I have been doing a lot of paper arts lately, as demonstrated by my flickr photostream. I often get asked where I find supplies, so I thought I’d compile a list here.
1. Thrift stores. I scour thrift stores for books in foreign languages that I can tear apart to use as collage supplies or alter. I also look for old books with interesting pictures or maps, and for anything I can take apart, cut up or smash up — old pictures, radios, clocks, etc. Don’t forget to look for ribbons or fabric scraps or anything else that looks interesting. This is by far my favorite place to find supplies, in part because I never flinch when I cut, tear or otherwise mutilate something I only paid a buck (or less) for.
2. Ethnic markets. I look at Chinese, Vietnamese, Indian and other ethnic markets in my area for free newspapers or magazines. I once found a fantastic Chinese-language phone book for free. I also look at these stores for magazines, gift wrap, joss paper (at Asian stores), and other paper goods that look interesting.
3. Dollar stores. At dollar stores, I look for paper goods, scrapbook supplies, clear tape, duct tape and things I can take apart. I’ve bought hair scrunchies (that I removed fabric flowers from), trivets (made of wood, I took them apart and had these interesting pegs), gift bags, gift wrap, cards, kids toys, magnets — all kinds of things to use in altered and paper art.
4. Magazines. I cut words, pictures, phrases, whatever out of magazines and catalogs. My favorites are Real Simple, O, and Reader’s Digest. I wouldn’t read Reader’s Digest on a bet, but it has awesome pictures. Also look at your junk mail and news papers — there are sometimes interesting things there.
5. Electronic images. I try very hard to use only copyright free electronic images, or images where the copyright owner has given permission for others to use the images. Here are my favorite sources:
Dover Sampler, copyright-free images via e-mail once a week.
From Old Books, what it says.
Art-E-Zine, annoying interface, cool images
Black and White Prints, free clip art images
Bibliodyssey, follow the links to check copyright information
Wikimedia Commons, public domain images
National Archives Search, make sure to use the pull down menus to select “photographs and other graphic materials”, then search by keyword. Most items are not copyrighted, but a few are.
6. Swaps. There are several sites online where you can participate in supply swaps. I have done them through Craftster, Swap-Bot and Flickr. Once you get a small stash of supplies, you can swap your extras with others and increase the diversity of your supplies. Think about it — if you buy a 400 page Thai book at a thrift store, do you really need all 400 pages? Keep half for yourself and swap the rest.
7. Friends and relatives. Once you put the word out that you are interested in weird, odd, unusual paper things, you’ll be surprised what you get. Someone’s child’s abandoned stamp collection, old coloring books, instruction booklets, magazines you’ve never heard of. I ask people to save stuff for me, I say thank you when it is given, and I properly recycle anything I don’t want or can’t use (or I save it for the above mentioned swaps if it’s something I think someone else might like). I love getting these kinds of things from people — they are always so surprising and interesting.
8. Used book stores. For me, this is a last resort. There aren’t many used book stores in my area, so the prices are kind of high — at least, they are higher than I want to pay for something that I am most likely going to destroy. But your area might be different. I usually go to a used book store when I’m looking for something specific, like old National Geographics or something in Russian.
9. Rummage sales, library sales, church sales, etc. With the exception of library sales and an annual sale at a church near me, these sales are hit or miss for me, but sometimes they are worth investigating. Also, as with #8 above, your area might be different from mine. Don’t rule them out.
10. Office supply stores. I buy acid-free cardstock at office supply stores by the ream. It’s much cheaper than craft or specialty stores. I usually get plain white because I know I’m going to obliterate it anyway.
You will notice that craft, scrapbook, rubberstamp, and art stores are conspicuously missing from this list. Don’t get me wrong — I shop at those too. But those are the obvious places, and I wanted to highlight places where I find interesting, unusual and unique items. You won’t find those at Michaels or Hobby Lobby or AC Moore.