#tapculture with Vickie Aldous

Making the old new again. 

From stories of explorers chasing fountains of youth to cyclical fashion trends, we have a collective habit of wanting to freeze time and, since we can’t, keep things of the past present forever. Artist Vickie Aldous’ chosen vehicle for this feeling is library card art. She transforms discarded cards from library catalogs into pieces of contemporary art. 

Before you visit her Etsy shop WingedWorld, learn more about her experience with card catalogs, how she got started “rescuing library cards,” and which Etsy shops she follows herself.

Tell us about your experience with the card catalog when you were a kid

As a kid, I lived one block from the library in my town, so I was a frequent visitor. I was constantly using the card catalog. Since I was obsessed with horses, the section I used most was about horses. I especially loved Walter Farley’s Black Stallion series.

As an adult, I found a vintage card for the book “The Black Stallion” that dates from the 1950s. The card is in surprisingly good shape for being about 70 years old. The corners are a bit worn and it has some grime from so many little fingers touching it when it was inside a library card catalog drawer.

What was the first title from a library card catalog that you turned into a piece of art? And when was that?

After libraries switched over to electronic book databases and stopped using their physical card catalogs, I noticed my local library was using old cards for scrap paper. It felt wrong to me that these little pieces of history were being used for scribbled notes, then tossed away. With the permission of librarians, I started rescuing library cards.

Mainly as a creative exercise, I started painting imagery on the cards inspired by the titles, subjects or authors listed on each card. The first one was a cicada I painted on a card for the book “Musical Insects” about insects that make sounds. That was back in 2012.

When I started posting my library card art in my Etsy shop, sales took off. My very first library card customer bought a globe painted on a card for a book about Brazil, along with a moon painted on the book “Walk When the Moon is Full” about nocturnal animals.

The cicada painting sold one month later to a customer who bought three other cards painted with an origami crane, a starfish and another globe. 

The library card art quickly became so popular that I started selling only prints of the cards, not the original paintings on catalog cards—which have become extremely rare and hard to find. With prints, everyone can enjoy these artworks now and into the future.

Which ones do you display in your own home?

I like to rotate my art collection, which includes my own art plus prints and paintings by other artists. I went on an incredibly beautiful trip to Glacier National Park this past fall, so I’m currently displaying library cards with a fox and a black bear to remind me of wildlife.

Which titles are the most popular among your customers?

The most popular titles are definitely the ones that remind people of their favorite childhood books. From the start of my shop in 2012 to now, my top 10 best sellers in order are:

  1. “Charlotte’s Web” 
  2. “The Velveteen Rabbit” 
  3. “Madeline” 
  4. “Where the Wild Things Are” 
  5. An illustrated book of the poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”
  6. “The Cat Club” 
  7. “Where the Red Fern Grows” 
  8. “Peter Rabbit” 
  9. “The Mouse and the Motorcycle” 
  10. “To Kill a Mockingbird”

I’ve had some of those art prints available from the earliest years of my shop, so those have had a chance to accumulate a lot of sales. I add new designs every year.

Looking at the best sellers during the past three years, the top 10 are:

  1. “Madeline” 
  2. “The Snowy Day” 
  3. “Ramona the Brave” 
  4. “The Cat Club” 
  5. “Where the Wild Things Are” 
  6. “Charlotte’s Web” 
  7. “Where the Red Fern Grows” 
  8. “Goodnight Moon” 
  9. “Harriet the Spy” 
  10. “Island of the Blue Dolphins”

What other types of artwork do you make? 

I like to experiment with a variety of different painting styles and subjects, but one of my favorite things to do is collect botanical specimens from hikes and paint things like ferns, berries, mushrooms, pine cones, feathers and lichen. I also enjoy making bookmarks with illustrations that remind me of places I’ve traveled, like Seattle, Hawaii and England. 

Which Etsy shops do you follow?

I follow so many amazing shops on Etsy that I can’t name them all. Some I love include paper crafter BelgianPaperworks, botanical illustrator MeadowHouseStudio, illustrator BeccaStadtlander, illustrator GollyBard, folk art-inspired illustrator MirDinara, embroiderer SarahBenning and painter, printmaker and jewelry crafter Geninne.

Go ahead. Visit all the links! Whether you knew about library card art already or not, we hope this blog has introduced you to a new artist. Either way, enjoy the lighthearted diversion!