Category Archives: Collecting

Phil’s Shoe Box!

phils shoe box

I grew up in a place called Green Acres. When I was really small I would go to Phil’s Shoe Box at Green Acres Plaza for new shoes. I’ve named my series of shoe-themed prints after that place.

Gold foil shoe horn print, Empire Shoes!

Shiny gold foil shoe horn print, Empire Shoes!

Got a whole little shoe shop happening in my Etsy Shop!

There are a lot of extra steps when using gold foil. Black ink is applied last, and prints are set to dry.

There are a lot of extra steps when using gold foil. Black ink is applied last, and prints are set to dry

I printed the shoe horn as a companion piece to the shiny silver Brannock Device I printed last year:

My drawing of the classic Brannock Device. Silk screened in black ink and silver foil!

My drawing of the classic Brannock Device. Silk screened in black ink and silver foil!

Later on, I found myself walking down Yonge Street, and I spotted these abandoned shoes:

Y is for Yonge Street, the longest street in the world

Y is for Yonge Street, the longest street in the world

They gave me the inspiration to go home and draw a bunch of odd shoes for another print:

Found this great antique frame at a local thrift shop

This antique frame I found at a local thrift shop suits this vintage-style print pretty nicely!

One final mini-print, which I just finished yesterday:

Who doesn’t love a shoe sale?

Who doesn’t love a shoe sale?


Collecting: Vintage Toy Whistles


I’ve been collecting toy whistles for a long time. They are so tiny! The Yellow Cab is only a couple of centimetres wide. Love it!


It’s the lithographic printing that first attracted my eye, but it’s the cheap quality of these novelty candy prizes that really draws me to them.


Toy whistles remind me of my grandparents house, I think I must have found a few of these in my father’s belongings when I was a kid.


Not a whistle, but a harmonica, made of very thin bakelite! Love those colours.


They were probably cereal premiums or candy box prizes.

Larger copies of these photos and more of the collection can be viewed in my Pinterest Collecting folder.

Silver Milk Bottle Print


Love those carnival milk bottle props!

I’ve always loved old milk bottles, have a few lying around my studio. It was about time I drew some! A few posts back I showed the milk bottle art I created for rcboisjoli’s cheese platter, and now I have released my own milk bottle print – in shiny reflective silver! and a very deep dark blue ink (almost black!). Looks nice in this old barn board frame, no? More milk bottle themed work to come! Stay tuned.

Several extra steps are involved when heat setting silver foil onto a print

Looks easy here, but several extra steps are involved when heat setting silver foil onto a print

Visit my Etsy Store for more photos.

Clothes Pins Print

ianphillipsillustration-framed clothespegs

Clothes pins make me think of dress shirts and bed sheets, frozen in the shapes of a windy afternoon. Memories from years long gone.

I bought a box of them at an antique store on a recent visit to Winnipeg. I found the exaggerated textures of the wood attractive, similar to the frame in the above photo; the results of weathering and the passage of time. When I got home I obsessively began drawing pictures of them. I picked out my favourites and arranged them for a three colour way silk-screen print.

Now available in my Etsy Shop.

I pulled all the colours in one go – placing all three colours of ink on the screen and pulled them together. The result is that each print is unique – in most prints the inks blend together, while in some, the prints are single solid colours.

Clockwise from top left: exposing screen, applying ink, pulling the print, and the results

Clockwise from top left: exposing screen, applying ink, pulling the print, and the results

I love the variation in these prints, where the three colours of ink blend and merge into all three of the pins:






Collecting: Funerary

Caption to come

“Margaret, relict of the late Charles Jeffrey”

I love paper, I love type, and I love printing. Ephemeral items comprising any of those elements will attract my attention.

Caption tk

In Victorian times, black borders were used on personal correspondence until mourning ceased.

So when I found a pile of funeral notices from the 1880s and 90s at Chief Salvage I couldn’t resist taking them home and pouring over them like an old novel. Aside from their typographic beauty, the individual notices contain so much mystery!

Caption tk

These are all folded pieces of paper; the folded leaf is blank

Who were these people? How did this little collection of notices survive? Who collected them?

Caption tk

I think these two are my favourites

Here is a close-up of the one on the left:

Look how beautiful that type is!

Gorgeous typography

Notice how large the full-stops and commas are and their skewed positioning in the close-up above. Shortage of type for the press or a new type trend?



If you hold them up to the light, you can see how beautiful the paper is. In the last two photos, you can see the watermarks:


I photographed these against a window, to bring out the watermarks


Most are from Cannington, and surrounding areas, about an hour’s drive, north of Toronto. I think a visit to the cemeteries mentioned in these notices is in order this Spring. So, stay tuned for part two!

Collecting: Kobe and Cracker Jack

It’s quite easy to put together a collection of Cracker Jack prizes. I often see them among piles of junk at antique markets, and there is always an assortment available on internet auction sites.

Many end up in trash piles, get washed down drains or tossed on the fire, but thousands and thousands, if not millions of these cheap little toys were produced, so no dealer can honestly tell you that they are rare. That said, prices are anywhere from a dollar to over a hundred dollars for a single charm.

What draws me to these little guys is their cartoon-like simplicity… and they never fail to provide inspiration when working on assignments. This boxing Kangaroo is one of my favorites.

Cracker Jack started adding prizes to their candy in 1912. Early charms are made from metal, glass or celluloid. They were produced all over the world: Japan, USA, Czechoslovakia, etc…

Not all the charms in my collection are from Cracker Jack. Kobe charms are harder to find. I found this little bundle at the Alemany Flea Market in San Francisco for five bucks. Kobe charms were made in Kobe, Japan in the early half of the 20th century. These ordinarily came attached to other products or came in cigar boxes and were also sold in candy-ball machines. Kobe charms usually have red or brown faces and pop-out eyes that slide in and out.

Collecting: Vintage Nurse Romance

Required reading

Some years ago I lived next door to Goodwill Industries on Adelaide Street East in downtown Toronto. Those were the days! I was in and out of that place multiple times daily – for the boisterous live auctions in the basement, for the unhinged buy-the-pound shop and to dig through the colossal stockpile of books, clothing and other donations that accumulated on the second floor. Does anyone remember Shirley?

What I was most attracted to were the brightly illustrated covers of old nurse-themed romance novels. My favorites were published by the prodigious Canadian publisher Harlequin.

There is rarely a credit on the colophon for the cover illustrators. It’s difficult to discern the initials and tiny signatures on some of the covers. Most are not signed. My favorite is Paul Anna Soik, who illustrated Nurse Caril’s New Post and Doctor Garth (above) and Nurses are People (below).  Soik was from New Jersey and attended the Ontario College of Art in the 1950s.

There are some great blogs about Nurse Romance novels out there. One of my favorites includes brief profiles of the authors and also identifies some of the illustrators. Another fantastic collection can be seen at The Tiny Pineapple.

I recently came across some early collage work I did with some of the covers. In the late 80s and early 90s there was a band from Toronto called The Nancy Sinatras headed by the fabulous Bam Bam Bratty and Nurse Nancy. I took dozens of photos of them performing and made dandy little fanzine datebooks for them. You can see where I replaced the faces on the nurse romance covers with photos of Nurse Nancy.

More on The Nancy Sinatras to come!

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