Ephemera comes in all shapes, sizes, colors, and conditions! Whether you collect vintage ephemera, or the ticket stubs from your weekly theater outings, a creative way to express yourself is to turn your ephemera into a junk journal.

In this article I explain what a junk journal is, how you can get started on your own, and share a couple of tips on making your journal unique.

What is a Junk Journal?

Just like a lot of different art, junk journals can be a little subjective when it comes to defining them. For the purpose of this article though, a junk journal is basically a place to creatively display old or recycled items. Because I want to focus primarily on what an ephemera junk journal is, the “old or recycled items” would be pieces of printed ephemera. To find out more about what exactly ephemera is, follow this link to read “So You Want to Know More About Ephemera”.

Ephemera junk journals may contain past newspaper clippings, receipts from the grocery store, or even the brochure you picked up during a tour of a national park. Even in the digital age in which we live, printed paper can be found everywhere! You may even be able to make a junk journal from what you have laying around your house right now.

Like most journals, a junk journal will have a front and back cover, with a sturdy binding to keep everything held together. Beyond the standard structure, it’s up to you to design the layout, choose what you want to include in your journal, and pinpoint what the purpose of the journal will be.

Steps to Getting Started on Your First Junk Journal

1. Pick a purpose 

Though you don’t need to know exactly what you’ll be using your journal for once you’re done, it’s helpful to know in what general direction you want to go. Some questions to consider include:

  • Will you be using this journal to record daily experiences, tasks, or thoughts?
  • Will it be used to purely display your collected ephemera?
  • Do you want to keep a single theme or mix multiple topics?
  • How big or small do you want your finished product to be?

Do you want to create the journal as a way to hold past memories (i.e. past brochures from trips or other memorabilia from your life)?

All of these are important to ask when getting started with your journal. Depending on what you decide will play a major role in the process of creating.

2. Collect ephemera to match your theme or purpose

This coincides with the first tip of picking a general purpose. For example, you may decide to make a junk journal for the purpose of displaying your many ticket stubs from the theater. If this is your theme, you’ll want to find all the stubs you’d like to include, and maybe even order some more vintage stubs to add to your journal. If you click this link to Etsy, you’ll find an array of vintage tickets to choose from! You can search a number of different ephemera pieces through Etsy and Ebay.

Whatever you choose to display or use, you’ll want to make sure you have a good number of pieces to fill the journal. However, you can always add more to your junk journal as time goes on! If this is what you want to do, make sure to leave a couple of empty pages to add more ephemera!

3. Collect the supplies needed 

Depending on how you decide to bind your journal, you will have to find or purchase binding materials.

  • Old Book: If you choose to disassemble an old book you have, you can use the book cover and binding to hold your papers together. This is a nice way to recycle old books you have laying around. Be careful when ripping out the papers inside of the book so that you don’t ruin the binding. To properly reuse an old book or journal, read this guide: How to Prepare an Old Book To be Used for Art Journaling.
  • Binder Rings: These are a unique way to hold together your loose pages. You can purchase them in bulk off of Amazon for a great price, plus you’ll be able to make plenty of junk journals with them! You’ll need a hole punch to make the holes for the rings to go through.
  • To read more about different ways to bind your journal, follow this link.

Other materials that may be needed depending on how you create your junk journal:

  • Glue or Tape
  • Scissors
  • Paper cutter
  • Pens, Markers, or other mediums to add writing or art
  • Book Binding Kit
  • Old books or magazines
  • Stationary or other paper
  • A collection of ephemera pieces to choose from

4. Decide the layout

Once you’ve gathered your supplies, it’s helpful to layout each page of the book before gluing and taping it together. This way you can get a better vision of what you’re resulting journal will look like. Depending on the method of binding that you choose to do, you can prep the paper and binding materials at this point as well.

5. Get CREATIVE and have fun with it!

Junk journaling is a great hobby for everyone because there isn’t just one way to make your journal. You can make it neat with even paper cuts and writing. Or you can make it more abstract and less uniform! You can layer up your pages with differing paper or textures, or you can give each page a simple crisp look. The possibilities are literally endless! Just be creative and start gluing your pages together.

Helpful Tips Making Your Journal Unique

1. There are NO rules.

First off, make sure you don’t feel bound by any specific rule or way to do something. The fun thing about junk journals is the fact that there are no rules to making them. YOU get to create whatever YOU want, so make it however seems right to you. These are just a few of helpful ideas when it comes to putting it together, but don’t feel like you have to follow them.

2. Use a variety of paper.

You can use different textures, sizes, or cuts of paper. Feel free to mix up varying pieces of ephemera to add dimension to each page. Create eye-catching artwork with the ephemera you have on hand. This adds a uniqueness to each page. For example, here’s an origami 3D star I made out of a simple receipt I had laying around. I can’t wait to add it to my own junk journal to add some depth!

3. Use stamps!

Stamps are a fun way to add an extra design to your junk journals! Here’s an awesome vintage letter stamp set on Amazon that may be the finishing touch you’re looking for. Adding color through stamps is a unique way to bring your junk journal to life!

4. Print off different ephemera pieces online.

A helpful way to fill up your junk journal when you run out of material is to simply print off more! There are a number of sites that allow you to print off pictures, copyright free! Some of these sites include:

  • Unsplash– This is a helpful site to find copyright free photos.
  • Pixabay– This site has over 1.6 million images to choose from!
  • Wikimedia Commons– This site is divided into categories for easy locating of the exact image you’d like to print for free.
  • Openclipart– If you want to add a clipart image to your junk journal, this site has tons of simple images.
  • Reusable Art– This a perfect site for crafters looking for that extra detailed image or painting to add to their designs! Here’s a simple flower that you can print off, cut out, and add to your junk journal!

Ephemera junk journaling is a great hobby to dive into if you’re looking for something where you can be creative in your own way. Comment below if you have any other helpful tips for first time junk journalers!