Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Hanukkah from the Trenches

So much for this amazingly original trench art Hanukkah Menorah I found on eBay. There’s another exactly like this one, written up here, and yet another just like it in the book "From the Secular to the Sacred: Everyday Objects in Jewish Ritual Use" by the Israel Museum.

“Trench art,” as it turns out, is a tricky business. It’s hard to know whether the our Menorah was a microtrend, as in “I’ve got this rifle butt--hey, I think I’ll make one of those nifty menorahs I just saw Ari make,” or if it is of the “mass produced” variety. By that I mean “Yossi, bring me as many rifle butts as you can get your hands on. Tourists are buying them faster than I can turn them out.”

Here’s how Wikipedia presents the subject of trench art:
To the uninitiated, all trench art, by definition, was made by a soldier sitting in a trench in France during the First World War, in the midst of a bombardment. To the cynics, it was all made in the 1920s by enterprising French and Belgian citizens. The reality is, naturally, a mix of these extremes, and everything in between, and spans conflicts from the Napoleonic Wars to the present day.

In the realm of Judaica, the Menorah might be the only ritual object for which a gun is actually appropriate, as Hanukkah is the only ancient Jewish holiday to commemorate Jews battling their enemies. If you are not familiar with those guerilla warriors who took back the Temple, read about the macho Maccabees here.

Here's to repurposing all guns! Wishing a peaceful, light-filled holiday to all.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Trompe L’oeil Gift Guides

Le jeu de l'oisif

Think of these paintings by Jacques Poirier (1928-2002) as “found” gift guides His trompe l’oeil extravaganzas are crammed with such a dizzying quantity and variety of objects that you’re bound to hit on some gift solutions while studying them.

Poirier put aside his successful career as an illustrator when he was in his early fifties, and devoted himself full time to painting. The world on which he trains his hyper-realism is part junk-drawer-on-steroids and part prop closet of William Harnett and Joseph Cornell. He’s known for embedding puns, anagrams and rebuses into his elaborate works--efforts which, are completely lost on me, since they are in French. You can see more of his work here(where these images are mostly from), and you can read more about his background here.

There is no site for Poirier's illustrations, but you can look at some of his illustrated book covers at Antiqbook, where I did a search for his illustrations.

Hopefully, between the balls of twine, glass orbs, playing cards, doll fragments, scrimshaw and bits of hardware, you’ll at least find inspiration.

Labels link to the product, clockwise:

Scrimshaw book, giant jacks,
antique-games book,
Ikebana shears, game of jacks,
bust of Thomas Jefferson,
fuzzy dice, Scrabble.


Pencil sharpener, shell print,
crank sharpener, Shell Chic,
kraft paper pads, electric sharpener,
crow-quill pens, calligraphy book,
Speedball ink.


Binoculars, pipe, tape measure,
magnet, gazing ball

Le vol d'Icare

Crane, Radio Flyer red wagon,
Lego architecture, Erector Set

Histoire d'h

Eco edition playing cards, sealing wax set,
leather driving gloves, Michelin Guide,
alphabet nesting blocks

Le cavalier seul

Faux storage books, book clock,
horse mannequin, Dr. Seuss's ABC

Then again, there's always Chanukah gelt (or gift cards, as they call it today).

Monday, December 12, 2011

Tattooed Glove Love

These tattoo-covered vintage leather gloves are the work of Chicago-based artist Ellen Greene. I’ll spare you the disappointment I suffered and tell you right away that these gloves are not wearable. They are to be collected and displayed as the works of art that they are.

Whenever I see white leather gloves, I'm reminded of how far away the recent past really is. They are neither rare nor particularly valuable, and can be easily found at any thrift shop or flea market. I imagine that many pairs of white gloves remain today, in drawers of women who probably never imagined that such a classic accessory would be totally obsolete in their lifetimes. While the simple strand of pearls managed to survive the feminist movement, the white kid glove became absolute road-kill. Even if they were to make a comeback, most of these delicate and exquisite symbols of ladylikeness are too small for today’s hands. How wonderful to see them get a life. I love that the images they are covered with, would have been unimaginable to their original owners.

From the website: “White gloves evoke a sense of purity and of formality, while the art of tattooing may suggest carnal sexuality and rebellion. The tension between the two helps define Greene's personal aesthetic, as well as her original tattoo-inspired designs which adorn these vintage gloves.”

I’ve posted the tamer ones here, so definitely go see the rest on Greene’s website. Prices range roughly from $500 to $1000 a pair. Take a look at the works on paper, those starts as low as $150.

Gloves may not be such an unimaginative gift, after all!

Okay, she mostly uses white gloves. I'm crazy about the reverse scrimshaw effect of this white-on-black pair.

via Who Killed Bambi?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Bard Book Blowout

There is a fantastic book sale going on this weekend and next at the Bard Graduate Center Gallery. Catalogs for past exhibits at the gallery are being offered at a 70% discount. And if you buy three, the fourth book is free.

These books are all incredibly well researched, and gorgeously produced. Many of them are the only books on the given subject and for other subjects they serve as the definitive scholarly text. The ones pictured above are only a small sample of available catalogs.

And while you are there, you must see the wonderful show, Hats: An Anthology by Stephen Jones. There is a catalog for that show as well, but it is not part of the book sale.

The top-hat form, below, is in the show, and
there are, of course, many, many amazing hats.

The book sale is at the BGC Gallery, 189 West 86th Street,
near Central Park West, in NYC.
December 8-11 and 15-18, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Stocking Hosiery

A hosiery display I saw in Berlin employed a very clever system to encourage the proper replacement of removed packages, to the shelf. The bottom portion of the package image is repeated on the shelf slot where it belongs. Easy, right? Just match up the pix, and that package of panty hose, knee-highs, etc. will end up right where it is supposed to be (see below). Unless, for some reason, that doesn’t happen (above). The display then becomes one of those mix-and-match flipbooks. Results can be anything from hilarious to headache-inducing.

The display, when all goes according to plan.

How long till I get used to these bifocals?

It only took a slight misalignment to give the illusion
of a broken ankle.

And those ink runs had better be perfect too.

Here’s another brand that tried, just as unsuccessfully, the same “clever” approach.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Gem of a Map

I’m definitely a fan of turquoise jewelry, but I don’t usually pore over books on the subject. So I’m pretty sure it was the under-line, “The Gem of the Centuries” that got me to pick up this vintage title from 1975. What got me to actually buy the book and take it home, though, was the map inside, Turquoise Mines of the Southwest.

Specimens of various turquoise stones are placed on a painted map highlighting Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado. You hardly need a caption to know that each stone’s pointer leads to its mine location. According to the caption, these are most of the major production locations, but there are many other mines and kinds of turquoise not represented. Page numbers link each specimen to jewelry pictured in the book using that variety of turquoise.

What I like about this map is that it doesn’t try to do too much. It shows only the relevant states and doesn’t feel compelled to label any geography. The mines are discussed throughout the book along with details of the different varieties of the stone. The restraint of maintaining a limited palette on the map is also key to its success.

Curious about what else the map’s illustrator, Gene Boyce Guest produced, I poked around a bit and found only a few pictures attributed to him her. Here are two pieces.

This postcard of Santa Fe's Palace
of the Governors, is from an
original painting by Guest.
1968 oil painting of a Santa Fe hillside.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Scenes From an Autumn Weekend

Each weekend I think it must be the last before winter sets in. Snapped these on a weekend visit to the country earlier this fall. Walks, shopping, yard sales, and mushrooms everywhere!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

To my Fine Feathered Friends …

I thought this was a good day to share this vintage collection of tail feathers I bought on eBay a while back.

A Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


PHOTOGRAPHIE was an annual, special issue of the magazine Arts et Metiers Graphiques entirely dedicated to photography. There’s lots to read about AMG, the influential journal of all things print-related, at Modernism 101, where most of these images are from. There’s also a whole website about it at RIT.

What I particularly like about these photo annuals, aside from how beautiful they are, is that they feature no photography on the covers. The typography acts as master of ceremonies. It introduces the special guest and then gets out of the way.

Unfortunately, AMG founder Charles Peignot would definitely not approve of this post. He and his pals (like Le Corbusier, Jean Cocteau and A.M. Cassandre) formed Union des Artistes Modernes, a group "strongly against anything backward looking."










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