlases, art illustrations, etc.).

A small collage of ephemera, tape, and stickers on scrapbook paper. I got a little too carried away burning the edges (on the left especially) and had to add a layer of paper back in.

Admittedly, what I do now is more akin to collage than actual junk journals (which are typically completely handmade, down to the binding) but I feel like I’ll probably work my way up to that. My mom-in-law showed me a Youtube channel by Nic the Booksmith, who shares her methods for making pretty much anything to do with junk journaling (then sells her stuff on Etsy) which is where I got the envelope idea that I keep doing.

Maybe at this point you’re thinking, why is she going on and on about junk journals? Isn’t she a watercolor artist? Well, first of all, thanks for calling me an “artist” (I sometimes struggle to claim that particular label) and secondly, on a more serious note, it occasionally gets difficult for me to do the work that such a label would, ah, label. For a good part of September and early October, I was in what I think of as a “funk” — to call it depression seems like it would detract from the people who actually do suffer with capital-D Depression, but I’d guess it was something akin to that. I had commissions to work on, other paintings I was making good progress with, but some afternoons after work it would take every ounce of energy I had just to get up off the couch or floor. I’d say there was a solid three-week chunk of time that I didn’t paint a single stroke. I just couldn’t find the energy or motivation. And of course, the longer I went without painting, the more I would feel bad about it, and it created this sort of spiral of guilt and internal pressure. For some reason, during that time, looking at pretty stickers and bits of paper stirred me enough to get me to my art table again, rearranging and collaging and exercising some type of creativity.

Ephemera, tape, stickers, and more stickers, on a page from an old copy of “David Copperfield,” I think it was.

Eventually, slowly, I came out of that funk. They happen every now and then, usually during fall or winter, sometimes just for a couple days, sometimes longer. They always go away eventually. I’ve since finished two of my commissions and started another, plus a couple other little paintings. But I’m hoping this might be a new way to create when it becomes harder to do anything else. (Plus, like I said, the added pressure of doing art for money makes it less of a release than it used to be. It’s good to have a creative hobby that is, for now, JUST a hobby.)

Artist and creative people, or anyone who finds themselves occasionally “blocked” or unmotivated: what are your coping strategies? What hobbies do you turn to to release pressure or save “just for fun”?

One of my “lighter” spreads. One of these tickets is actually one we got at an event (rather than being bought in an ephemera pack) — it’s probably pretty easy to guess which one.

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