Pam’s Pictorama Post: Today’s Felix the Cat tale stretches back aways, starting with a few hand-drawn postcards I added to my collection back in 2014, and I had no idea what these postcards when I acquired them. While I have some enjoyably whacky examples of whacky free-hand Felix drawings (a post can be found here), these appeared to be penciled and inked, not perfect but surprisingly on model drawings of Felix.
While I was writing about one of the more bizarre hand executed cards (that post can be found here) someone gave me a heads up that stencil kits was available and that’s how these cards were likely made. Evidently there was a set made and sold in France and a slightly different US version. The kit I purchased recently (another friend gave me this tip – many thanks to Bob!) is the US version. From what I can see, the European and American kits had some different poses and some of the cards I have appear to have been made from the European box.
The instructions are great fun to study and it is interesting to reflect on a time when people were willing to make their own Felix postcards with a box of stencils. Although this could loosely be classified as a toy, these are a bit complex and the skill needed for these is a lot for a child as you will see when Kim tries one below.
Most of the Felix-es are in the nice blocky early style that I especially like and this fellow on the jolly red and blue front of the box, huffing on a pipe is splendid indeed. (Although a careful look at the sheet below shows several different Felix styles really – some blocky and some rounder. Curious.) The front also boasts, not surprisingly, a Pat Sullivan copyright, a US patent, and a maker – J.W. Spear & Sons, New York. There is a smaller notation which says, (Spear’s Games), and my favorite note in tiny print in the lower right corner which is, manufactured at the Spear works Bavaria.
A meandering side note on Spear & Sons toy makers: Primarily a manufacturer of board games, the company was originally founded in a town near Nuremberg, Germany under the family name of Spier. With the rise of the Nazis, some of the family left Germany (they were Jewish) and went Britain where they had a factory and changed their name to the more anglosized Spear. The Germany company was taken over by the Nazis and was made into a munitions factory which was ultimately bombed and destroyed during the war. The British factory also made munitions during the war, but return to board games after. Subsequently the company was purchased and absorbed by Mattel.
My box of stencils is well-used by someone who blackened the whole image (with ink) rather than a pencil or pen trace and then blackening in as my postcards were executed and as Kim executes below. Each stencil requires two cards (color coded and number, 1a and 1b, etc.) lined up with a pinhole in one corner. This allowed from more dynamic poses I think. My box appears to be missing two sets of stencils, 1a and 1b and 2a and 2b. Not sure which images these are although the one of Felix on the scooter appears to be one of them.
Here at Deitch Studio we obviously have the talent on hand to give these a fair try. I have asked Kim to tool up and use these stencils to make a drawing. Have a look here and see the master at work toying with these stencils. As you will see, we find them a tad short of the full drawing and he had to finish him a bit freehand.