Vintage Journals and Junk Journals

I’m not one for surprises. Maybe you remember me saying that at Christmas time when I recounted how, as a child, I simply picked out my own presents. I’d just given myself a little gift — a year’s subscription to Artists’ Network — because even now, I’d rather choose what I want and purchase it for myself than to have someone else surprise me with a gift.

Yet, of course, every year I do get surprises. It’s been easier to shop for me since I began pursuing art, and over the years I’ve received a lot of nice art-related gifts, such as subscriptions to art magazines, lots and lots of drawing paper, canvases, other art supplies. Even the desk-like “drafting table” I now use as my easel was a gift from a thoughtful daughter.

I often receive gift cards from Amazon or art supply stores. Those are always appreciated. And, now and then I get a Christmas surprise that leaves me a little flummoxed. I appreciate the thought behind every gift I receive. Certainly, I don’t want to sound ungrateful. All the same, I’ll admit I winced a bit when an unexpected package arrived a few days before the holiday. I hadn’t ordered anything. I knew it was a gift. Oh, dear. I don’t like surprises at all!

I opened it and found myself staring at a “vintage journal”, quite similar to the one shown here.

It’s lovely, yes. You can see it has “vintage” pages, as well as a rustic-looking “vintage” cover. Being an artist now and being somewhat involved in a number of art groups, I’m aware that “vintage junk journaling” is quite the thing these days. To be honest, though, it’s really not my thing.

So, what is a vintage junk journal?

A “junk journal” is a handmade book made up of recycled items such as papers from magazines, brochures, patterned paper, music sheets, envelopes, packaging, brown paper bags, maps, greeting cards, post cards, doilies, to name a few. The book covers can be made from cereal boxes, old book covers or any hard card boards.

Oh, sounds like fun, doesn’t it!

Even me — the least-crafty person on the block — thinks making a junk journal and filling it with “junk” would be delightful. I’m not good at cutting and pasting, but for a handmade junk journal, it would be all right. In fact, the “art journals” I kept in the past were mostly bits of “junk”.

But here, with this Christmas gift… well, this “vintage journal” is quite a bit different from a “vintage junk journal”. A “vintage journal” and a “vintage junk journal” are two different things, designed to serve two different purposes.

The gift came from our “California Girl” daughter, who, by the way, is now an Arizona girl. She and her husband moved last year to Payson, Arizona, where she has elk in her backyard that actually now come to eat out of her hand. Yep. She’s that kind of nature-loving, animal-loving girl.

Her last visit “home” to the midwest was in November 2020. She loved seeing my art studio, and at the time I was doing a bit of art journaling. She was fascinated to see all the different ideas on the different pages. For her, I suppose, it was a look into the strange workings of her mother’s weird mind.

And so, for a Christmas gift this year, she bought me a vintage journal. Enclosed was a note commenting on how beautiful the journal was now… and how much more beautiful it would be when it was filled with my art work.

What she doesn’t understand, though, is that (a) I don’t really enjoy the art journaling process, and (b) the thin “vintage paper” isn’t suitable for any type of art work, other than possibly a bit of cutting and pasting, or maybe a little drawing. Since the pages are brown, however, even graphite drawing would be problematic.

How was I to handle this unexpected gift? How could I use it without disappointing my daughter? At first I considered telling her the truth — this isn’t an “art journal”. I can’t really use it for drawing and painting. A vintage journal is meant to be just that… a journal. A place where you can write your thoughts, save memories, add meaningful quotes.

After a bit of thought, I decided it would be better to find a way to use the journal, a way to incorporate some form of “art work” along with a few thoughts. It was then that I immediately thought of “The Graphics Fairy” and the many “vintage” illustrations they feature on their website. In fact, each Friday I receive a free “vintage download”. Those “Friday Freebies”, have now become the basis for my “Vintage Journal”.

On the first Friday after receiving the gift, the weekly free illustration was appropriately Christmas-themed. I added it to the journal and made note of the thoughtfulness of the gift, along with the date, of course.


On the following Friday, the theme was the start of the New Year. Into the journal it went, along with a few thoughts about 2022, about this being a year of celebrtion for me, a year to express my gratitude for all the blessings we have in our lives.


The next week? It was a fun one. Vintage fashion! It was fun, too, to make a few notes about my love of fashion illustration.

Then, as our weather forecast called for several inches of snow last Friday night and Saturday, my “vintage” download proved to be perfect! A snowy oil. So…whoooo loves snow? Not me. But I do love the illustration. I printed it out, pasted it into the journal, and added a few thoughts about the winter storm coming our way.

Maybe this isn’t quite what our daughter had in mind when she picked out this vintage journal for me, but this is how I’ve chosen to use it. I hope she’ll understand.

And maybe one day I’ll learn more about making a real “junk journal”. I’ve seen some beautiful ones online, and truly using bits and pieces of junk in art is always fun. I happen to have lots of bits and pieces saved.

For me, it’s not quite the right time to get involved with a junk journal project, but maybe you’re interested. If so, you’ll want to visit The Graphics Fairy and check out this free course:  HOW TO MAKE A JUNK JOURNAL.

Meanwhile, I’ll download my Friday Freebies each week, print them out, cut them and paste them into my vintage journal, adding pertinent thoughts and little notes. I like the randomness of it, the idea of never knowing quite what I’ll be adding each week. That’s the sort of surprise I do like.

Have you created a junk journal? Do you keep a written journal? Please share your thoughts!


I'd Love to Hear Your Thoughts!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s