30 Jan 2009

Vintage Valentines

Crepe paper hearts, construction paper lace and little cards tucked inside tiny white envelopes invoke a memory in most of us that never seems to grow old. The wonderful feeling of opening something addressed to you and seeing the red hearts, the handwriting and reading the sentiment, lets you know that love isn't just something people sing about on the radio. Family and friends may really agonize over Christmas presents, but Valentines give everyone the giggles and warm fuzzies as we read and select which little card goes to which person.

Grade school children will make little boxes or decorate sacks to hold all their cards and they will rush home to read them over and over again. One day at just the oddest time that box will be discovered and the memories of 3rd grade will come flooding back. It's from those little boxes put into the attic that vintage collectors will find the treasures of vintage Valentines. It seems as though the Valentines for children of the 21st century are based on the latest trend, but those cards from long ago were all about the friendship and love found in a simple statement and a bright colored image.

Imagine a watch drawn on a card with a bright shiny face and hearts floating past its eyes. The sentiment reads, "I hope you have the time, to be my Valentine." Simple and direct and so much fun.

From the love affair people have with vintage ephemera, there has sprung the love affair with vintage valentines not only being collected but being used in works of art. Altered Art, Collages and Scrap-booking have all begun to re-claim those vintage cards and give them a second life to be admired.

Rhonda Van Pelt an artist in Colorado has a love affair going with Victorian Valentines and she creates wonderful pieces based on the cards and their themes. She isn't selfish with her collection as she scans each one and puts those images online for others to enjoy.

Hammock Days is on an old embroidery hoop and is 23 x 23 inches. She utilizes not only the Valentines but vintage remnants she finds in antique shops.

Rhonda has also created covered boxes using her talents and the vintage images she has collected. She doesn't actually use her cards, but scans them and then works from her scanned images, printing them to the size she needs. The 4 x 4 box gives the effect of a patchwork quilt and shows the time consuming effort she puts into her works.

If you want to find more of Rhonda’s images and work, visit her on-line gallery. She is working on quilts from the scanned images and plans to one day have a gallery show of her work. Rhonda's collection is growing and with each vintage Valentine she collects, she adds depth to her art. She is a perfect example of how an artist can not only be a vintage collector but can also use that collection to promote bodies of work.

Another use of vintage pieces within art is exemplified in a fantastic on-line etsy shop, Blue Sky Pottery. Deb is another Colorado artist and her etsy shop shows her love of vintage and her expertise in working with vintage items to enhance her work.

According to Deb, she made a few of these heart dishes, impressing some vintage lace into the clay while it was soft. Each one is different due to the placement of the lace, how the glaze pools into the impressions, and because they are made by hand. The lacy design shows through on both sides of this very pretty dish.

She has even put vintage lace to work in her jewelry pieces. This little pendant will look fantastic on a silk cord and worn not only on the holiday but anytime of the year.

Putting your heart into your work takes on a whole new meaning when you actually put a heart in your work ! Valentines Day is about sharing your love and friendship with those around you. What better way to share the love of vintage items than to actually put something vintage into artwork.

While it may only be cutting out a heart with a pair of scissors and some construction paper to make a little sentiment a handmade Valentine speaks volumes about the care and attention you are giving to those around you each day.

Over the next few months, I hope to introduce you to many artists utilizing vintage finds in their works, wonderful vintage shops with unique items for artists and also some tips and hints on how to get vintage into your work.

Written by Vanessa of SalvageNation


  1. Wonderful article, Vanessa! It was fun to read, see the photos and visit the Rhonda's online shop. Thanks so much for including my porcelain lace hearts! - Deb

  2. I love this article! It is so sweet. Valentines Day is such a loving day for everyone especially children. It gives us all a sense of friendship and makes us feel special. ~Teri- Terra

  3. Thank you, Vanessa! I've never been a "perfect example" before.

  4. love those clay hearts...I've hearted blue sky pottery! ♥


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