Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Quite frankly, I saw those plates on the wall with the airplanes and kept being drawn back to this photo which I ultimately purchased, uncontested, on eBay recently. There is no writing on it and I am a fan of the mid-century ruffled border of the photo. While there is no particular reason to believe that the event these women are anticipating has anything to do with the airplane plates, I keep going back to them and wondering – fascinated by the way they are strung precisely across the top part of this room. I love collecting and enjoy seeing documentation of other people’s evidence of it. This is a nice example. I like the idea that someone collected these plates and then decorated this room with them. Splendid.
I did some quick research and I was unable to find these actual plates – the plates in the photo have a distinct horizon line and simplicity which I cannot find in another set. Similar plates were (or are) made by several different, mostly British, companies. UK eBay is full of variations, but the Davenport Wings of Fame plate series is the one that comes up first and most. I share those below, each with a month of the year.
My favorite is March’s Rescue at Sea. (They evidently have names, perhaps on the back?)
I like the plates on the wall of this photo better than these, which in all fairness appear to be slightly cheesier. There are seven on the wall in the photo and it does beg the question of if they are an earlier version of this plate of the month series. There would in theory be more or less just enough to go around this room.
This smallish table somehow manages to have eight place settings on it which seems ambitious – although I think I have had six people eat around our flat files so I guess one can do anything if a bit creative. There is a general festive sense about the scene, and it is easy to assume that it is documenting the anticipation of a happy occasion. The Siamese cat, who seems to have a grouch on, is the only exception to an otherwise jolly scene, but we know how cats can be – you can’t judge general ambiance by them. The two women are attractive and seems to be genuinely happy, not just smiling for the camera, and who (besides kitty) can blame the one for scooping up puss for posterity in the photo? From the clothes, make up and general look I would put this photo in the late forties or early fifties. My guess is that it was indeed a lovely day.
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: The post office delivered yesterday and we at Pictorama are back on board writing about these two wonderful photo album pages purchased recently. Kim and I are often opining about how sad it is to see albums being broken up – single photos torn out and sold, or even pages like these taken from an album. Still, I purchased these pages while weighing whether or not to purchase an entire album of photos from someone else. They were asking a sizable amount and without being able to see the full album online it seemed dubious and in the end I did not bid – so perhaps selling them whole is indeed a problem. Still, these beauties beg the question of what the full album looked like – was it all illustrated like this? Sad to think of the pages scattered and the family story never coming back together to be told again.
The dated page has the better photos of the two in my opinion. I love the one of the three women all holding cats. Their Seattle yard is very lush – a leafy paradise really, with the sun pouring in behind them. The cats appear to be wriggling to varying degrees in their photo pose holds here. Big white kitty resembles the platinum blonde holding him or her, but the woman with the hat and gloves is my favorite – so proper yet cat friendly. (That dark outfit was covered in white hair when they were done.) Above that photo is sort of a candid one of a group of romping cats and kittens, also tucked away among more greenery. Same white kitty, but this time holding court among the kits it seems – perhaps the mom cat I now think? Looks like an adorable group kicking capering around and enjoying themselves. In the final photo on this page, white kitty continues to be the focus convincing me she is Mom, this time with just two kits. The white paint illustrations are good – swiped poses perhaps? Great animated tummy pose – Cookie assumes this one frequently.
The second page has Watkins’ Home for Strays on the sign next to this hobo-come-Puss ‘n Boots kitty drawing, complete with bindle tossed over his shoulder, fluffy tailed. There’s something a tad wonky about the direction of one of the booted paw feet, but it is a spirited and ambitious illustration. Sadly, there is a photo missing from the lower left of this page – only the black corner holders remain indicating where the bottom of that photo was held. The prize on this page is white kitty and a black cat atop a bird cage. I believe there is a bird in the cage (bottom left – unfortunate birdie which must have been very stressed indeed) and these two pusses are intensely interested. The photo at the top shows the three matching kittens, one sporting a bow this time. It is a poor photo, but shows off these fine youngster kitties for one more view.
The Watkins documented themselves in a highly decorative fashion as a very cat friendly family. Therefore ultimately, where better for these stray pages to find a home than my cat photo collection?
Art Smith earrings
Pam’s Pictorama: Many years ago, my mother gave me these silver earrings. I don’t have pierced ears and therefore I don’t wear earring frequently, however for a number of years these earrings represented dressed up for me. I don’t remember my mother ever wearing them – she is not, never has been, a wearer of jewelry. I must have inherited my desire to drape myself in precious metals and gem stones from my paternal grandmother (Gertie Butler, as mentioned in my recent post Irving, Gertie and Elliott) because I have no memory of my mother wearing more than her wedding ring with only a few notable exceptions.
Recently while cleaning out some closets and shelves at the ancestral home we uncovered a jewelry box, and one of the things it contained was this interesting silver necklace which matches the earrings. It is one the few pieces of jewelry I remember her wearing although I had not seen it in decades. In the process of cleaning it I realized it was signed by the maker, Art Smith. On a whim I googled the name.
Turns out the Brooklyn Museum had a retrospective of his jewelry in 2011. His partner, Charles Russell, left the museum 21 pieces of jewelry and archival material including his tools, period photographs of models wearing the jewelry, and sketches. According to the site, The Brooklyn born Smith was known for pieces that were occasionally over-sized in scale, but wearable and featured semi-precious stones set in silver and gold.
Trained at Cooper Union, they offer that he was a supporter of black and gay civil rights. He opened his first store on Cornelia Street in the West Village in 1946. It is easy for me to imagine my parents wandering into his store, circa the early 1960’s, and picking out the necklace and earrings for my mother.
I cleaned them lightly (fearfully!) and wore them recently to the opening of the Met’s new location, The Met Breuer, a building which is celebrating it’s fiftieth year as it enters its latest incarnation as a Met outpost. So here’s a small salute to New York of the 1960’s, and most of all to my mother, who has excellent taste even if she doesn’t often wear jewelry.