The Sketchbook

Behind the Matchbook Print Project

Behind the Artwork

I started painting matchbooks after listening to a podcast about getting “un-stuck.” I was feeling anxious about the long term health of a commission-based art business, and found myself spending more hours googling [depressing] industry statistics than actually painting. The podcast (which I should probably note, falls in the “arts & creative business” category) suggested setting aside time to reconnect with the kind of artwork that makes you happy. Not what might sell best, or get the most likes on instagram – just an hour or two to paint or draw something just for yourself.

matchbook collection display
One of many matchbook collection displays in our apartment

As I looked around my apartment for a subject that would “spark joy,” I kept coming back to the collection of matchbooks on my coffee table. I have always enjoyed the personality in each design – just as much as I love the memories behind the matchbook itself. They always make me smile.

I picked up a paintbrush, grabbed a few of my favorite matchbooks, and started painting. As you might have guessed from the title of this post, this little exercise in getting un-stuck by way of a “passion project” (cheesy, but accurate), exploded into a growing collection of watercolor illustrations of my favorite matchbooks from around the world.

illustrated matchbook collection
The beginning of the matchbook collection

I started collecting matchbooks years ago, after inheriting my Dad’s collection. I loved dumping the contents of the three massive tins onto the floor of my room – sifting through his collection and reading on the covers where they were from. With my Mom as narrator, we grouped hundreds of my Dad’s matchbooks by city, state, and country — oooh-ing and ahhh-ing at the┬ádistinctive designs.

My favorite part, though, was hearing the stories behind each matchbook from my mom. “Your Dad picked this one up on a business trip to Tokyo. He brought you back a miniature tea set!” “This one was from the hotel we stayed at right after our wedding.” “This was your Dad’s favorite Italian restaurant in the city. It was right around the corner from his office.” 

Each matchbook told a story about a time in my Dad’s life…and now my own matchbook collection tells a story about mine. In painting these matchbooks, I hope to give you the ability to create your own collection too!

Check out the process below!

Step 1) Organize and pick out matchbooks to paint! Sub-categorize matchbooks by color and cuisine because you have a touch of OCD
Step 2) Paint your muse! The matchbooks here will be part of the ~Italian Classics~ sub-collection (see: touch of OCD)
Step 3) Repeat step 2 until you are covered in paint and dangerously close to accidentally starting a house fire
Step 4) Create a proof of the matchbook print! These little guys are all located on the Upper East Side (or as I like to call them in my head, the “home to visit mom collection”)

Have a restaurant, bar, or hotel you would like to see available in the Matchbook Print Shop? Comment below!

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