and Kate Barrett showed their "wallpapering"
technique with a series of Miller’s photos. The same
technique can be used for family photos.
George Eastman’s invention of film in 1884 led to the development
of the modern camera. But Eastman’s discovery also created a dilemma
for future generations - what to do with all those family photos
cluttering up attics, basements or hall closets. It’s the rare
individual who doesn’t have boxes of candids, graduation portraits
and historic family photos hidden away, sight unseen.
Sure, digital cameras and scanning programs have made storing
photos a breeze, but it still doesn’t solve the conundrum of what to
actually do with the images you’ve recorded. Thanks to the United
States Postal Service you can always turn a beloved photo into a
postage stamp and use it on special letters. A handful of old photos
imported into PowerPoint and backed with an appropriate soundtrack can
make for a one-of-a-kind birthday surprise.
Still, you don’t have to pull out all of the photos and frame
them in one or two styles to get an artful display. Two local
designers have come up with some clever ways of incorporating these
memorable images into a home’s décor without using frames, matting
Create a Pattern
For Amy Miller, an up-and-coming photographer and employee of
Milwaukee’s Home Market, finding a use for all of her disparate
images was a challenge. For one thing, her "family" photos
don’t actually include people. "I tend to take abstract things
and more nature things," she says. "I like to shoot up close
and distort the image."
So what do you do with a plethora of these kinds of photographs?
Why, wallpaper with them, of course. Miller’s boss, Kate Barrett,
the owner of Home Market, agreed to reserve a wall in the store for a
temporary display. So Miller printed a series of 8x10s of her work and
hung them in rows, leaving a quarter-inch of space between the images.
In the center of the "big contact sheet" she placed a
larger, 16x20-inch photograph. "Framing is expensive," says
Miller explaining the genesis of her idea.
Another way to avoid framing large numbers of photos is to convert
the images to black and white and run them as a border around the
perimeter of a room like an old filmstrip or comic strip. "Making
the photos black and white gives a dramatic presentation," says
Barrett. For a particularly stunning image, take just a single photo
and enlarge it to 30- x 40-inches. Then mount the image on a piece of
foam core board to make it seem as if it’s floating on the wall.
Make a Quilt
When a customer of Judy Fleming’s walks in to Manhattan Textiles
in Wauwatosa and asks her what she would recommend doing with a group
of family photos, she has a ready answer. "I’d sell them about
eight yards of a really cool solid-color fabric and send them to
online sources to print photos on the fabric," she says.
"You can make cool pillows or placemats with pictures on
And Fleming’s sister-in-law, Weslyn Fleming, has done just that.
Weslyn’s grandson, Wes, asked his grandmother to make him a
"cuddle" quilt just like she did for his sister. So Weslyn
gathered up photos of the men in the family and scanned them into her
computer. Using photo transfer paper that’s backed with fabric, she
printed the photos from her printer. Arranging them in a patchwork
pattern, she sewed the pieces of black and blue fleece together and
quickly completed the project. Grandson Wes was thrilled with the
result. For those without access to a printer, Kinkos or similar
stores can scan and print the photos, as well as online sources.
Why photos of just the men? "Both of his grandfathers have
businesses with big trucks and forklifts," she explains, just the
thing to spark a 5-year-old boy’s imagination. "Grandma’s
photo never made the quilt. I’m the grandma who shall remain
faceless." Weslyn notes that a similar photo quilt would be a
great going away to college gift for a graduating senior. m