Vintage imagery here, there, and everywhere


While recently browsing local craft shows and etsy, I have noticed there are a large selection of items made using vintage images. Why is that? Is this just a coincidence that crafters like to use it in their work, or perhaps that is just what the current market is demanding? As a consumer, do you want to go to a craft show and see how sellers use similar vintage images on their pieces, or would you prefer to see truly unique images done from scratch?

Please don’t get me wrong here, because I do understand that basically all things created are based on pre-existing items. And I am not at all saying that anyone who uses vintage imagery is not conceptualizing their own ideas and just slapping these images on miscellaneous items.

My point is that why the heck is it everywhere? Watch Portlandia’s spoof “Put a Bird On It“– this is where I am coming from.

CAC: Why you think vintage images are so popular right now?

LB: I think there are several reasons. One is that the DIY movement is always looking for materials and tools to use in their work. Vintage imagery is easily accessible — it can be easily found in thrift stores or yard sales via books and magazines for example — and it’s super charming to work with. For crafters that do not have drawing skills, vintage imagery enables them to add a wonderful image component to their work.

Also, how we used to do things has been a topic of great interest for a long time. Vintage imagery connects us with our past and therefore evokes feelings of nostalgia for a simpler time — hence it’s great appeal in our fast-paced society.

So it’s part nostalgia and old-world charm and part accessible image resource.  As an image resource, it opens up many possibilities for creative work.

CAC: Why do you use vintage images in your work?

LB: I started using vintage imagery because it’s historical context appealed to me — how we used to do things, how we used to dress ourselves, etc. I am also very interested in vintage language and have incorporated that in my work as well. I find it very interesting how the tone of language and vocabulary changes over the decades and centuries. Growing up in the 70s and 80s, there was a lot of interesting stuff around me but I didn’t necessarily appreciate it then. Now I really enjoy looking back and noticing stylistic and cultural differences.

Another reason for using vintage imagery is that I wanted to use imagery in my work but wasn’t ready to use my own, so this resource was/is a stepping stone until I start using my own. My work will probably change once I start using my own imagery.

CAC: Do you think this trend will last and/or what do you forecast as being the next popular theme in local crafts?

LB: I feel this trend will last because as time goes by, the image bank will get bigger and more varied. Hopefully we are creating images today that we will find interesting in the future whether for visual appeal or social commentary.

What do you think about the use of vintage imagery in crafts? Overused? Love it?
Share your thoughts in comments below.


0 thoughts on “Vintage imagery here, there, and everywhere

  • illustrator

    In other words, it’s easy to steal the copyright and make money off someone else’s work…that’s not art, it’s capitalism (and not to mention how it helps drive the wage of an actual illustrator by forcing them to lower their cost to stay competitive…which you really can’t with “free”…and so we complain that artists can’t make a living wage…endless cycle.)

    In terms of creativity, all it is is perpetuating and buying into the “brand” that is these vintage images…it’s nothing new or unique…people may as well be buying into the style/brand of Disney or putting Mona Lisa on a t-shirt (yes!).

    Keep artists working: buy unique, original, creative thought and designs. (heck, team up/pay an artist who can invoke the sentiment of nostalgic images and put a current spin on it!)