One of the things that us Flea Market Floozies and Garage Sale Sallies come across frequently are suitcases. There's a plethora of suitcases out there, waiting for new homes. I like to look for the pre-Samsonite suitcases, the kind that may not have a maker's name at all. A couple years ago, I came across a suitcase that was from a line of Amelia Earhart luggage. I'm just superstitious enough that I wouldn't fly with an Amelia Earhart suitcase, if I could help it.
Most likely, us new owners of these old pieces of luggage aren't going to actually use them for their intended purpose. Old leather suitcases or any suitcase or "valise" with travel stickers on them are going to be used as display pieces, and that's perfectly fine, because they aren't ready to be tossed around at an airport in their fragile condition. Set a vintage suitcase on a side table next to a bed and fill it with a couple bottles of necessities, like shampoo, lotion, and some towels. This makes a wonderful vintage welcome in your guest room.
Lately I've begun picking up faux-leather suitcases at garage sales to use as blank canvases for some fun craft projects. Here are two examples that look like they need a new lease on life:
First, the green suitcase got a "Mitzi Makeover". I took a few measurements here and there, deciding that I should divide the center area into thirds. Then I chose a pleasing rectangular shape for my "pattern", which was simply a rectangle of poster board. I used the pattern to cut a series of rectangles from my stash of flocked velvet wallpaper, something I've been accumulating recently. I used my trusty Mod Podge to coat the back of the wallpaper, and applied it to the suitcase, rolling over it with a brayer. Because the wallpaper is flocked, there's no additional application of Mod Podge for a top coat.
Just a few materials are needed for this project:
I guess I used some Collage Pauge on this project too. Either glue will work fine.
The finished suitcase is cheerful and colorful:
The two sides are quite different:
The tan suitcase with its tattered leather trim gave me the impression that it belonged to a man. I wasn't really ready to create anything with it until I was inspired by some old paper handbills for " Professor Henry Englehardt, The Celebrated Prestidigitator, Fire King and Salamander", that I just happened to have in my stash. I decided my tan suitcase belonged to the Professor, and he carried it with him from town to town along with his Magic and Mystery show. FYI: A "salamander" is someone that resists fire, probably a fire-eater. Once I had my theme, I was off and running!
I took the handbills to Staples and color copied them on the laser color printer. The copies were then cut up into sections that I thought would look good on the suitcase. I chose a monochromatic color palette and included some torn bits of paper ephemera behind the handbill copies to set them off better.
Besides being a Fire Eater, Professor Englehardt also practiced "Dark Necromancies of the Day" by showing his audience his "Cabinet of Wonders", which purported to "Astonish and Mystify" them. Also traveling with the Prof was a Famous Troupe of Marionettes, featuring "40 Lilliputian Performers in Circus and Vaudeville Acts":
I was pleased with my decoupage collage on the suitcase, but it just didn't seem finished. Then it hit me: I needed to find a picture of the Professor! I didn't have the patience to research Professor Englehardt on the internet to find a picture, if one even exists, so I leafed through an old Harper's magazine and found about a dozen great pictures of distinguished gentlemen to choose from. My Englehardt sports a bushy handlebar mustache and heavy-lidded eyes, weary from traveling from town to town, having to untangle the strings of 40 marionettes, or maybe taking one to many sips of a Magic Elixer:
Of course, the Professor wore his beaver top hat when he traveled across the country with his troupe:
I hope my suitcase project will inspire you to attempt something creative with an unloved piece of luggage. If you do, please send me a picture. I'd love to include reader projects in one of my future blog posts.
Have a creative weekend,