Bouncing Back?

Pam’s Pictorama Post: It’s been a rough road back here at Deitch Studio this week. Pictorama readers know that last week we were working to get on the other side of catching Covid. (That cheerful post is here if you missed it.) I rallied enough to go to Jersey to check in on my mom on Sunday night for a few days.

It rained early on Monday so I didn’t run. It cleared later and although I have largely lost my sense of taste (and smell) I still managed an appetite for a strawberry ice cream cone, belatedly in honor of my dad for Father’s Day. A friend and I stopped at Ryan’s where I used to buy ice cream for him weekly. Summer is in full swing there and even on a weekday afternoon it was abuzz. I felt like I could taste it at about 40%.

True enough!

Therefore, I didn’t attempt my maiden voyage, post-Covid run until Tuesday morning; which very agreeably, dawned not just sunny but unseasonably cool. I took the route north through the woods and did a neat 3.7 miles, not bad if very slow. My body seemed willing to partake, but I could see my limit pretty clearly. Tired, but no coughing.

Gorgeous cool morning for a run in Jersey Tuesday.

I had piled a bunch of appointments up for this visit to my mom and post run I met with a flooring guy named Mike who was very pleasant and looked like this was probably his first job. One of mom’s folks had her grandchildren with her as it was the first day of summer vacation for them and their camp has not started yet. They were thrilled with a friend’s visiting Bichon puppy (Ariel looks like a toy and stays in a playpen when she visits the Butler house) and so, among increasing chaos, I retreated upstairs for a Zoom meeting.

Visiting puppy, Ariel. Have I mentioned that mom’s cats are not pleased?

It was just after the call that I found out my brother in-law Simon had died. He had been in the hospital but I hadn’t expected him to die. Kim and I were on the phone when I was called back downstairs as a mattress was being delivered. Puppy barking, children shrieking, a queen sized mattress coming in through the garage held by two confused looking men – poor Kim I had to call him back.

My brother in-law Simon Deitch in an undated photo.

It always amazes me that my housebound mother’s house is like Grand Central Station compared to our apartment in Manhattan. It is the crossroads of the universe.

I headed back to NYC that afternoon. I found Kim fielding the kind of calls you get on those days – friends checking in and whatnot.

Kim is the one who will write about Simon. (He already wrote something this morning which will appear in the Comics Journal, online shortly.) I really only knew him slightly, but he and Kim were living together when I first met Kim and their creative collaborations were still underway during the first years of our being together. (Simon subsequently did a stint in jail for selling his methadone, which arguably saved him from a potential overdose. That period effectively ended their active collaboration on Southern Fried Fugitives, a comic strip they did for Nickelodeon Magazine.)

A Wing, a Breast, a Thigh, and a Drumstick on the run in a world that hungers for their flesh!

Luckily Kim’s brush with Covid seems to have been lesser than mine and he seems more solidly back while I continue to have periodic coughing and sneezing fits which come on me simultaneously and flatten me briefly. I got up early today and violated my rule about writing this blog very first thing in order to be out and running before it got hot. Even before 7:00 today the temperature was climbing.

Still running slow, but topped out at more than 5.7 miles. It was good to check on all my usual haunts which I have seen so little of. (I walked part of the route last weekend and said a quick hello to those who follow my running journal on Instagram stories.) I am hoping it kicks my overall energy into gear.

So life has not quite resumed its normal stride here, but we’re working on it. I feel like I have to give a shout out to the folks at NYC Funeral and Cremation. It appears to be an enormous company here in the five boroughs, but Mary has thoughtfully guided me through an extraordinary labyrinth of online paperwork the likes I have never experienced.

On the East River earlier this morning.

She called on Friday when I had paused in the process (to work), making sure I understood next steps and the need to complete them. They answer their phone at all hours and whoever I have gotten on the other end was unfailingly lovely without being smarmy. I think I will remember their thoughtfulness for a long time to come. I always appreciate someone who does their job well and of course being treated kindly is also good. I would highly recommend them, but obviously prefer not to have to use them again.

So that’s where we are late morning on this Saturday at the end of June. The world is turning upside down politically and so we are swamped from the outside as well as from within. Nonetheless, we’re taking a few deep breaths and moving slowly forward here at Deitch Studio.

Margate Felix

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Yes! Kicking off this Deitch Studio weekend with a new photo postcard purchase of Felix posing with a pint-sized friend. Since I collect deeply in this area I can cheerfully say with some certainty that I really overpaid for this card, but sometimes you just have to do what you have to as a collector and of course each of these cards is singular. (I assure you I have bitterly regretted every one that has gotten away from me.) Also notable, it is the very first time in all these years I have purchased one of these cards from a US source. Every other one I own has come from Britain, Australia (Katoomba!) or (I believe) New Zealand.

Compared to many others in my collection, this photo suffers a bit from exhausted chemicals in the making and has faded. Somehow however it has become more atmospheric and this little girl in her white frock and falling knee socks, holding Felix’s paw-hand, is sort of emerging out of the image at us. Behind her we can make out a white hatted woman (or taller child) in the white cotton beach garb of Britain in the 20’s, carrying some sort of lap rug. There are other blurry figures behind her and the outline of the tall buildings that surround this beach area.

Posing on a black cat chair at Margate. Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

I have several photos of Margate’s summer pleasures past in my possession, most notably numerous ones of a giant cat chair one could pose on as well. A few of those posts and photos can be found here and here, although there are many so shop around in the archive for others.

The Felix in today’s pic is a low-rise model if you will, a pint-sized version whose pointy ears just come up to her tiny shoulder. (Many of my photos show this size Felix as opposed to the much larger ones I think of as “life sized”, closer to the size of a midget.) At a glance I don’t think this particular Felix is represented in my collection – he has a rather singular appearance – his face is rather tidy and his arms are very long! (My theory is these were designed this way to encourage people to throw his arm around them perhaps?) I imagine the arms on Felix were somewhat moveable and the head probably swiveled and turned a bit for posing. I generally prefer my Felix-es with a slightly more maniacal expression.

Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

This card was never mailed although the inscription on the back also endeared it to me. In a faded script it says Taken at Margate 21st of Aug 24 and below Our Alana 2 years old 23 Months To Gran Daddy at USA. So it must have been put in an envelope or package and mailed to our shores all those years ago. It has a pinhole from where it spent time thump tacked up on a wall. It is faded and tattered but those are signs of having been beloved I think.

Margate photo postcard. Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

As this card creeps close to its one hundredth summer since it was snapped at that sandy beachside resort, I am reminded that simple summer pleasures have remained largely the same. On that note, it is time for me to throw on my running shorts, finish my ice coffee and get out for a run as this beautiful June morning beckons.

Verso of today’s card.

Mangold Felix – aka Uncle Felix

Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: Today’s recent acquisition is a bit of a head scratcher. I purchased him at a Bertoia auction recently. I was laying in bed late one night when I saw the email for the auction. I threw a bid on him and more or less forgot about it until I won and an email invoice showed up, a happy moment indeed.

From a Bertoia sale. Not in Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

I know I have seen this toy once or twice before, but the price must have been high or I was too late because I never remember bidding on him. While it is not a common toy; I did find one or two other examples online sold at auction previously. He is memorable though I think and you could almost think it was a hand-painted one of a kind. I have christened this jolly fellow Uncle Felix.

It appears to come from a pattern by a toy maker called Gunthermann (or Guntermann) which seems over the decades, to become something of the epitome of extraordinarily rare and expensive Felix items. I show the Felix merry-go-round below which fetches the price of a good used car at auction these days. (Someone prone to hyperbole on Pinterest called it the rarest toy ever.) Sadly it is unlikely to ever darken my door (I don’t play the lottery) nor am I even likely to see one in person although I would very much like to see it move. The maker is also responsible for a pull toy of Felix chasing mice (shown near top) which seems to always go for a mint as well.

Also sold by Bertoia Auction recently, the mysterious Felix merry-go-round toy! Sadly unlikely to ever be in Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

There is no information about my fellow in particular and whatever the relationship between Gunthermann (a German toy company that goes back to the 1890’s) and Mangold is not readily obtainable. The names around the Felix walking toys of this type seems to be interchangeable, although this odd variant seems to go under the Mangold name. Please do enlighten me if you know the facts here.

My version of the Gunthermann walking Felix. Arms are not missing, they are pinned behind in the thinking position! Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

Above is my own early (albeit beat-up) version of the Gunthermann walking Felix which I wrote about previously in a post found here. Also shown below is the more common version of the same toy pattern. The obvious question is, why did someone decide to disguise Felix in eyeglasses and a cheery black, red and white suit? How many could have been made and sold and why take a popular character make a very popular toy of him and then change it up? His red glasses taking the place of the black circles around Felix’s eyes. Mine wears a nifty white vest with painted buttons, white gloved hands and red trousers (with a pinstripe!) that end in black spats – his tail is painted white.

The more common Gunthermann Felix walking toy. Not in Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

Uncle Felix does still work, his key winds and his legs do a splendid sort of hopping walk. (He seems too fragile though to try to film it so you will have to take my word for it.) His paint is worn and chipped (and suffered a bit in transit despite careful packing), but his full glory is easy for me to imagine and dream about.

Walkin’

Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: It is a drizzly Sunday, Mother’s Day, morning after a downright stormy yesterday. Kim and I were out and battling it as he needed a new light board. (Light boards hold a special place in my heart as the first gift Kim ever gave me was a light board – we used it for many years before it passed away.) The one we bought is sort of space age flat and bulb-free; we’ll see how that goes.

I needed to pick up a pair of prescription sunglasses (yep, lost mine recently) in the same part of town, but those required a Saturday pick up so no choice but to fight the elements which were fairly ferocious. Photos below from our adventure to the art supply store and the Ukrainian restaurant where we stopped for lunch and to see if the weather would improve a bit. It did not.

A herd of zebra and some giraffes at Blick’s.
The East Village Ukrainian Restaurant on a very wet day yesterday. Christmas lights appear to be a year round decoration.

However, I digress and now onto the toys!

The motion of toys captivates me – wind-ups most frequently, ones that bounce and roll, battery toys on occasion. For this reason I generally acquire toys that still work – granted, usually simple mechanisms and motions. Toys are designed to entertain however and so they bump and hop and scoot along – we are missing something if they can’t do their thing. They make me laugh. Toys are distilled happiness and joy on demand.

Sometimes though the look of a toy is so great I am reminded of what my friend Mel has said which is, it’s okay if it doesn’t work, after all how often are you really going to play with it? This Felix falls in that category, although I am sad not to see him walk, his striped ball bouncing up and down and rolling in his hands! He’s a rare toy – I don’t remember ever seeing this one before. (However, every time I think that I can usually find a pristine version of the toy tucked away in Mel’s collection.) I purchased him on eBay and I paid a king’s ransom for him in a bit of a dog fight.

Today’s Felix bares some resemblance to this French wind-up toy, shown below, which Kim me for Christmas in 2020 and which was sold under a Krazy Kat listing at auction. (I wrote a Boxing Day post about him that can be read here.) That toy is a wind-up however and this one is a more simple friction walker which would have taken advantage of an incline I think.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

Unlike the French toy, this one is much lighter and simpler. The head on the one is made of a heavy plaster material and of a lighter version more like papier-mâché on this one. His feet are broad wooden slats which allows him to stand nicely on the shelf despite his disability. I do feel like if I was about 10% smarter I could repair the leg mechanism which seems to be a wire that has gone missing. As we can see, a wooden and cardboard construction make up his body. Sadly his silk suit has torn where his leg broke.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

Felix’s garb is a sort of jolly clown costume however, a look which is complemented by his big clownish feet. I especially like his big bow. There is a tiny (very hard to read) tag remaining under one foot which reads, made in Germany.

Despite his disabilities, Felix has a place of pride front and center on a shelf devoted to some of the finest cats in my collection. Mel has a point. I enjoy him each day, just looking at him.

The Mysteries of Felix

Pam’s Pictorama Post: After a long hectic week I take refuge in toy talk today. When I rolled out bed this morning and walked to a shelf of toys and took this fellow out Kim looked at me inquiringly and said, “Somehow you’ve never written about that particular Felix?” I have not. He arrived at a very busy time around my birthday and just the other day I thought about him, went looking for him and realized that I had unpacked him and tucked him on a shelf without serious consideration.

It probably won’t surprise Pictorama readers to discover that I have many rather compulsive collecting habits, formed and honed over years of searching for certain toys. I receive myriad notifications about auctions and notices about toy cats for sale on various sites such as Ruby Lane which is the origin of this guy. I’m sure there are people who have more refined processes and mine requires mulling through a lot of really dreadful items before occasionally there is something worth investigating. Maybe it is the only way to do it, maybe not.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

As I said, this fellow turned up on Ruby Lane whose daily listings are among the worst really, at least based on whatever search I saved there. Infuriatingly, on the rare occasion something great turns up it is generally already sold and don’t even ask me what that’s all about and why they need to tell me. Still, I give it a cursory morning glance each day. It’s like the lottery – you have to be in it to win it.

One morning in early February (while still in bed) I saw this and did a double take. He is 12 inches long (ears included) and made of a fluffy mohair which is unusual, however I have at least one other, very small and very old Felix made of a similar wool. He is, as you can see, oddly pristine making me wonder if he was somehow newly made. Yet a close look at his face pulls me in the direction of older.

This has happened to me once before, back in 2018, and I wrote about it in a post here and the toy is shown below. He is also rather pristine, but of an entirely different type. Although I thought there was also a chance he was somehow newer, he seems even less so than this fellow featured today.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

He was very (relatively anyway) inexpensive so, after I had a cup of coffee and could reason a bit, I figured it was worth taking a chance. If I ended up with a weird modern reproduction of an old Felix so be it. I purchased him and he arrived on my birthday, with some other nice items since it was my birthday, and I unpacked him and placed him on the shelf until my examination today.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

His head rotates, but his arms are not movable. Most notably his tail is just knitted wool whereas most Felix’s have a stiff tail for better tri-pod style standing. This Felix sports this brand new looking red bow, has shoe button type eyes and nose along with his stitched on Felix grin.

All Felix toys have an expression which helps define them and this one has a benignly slightly cross-eyed one, maybe not too bright but affable. He has long pointy ears, not unheard of in Felix design, but a tad less common. His most notable feature though is the fluffy mohair he is made of which hovers off him like a halo. As mentioned above and shown below, I have another very unusual one (featured in a 2014 post here) with fluffy mohair, but a very different design.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

My final analysis is that he is old, but of somewhat mysterious origin. Much like the off-model ones hand assembled on the East End of London (one of my favorite posts about that can be found here) there is a story here about the who and the how this was made which I have yet to figure out. Please send any information you may have. Meanwhile, Pictorama is on the case and will of course share any discoveries ultimately made.

Fat Tuesday, 1928

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Today’s card is a bit faded, but nonetheless a great addition to the Pictorama collection. While I am pleased to have acquired some outstanding photos of folks sporting Felix Halloween costumes and Felix (and Mickey) in some great parade shots (some of those can be seen in posts here and here) I believe this is the first Mardi Gras Felix photo I have acquired.

Identified at the bottom as being from New Orleans La. February 21st 1928 I checked and confirmed that this was indeed Fat Tuesday, the kick off for Mardi Gras, that year. It is a photo postcard which was never mailed and there is nothing else written on it. (Fat Tuesday is of course the celebration on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday when eating and drinking reaches a frenzied peak in order to tide you over through the period of Lent.)

Pams-Pictorama.com collection from a 2014 post.

All participants are in similar, mostly, black masks and all wear jolly hats in addition to their costume and a close look identifies that they are all women. While these clowns, in their silky costumes, in the front are perfectly lovely, it is of course the group of three wearing these early grinning Felix costumes that won me over. It should be noted that a close look reveals that there is a fourth participant wearing a perfectly great black cat costume on the end.

Neither of the occasions I was able to make brief visits to New Orleans were during Mardi Gras and many years ago now. While I wouldn’t be surprised if my work eventually takes me there again I unwittingly stumbled onto a Fat Tuesday tradition at Dizzy’s, the jazz dinner club associated with Jazz at Lincoln Center, this year.

A whole lotta brass with Alphonso Horne’s Gotham Kings.

Alphonso Horne’s Gotham Kings make an annual Mardi Gras appearance at the club and this year it could only be described as a raucous and joyous celebration of their return to Dizzy’s on Fat Tuesday after a two year online hiatus. When one of Alphonso’s trumpet players was unable to make the gig he engaged four others for a total of five on stage. Trumpet players called to each other from locations across the room as they emerged from the audience, kicked the show into gear and made their way to the stage where they joined the rest of the band and a tap dancer. (I do love a tap dancer!)

Tapping and drumming!

The performance was capped off by the vocalist C. Anthony Bryant singing What a Wonderful World. The tune is far from a favorite of mine, but there wasn’t a dry eye in the house that night. (You can see a variation of the band performing it – in a Manhattan apartment – on a Youtube video here.) So while it is unlikely that I will make Mardi Gras in New Orleans next year, I know where I am likely to be.

C. Anthony Bryant closing the show.

A B&C Deitch Valentine Portrait

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Here at Pictorama we enjoy certain inflection points during the year and the great Valentine reveal is one of them. Today is the day and welcome to all!

For those of you not in the know, each year my wonderful husband (Chief Artistic Genius and eponymous creator here at Deitch Studio, Kim Deitch) creates a Valentine’s Day drawing for me. Discussion about it begins seriously after Christmas and a period of development is followed by execution in early February. (A few examples from prior years can be found here, here and one that even features the Jazz at Lincoln Center orchestra as cats here.)

Some years I have very general thoughts and other years I may have more input. This was a rare year when I had a very specific request. I wanted an actual portrait of our cats, Cookie and Blackie! It is a perfect fit into my collection of images, usually vintage photos, of people and their feline friends. (These make up a whole sub-genre of images here at Pictorama so poke around the archive if you want to see some!)

Sadie and Dottie in a recent portrait by @crownandpaw.

You see, it started months back when a couple of kitties I follow on Instagram, Sadie and Dottie, had their portraits done. Sadie is a tuxie and her sister Dottie is, as self-described, a sort of cow spotty white kitty with black spots. Sadie and Dottie (@sadieanddottie) have a robust 13.3k followers and despite what you might think, I don’t actually follow a large number of cats on IG. There’s a cat in Japan, white with a comical big black mustache, who is dropped into my feed occasionally (name in Japanese so I don’t know), and a calico named Fudge who I like to see once in awhile. However, cats actually make up a smaller portion than antique jewelry, although more than rundown old houses for sale.

However, Sadie and Dottie’s mom and dad somehow manage to provide followers with a pitch perfect and pleasant stream of kitty triumphs and frustrations doled out at just the right pace. On some long, stressful days sitting down for a few minutes of treat time or bird watching (and chirping – which in turn makes the ears of my kits twitch as does the treat time meow) is the perfect antidote. Often I share a good post with Kim (and occasionally Cookie or Blackie), usually while sitting on the couch together, or in bed. I’m sure if Cookie and Blackie really understood they would be peeved at my defection of attention as it is they are just mildly annoyed by the thing in my hand which prevents two handed petting at times.

Sadie and Dottie (media stars that they are) have had their portraits done several times and it got me thinking that we really needed was a Kim Deitch portrait of our pair. I mentioned it to Kim who promised me that he would make me a grand one. Somehow months later as we were discussing my Valentine I decided that it was the appropriate moment and I knew he would deliver.

Sadie and Dottie in an earlier IG post posing with their portrait by @paintermurray_pet_portraits.

I was also thinking about years ago when Kim did a spectacular portrait of his friends Jay and Kathy with their Sphinxes and I was thinking of a picture that combined both elements of kitties romping in their usual pursuits and a straight ahead portrait of them – and today’s Valentine is it!

Kim Deitch portrait of Jay Rogers and Kathy Goodell with their cats and collection.

In addition to their likenesses front and center, their typical Cookie and Blackie romping is shown around the border. We have: catnip banana munching; chasing (Kill the Guy! the only game they play together); each shown with their own style of water drinking from a mug; neck biting (the denouement of Kill the Guy – but also sometimes B just walks over to C and starts biting her neck); Cookie chasing her tail and of course eating! Eating is their favorite activity and they would do it on demand if we allowed – but no. Here at Deitch Studio we have wet food at twelve hour intervals 6:00-6:00 and dry food in the interim.

It’s the Kim Deitch Valentine ’22 reveal!

I am shown sporting a star-patterned sweat shirt I actually wear most winter mornings agains the chill. (I am wearing it now as I write this, paired with my elephant toile print pj’s which I wrote about once here. It also highlights some morning cat activity here at Deitch Studio.)

Cookie, despite having left kittenhood far behind, still chases her tail almost daily. It is largely a morning occupation for her and if you know her you can see a fit of it starting to come on her as her tail seems to (rather independently and enticingly) commence twitching in a come hither sort of way. Sometimes it takes place in the tub (dunno why, but it does) and occasionally she combines it with trying to scare someone coming into the bathroom by popping out from the shower curtain. I call this her cat joke. Go Cookie!

The maniacal expression on Blackie’s face as he gets yelled at for biting Cookie’s neck here cracks me up! I am yelling, No neck biting! no doubt. Meanwhile, while Cookie is in charge of requesting fresh water (there is a division of labor between them always – for example it is Blackie’s job to wake us for food in the morning, although Cookie observes from the doorway), Blackie likes to drink his water standing up at the flat files in a quasi-human sidling up to the bar kind of pose. Line ’em up and keep ’em comin’ barkeep! Cookie prefers a more traditional go at it.

Blackie posting in front of his picture the other morning, perched on my desk chair.

I think Kim has done an entirely excellent job with the center portrait likenesses as well. Blackie is quite handsome and debonair – he knows he is a very good looking fellow and he is displaying a certain stuffy cat dignity here. Cookie has her more mercurial expression – paw resting lightly on that wild and erratic tail of hers.

Although wall space is always a premium here at Deitch Studio and Pictorama, I am tempted to get this one up somewhere. It is a great favorite already and my loving thanks to Kim for executing my request so splendidly and lovingly! Kim, you’re the best! Happy Valentine’s Day to all.

A February Felix Birthday Fiesta

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Ongoing Pictorama readers and fans of Deitch Studio know to hang onto their hats in the middle of February when my birthday and Valentine’s Day generally conspire to bring things here to a great one two punch of birthday gift and Valentine reveal, and this year I can only say we have reached a somewhat fevered pitch!

Today I kick things off with a really splendid Felix that arrived on our shores several weeks ago (see a post about the first of those Felix toys, a fascinating horizontal fellow, here and an autumn acquisition also from Peter here), but has been patiently waiting to be let out of his box on my birthday. He did not disappoint! Kim had him standing atop of my keyboard yesterday morning when I got up and he is an especially jolly fellow in my opinion.

This AMAZING birthday cake made by a friends of one of mom’s caretakers. Wowza! It has been a great cake birthday!

Over my morning coffee I tucked him next to a compatriot next to my desk where I could have a good look at him through the day. This morning I found them deep in conversation. (If you think you haven’t seen the other fellow before he too is a recent acquisition and that cat will have his day too in a Felix future post!) Blackie was a bit too curious at first (he considers my desk his territory), but eventually his interest waned and he napped instead.

I found these fellows in conversation this morning, perched among the detritus of the shelf ajoining my desk.

Our Felix is a solidly made toy and his previous father, Peter, told me he is by the maker Chad Valley and upon careful examination – yes! He has a Chad Valley button tucked into his ear.

When I first started collecting and researching Felix I mistakenly thought more or less every Felix was made by Chad Valley. I don’t think I ultimately contributed to the incorrect identification of Felix toys, but I may have and regardless misinformation abounds. I also may have pegged this one for Deans as the maker. Well, I was certainly confused about it and remain a bit unsure in this territory. I welcome anyone who has further defining information, education or elucidation.

Found the Chad Valley tin button in his ear! Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

Chad Valley is a British toy company that dates back to the early 19th century. They were makers of teddy bears in the early part of the 20th century and that’s when and how the Felix-es must have snuck into production. They subsequently became better known for trucks and tin toys over time. A google search turns up many different styles of Felix which are assigned to them as a maker, but very little help in detailed identification. (I have done a better job of identifying my Bonzo dog and an Ooloo the Cat as Chad Valley and those posts can be found here and here.)

Chad Valley Bonzo, Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

With their shoe button eyes and nose they do have a distinctive look and as I mentioned above, he is nicely and solidly made. His arms are freely moving, his head stationary. Felix’s muzzle has become a bit bare and the felt around his eyes has curled a little, but he stands up well.

Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

I’m not sure that the spot next to my desk is the ultimately residential resting spot for them both, but right now I am enjoying their company and giving them a close look now and then. They fall just below the Zoom camera range for meetings which is sort of unfortunate because I do think everyone could use a Felix thrill during at least some of our daily meetings.

My toy shelf overflow-eth! A very special (and extra wonderful!) Kim Deitch Valentine reveal tomorrow and yes, more toys to come. Meanwhile, an unseasonably warm day awaits and Kim and I are heading out for a day downtown, maybe a run first. Perhaps more acquisitions still to be made!

A birthday balloon from my cousin Patti in NJ. I brought it home where Cookie coverts and worships it in turn.

Going Sideways

Pam’s Pictorama Post: It is always a great day at Pictorama when I get to share a new Felix and a few have arrived at our welcoming shores recently. Due to a bad case of life in general Christmas arrived a bit late at Deitch Studio this year, but that made these acquisitions no less beloved as additions to the Felix family. The collection has grown so over the years it can be a bit difficult to find toys that are distinctly different enough to add, but these are worthy additions indeed.

These Felix-es hail from Peter Woodcock, the dealer who recently sold me the simply amazing Dean’s Felix this past fall in an online British toy sale. (That post can be found here.) In late December I threw myself on Peter’s mercy to supply both Christmas and birthday (February!) gifts this year and he responded splendidly with three Felix toys, the first which is being featured today.

A friend recently told me in an email that I was the first person to ever take her into an antique store. I am not sure I was aware that it was among my accomplishments, nor do I remember the occasion, however we went to college together so I assume it was during that time. Given a reasonable proximity to antique stores or even junk stores (New London, Connecticut was more junk than antique by far), it is hard to keep me out of them so it seems distinctly possible – putting aside for the moment the question of who hasn’t been in an antique store before reaching young adulthood?

Celluloid firefly in the Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

Meanwhile, I had been nattering to her about my recent affection for insect jewelry of the early years of the 20th century. (Subject matter insects, not made of insects – which yes, does seem to have been an early 20th century thing – I am more celluloid firefly than Felix depicted in butterfly wings. All about insect jewelry posts can be found here and here.) She pointed out that my aesthetic and interests had always converged on the dawning years of the 20th century.

Felix pendent made of butterfly wings. Not in Pams-Pictorama.com collection. (The concept kind of creeps me out!)

Pictorama readers know that in recent decades that interest has been directed largely to things early Felix the Cat and perhaps most especially those items which celebrate the somewhat off-model, askew evidence of the human hand. The revelation that some such a work force on the East End of London, (made up of indigent women as a social service scheme) in the 1920’s was one of the favorite fun facts I have ever turned up in my research. (That post can be read here.)

I suspect that maybe today’s little fellow hails if not from that collective perhaps from a similar British enclave of toy production. He is the second entry of a horizontal Felix in my collection and if I have seen many more I do not remember them. Christmas of 2015 brought the first to Pictorama, shown below. A post devoted to him, for those of you who are a bit completest like me, can be found here.

A Felix Christmas gift from 2020. Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

Today’s featured fellow is smaller, a scant five inches or so. He is made of a plushy velveteen-y fabric. His head is (was?) somewhat swerve-able. He maintains his sparse but prickly looking plastic whiskers on both sides; his pointy ears are an ancient felt. While he has glass eyes like the one above, his have a slightly more insane expression (right?) and his black nose maintains its gleaming black. I like his sturdy tail which sticks up, almost like a fifth leg. His muzzle has also kept its mohair fluffiness.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

Although Felix as an early cartoon entry certainly spent a fair amount of time in a catty horizontal run, we tend to think of him in his anthropomorphic semi-human vertical form. While my previous acquisition was a bit more catty than Felix usually is, this one captures the spirit of the cartoon in that regard – Felix in motion.

Newly transplanted to the shores of the United States, this little guy joins the Pictorama collection with a place of pride on a Felix devoted shelf near my desk where savvy visitors via Zoom get to see him featured daily. Thank you Peter for parting with him!

Scarfing

Pam’s Pictorama Post: I woke to this 12 degree morning, bright as a new penny, here in New York City this January day and had no idea what I wanted to share with you folks today. Coffee in hand, I wandered among my possessions and reached into a pile by my desk of somewhat unsorted photos and odd items that seemed to need a bit of consideration before posting. I pulled out this item which somehow Kim hadn’t even seen come into the house; given the intimate dimensions of Deitch Studio this is indeed unusual.

This scarf struck my fancy when I saw it and I bought it on a whim knowing it wasn’t not my usual side of the street. The pointy Felix-es around the boarder tickled me – I am a sucker for a pointy Felix as some Pictorama followers know – and I like the color combination.

However, when it arrived I was a tad disappointed overall. The fabric is a bit thin and the design is a bit odd – the text which appears to be an interview with Pat Sullivan, an idea I sort of like – is strangely and unevenly cut off by the center image. While I realize that once you wear it as a scarf it wouldn’t much matter it offends my sensibility as an object.

Detail of scarf, Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

The scarf has a (rather conspicuous think) note that it is the product of Determined Productions, San Francisco worked into the boarder design and it was produced in 1989 as per (yet) another note on the boarder which give the copyright of Felix the Cat Productions, Inc. which (Google informs me) resides in nearby Hamburg, New Jersey. I guess I give it a B- grade.

There was a time when I wore a lot of scarves and my wardrobe boasted many. It helped that the Metropolitan Museum produced them and I was able to purchase them at a steep discount for myself and my family. (I had learned to tie them, after a fashion at least, during my college year living in London, brighting a small number of outfits with bright scarves of different colors and prints. Nothing fancy but a method or two that work for me anyway.) The offices at the Met were often cold and a scarf made practical sense – many people had the same idea and in winter would find us all wrapped in them and wool shawls from the store there as well.

My current offices (when and if I visit them which is still rarely) are also chilly in winter, but somehow I have fallen largely out of the scarf habit although they still reside in my closet, languishing with a lot of other unused office clothes at the moment, a sort of a time capsule despite a recent clean out. (My efforts in this area and further thoughts on various aspects of the potential return to the office can be found in a post here.) I tended to layer on jackets and sweaters instead. Here, working from my perch at home, I also just ten to add a layer although this apartment and especially that corner of it, tends to be warm.

The spare room at mom’s house on the chilly morning in question.

Recently I was working from my mom’s house in New Jersey and assigned myself an unused upstairs room as my office. That room turns out to be quite chilly and as I had few items of clothing with me I did wrap myself in a big wool scarf I had with me for my afternoon of Zoom calls. Folks asked about it, never having much seen me in one and wondering where the heck I was that I was so cold. (A navy wool cardigan has been sourced as a permanent resident of the New Jersey branch of my operations, as a way of addressing this issue, but a scarf may still be required. I will be testing this out later this week anyway, but will arrive better prepared.)

The question of how daily work attire will emerge from this long hiatus of going to an office is unsure – as is the precise nature of said return. There are days when I think I should just toss everything (potentially piles of nicer trousers, tops and jackets) but the three pairs of nice jeans, two sweaters, two tops, maybe a jacket or two for “dressing up”, that are currently in rotation. They could rattle around in an otherwise empty closet with a lot of running tights and sweats. Meanwhile, a return to scarf wearing in the near term seems unlikely.