Christmas in July – Part 1

 

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Pam’s Pictorama Post: A month or so ago, someone on Facebook sent me some photos via Kim of really unusual Felix Christmas cards. They were not for sale, but on a site where they were on display as part of a collection. I had never seen them or anything like them before and loved their strangeness. I save the images for my own edification (shown here above), but unfortunately have lost both the link and the name of the person who sent them. (Apologies – and if you remind who you are I will happily update this post!) Shortly after, in that way that the universe seems to have sometimes, one of them turned up on eBay, in mint condition although used, and I snatched it up.

These cards are British and there is a tiny embossing at the bottom of the back of this one which says Raphael Tuck & Sons Ltd. Publishers to the King & Queen Produced in England with a crest of sorts which is very hard to see. A quick check online tells me that Raphael Tuck and his wife Ernestine, started the business out of their home in Bishop’s Gate in 1866. They received the royal nod in 1893 and carried the royal imprimatur from that point on. Evidently the company rode the crest of the Victorian novelty postcard and book craze and published the likes of my friend Louis Wain. The business stayed in the family, first bringing Raphael’s brothers in, and then Raphael and Ernestine’s sons. It flourished until their headquarters was severely damaged in WWII during the Blitz and, although they stay in business until 1959 they never fully recover.

Also, printed on the back is “Felix – Pathes Famous Film Cat” in tiny black letters. The outer wrapper is the glossy printed image of Felix and the inside is a separate piece of paper – held together by the ribbon like a tiny four page book. The inside is printed on slightly different stock. In case you cannot read it, under the black and white cats it reads, Snice World this! It is not technically the most festive holiday card I have ever seen – the front, Felix gets the Bird! Lucky! anyhow! doesn’t exactly scream Christmas to me. It is a nice, early Felix though, squared off and pointy the way I like him. Those exclamation points emanating from his head are cartoon great and embody his spirit nicely. If it wasn’t for The Compliments of the Season on the inside, and in spite of the jolly red ribbon, we would never know to mail this for the December holidays. This card, in splendid condition, was used and is simply signed on the left, inside, from Frank, in neat script.

inside xmas card

The other cards, supplied from the original link and shown on a loop above, are also super strange images for holiday cards, but nonetheless bear tidings for Christmas and the coming New Year on the inside of each. It almost seems as if the company printed a random series of Felix illustrated outsides and then neatly, if somewhat haphazardly, tied them together with holiday greetings insides. Felix being so popular at the time that appropriateness of message and image mattered not perhaps? In one, Felix with a sort of strange turnip which looks like a monster; Felix wearing a radio headset, and of course mine where he talks to a bird. The messages on the front of each are equally odd, Felix Gets the Bird! Lucky! anyhow! on mine and the others A Turn-up for FelixGood Luck to You! and Cherio! The supporting characters, inside and out, appear to belong to an entirely different inking hand. More mysteries of Felix here to uncover, but jolly for a Christmas in July I think.

 

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Merry Christmas from Deitch Studio!

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Pictorama and Deitch Studio present – our holiday card! To those of you who are devoted fans of the card and have been watching your mailbox we apologize for the delay this year, as well as the electronic reveal before you may have received it, but my adventures with the Jazz at Lincoln Center orchestra on the Holiday Big Band Tour (see my post of earlier this month Traveling with the Big Band) put me way behind on my end of the holiday duties which include getting the card printed.

The printing of the card, which dates back to the first year Kim and I started dating, has a history. (For the history of our cards and their production I recommend these previous posts, Cards of Christmas Past, Cat of Christmas Past, and Christmas Cards Redux Continues among others) I shopped the card from one small print shop to another each year. In the beginning I had a fantasy of finding a small shop that still did offset printing who would bring some care to the process – we even talked about two color. Ha! I let go of that almost immediately and began an annual trip from one copy shop to another – testing both large (Staples – don’t ask!) and small. Without getting technical let me tell you that the results consistently fell below the high standard of the most senior person here at Deitch Studio – resulting in an extraordinary flood of epithets and curses, not only aimed at the lowly technician, but the holiday season and the whole concept of a holiday card in general! In all fairness to him, we saw some really ham-handed results which could only be achieved by people who cared less than not at all about what they were doing.

In my attempt to assuage this eventual annual diatribe I continued my search for a suitable printer. One year I finally walked into the Yorkville Copy Shop, the tiniest hole in the wall establishment, tucked behind a pizza place on 84th, just west of Lexington. It is the kind of place I imagine exists only in Manhattan where real estate is so prime that even the smallest space can be carved out into a rent producing annuity for the owner and a living for the tenant. The counter was just a few feet from the door, on one side paper and outgoing jobs were stacked high, on the other was one of several copy machines. It reeked of toner, ink, paper and dust. There was a loft which made the ceiling low, the place lit by low-watt flickering fluorescent bulbs. The front window was entirely plastered over with business cards, other previous jobs and grumpy sayings, which also graced the inside as decoration.

The proprietor was a grizzled man of a certain age who seemed to engage exclusively in conversations about NY sports teams, which meant we had little in common in terms of small talk. There was also a woman who I eventually took to be his wife, and although age appropriate in all reality I have no idea. She rarely ever waited on me. I cannot say that once we started using them that there was never a problem – there were still do-overs, Kim curses and rages, and the year not long ago where they did the entire job folded on the wrong side which, given time limitations we decided to live with. Still, I knew that at least I could talk to Bill (eventually I learned his name) and on some level he cared. Over the course of more than a decade some of our past cards joined the decor of the shop – not all, Bill had a discerning eye – but I kept a look out and was always secretly glad when one joined the ranks.

I know that you know where this is headed. Late last fall I saw that Yorkville Copy was closed. Around the corner, in the window of the pizza place, there was a note saying that the copy store had been forced out and a telephone number to contact them, which I had the foresight to take a picture of. Shortly after, the pizza place itself was also gone, a family business to be replaced, ironically, by a chain pizza establishment.

So as the holiday neared I called Bill and he said he was looking for a new location, but could do our card anyway. We made arrangements for him to pick up the original from our doorman, ultimately drop the cards at our building and pick up the balance of the payment. It went okay, but as this year loomed Bill had not yet found a place and I resisted calling. After all if there was a problem there was no discussion or recourse. He would take our original and go and who knows what would happen to it.

The card is generally finished, drawn and inked, the weekend after Thanksgiving and it was this year. However I just could not manage the printing before leaving for that ten day business trip at the beginning of the month. While I was riding around the South I got a message, then a second, from Bill on my cell phone. By the time I got home I pretty much gave into the idea. Bill picked it up and printed it again. It is a fine job, I didn’t need to worry it seems.

So today we present to you a card printed by Bill of Yorkville Printers which now it seems only exists for those of us who know of it. A waxing salon has taken its former location, which I guess is willing and able to pay more for that tiny space, the chain pizza restaurant has been established around the corner. I left money and our artwork for Bill to pick up and copy in Yonkers, where he appears to reside according to the calls I get on my cell phone. I have an image of him having set up in his living room or garage there, paper piled high around, and sadly I will no longer know which ones he favors. But for now he remains our grizzled and grumpy elf of card printing.

There’s Gladness in Remembrance

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Kicking off the advanced Christmas season here at Pictorama this week with this recent purchase. This card caught my attention with its sheer oddity. I cannot exactly imagine how someone might have come up with the combination of a smoking cigarette, Christmas and cats on a postcard greeting. It makes me think that the designer was very tired and was desperate for ideas, or perhaps smoking something him or herself. Or maybe it was truly an example of these are some of my favorite things, like the song says.

Several of the cats seem to be escaping out of their surreal smoke rings, although that big, annoyed looking Persian is curled up on his or hers like a pillow. All fluffy Persian variations (or is it Maine Coon?) I can’t quite decide if four of these cats are the same cat or just similar markings. These are some serious looking kitties, especially the one without stripes at the bottom. It is obvious, but I might add, there’s nothing of the celebratory or festive about them – these aren’t some darling kittens – these are some frowning cats.

Meanwhile, then there is the burning cigarette and the matches, artfully falling from their match safe. More than anything about this card, which was never sent and without writing on the back, the match safe dates it for me to the early part of the 20th century. Books of matches were in high fashion by the 1940’s. (I have written about match safes in my collection on two occasions, Safety Match and Match safe – Ya Gotta Make Calls.

For my own part, I have never been a cigarette smoker, not even when I was a teenager. I have smoked maybe three in my life – I never saw the point in it; although I certainly understand that there are people who feel otherwise. Clearly this represents a time when smoking was both comforting and to some degree festive. My ambivalence about it does not extend to how good it looks in early films – it does indeed look sophisticated and cosmopolitan.

The sprig of holly is the sole festive Christmas touch. With Hearty Christmas Greetings…There’s gladness in remembrance it declares. Gladness in remembrance touches on the coming New Year – auld lang syne – out with the old year and in with the new. One can only wonder why this card was tucked away and kept pristinely for all these years except to say Christmas cards seem to be kept, although those are usually ones sent by someone. Perhaps, like me, the photo just entertained someone who found and hung onto it.

I have always been a conscientious writer and saver of cards of all kinds, even before my cat card collecting days commenced. As Pictorama readers and others know, Kim and I have been producing a holiday card together since we first started dating and it is time to start work on the one for this year. I admit to the possibility of some influence from this card as Kim and I begin to contemplate our card design for this year, but we will have to have to wait and see what comes of it. Keep an eye on Pictorama for an eventual preview reveal, but know that we are considering it as we partake of our Thanksgiving dinner later this week.

Valentine’s Day Kitties

Pam’s Pictorama Post: This was a rare case of purchasing something I thought was old which turned out not to be – and it didn’t matter because I love them! I haven’t exactly figured out what to do with them – they are sort of Christmas ornaments for Valentine’s Day, but I like ’em either way. My only complaint was that in order to get the diversity I wanted it was necessary to order two lots and I have ended up with a lot of ornaments! I guess there will be some Valentine’s Day gifts to friends this year.

As some of you who either know me (in the corporeal sense), or have followed the Facebook postings of Deitch Studio and Pictorama faithfully, are already aware of – my birthday is in February, perilously close to Valentine’s Day. A one-two punch burden to boyfriends and eventually my husband. However, as a child it meant a long and cheerful line of Valentine’s Day themed birthday parties. (For the record, my sister Loren – born on the Ides of March – had St. Pat’s Day and Edward is a Christmas Eve baby so we all had a holiday theme.) For the record, I remain an utter sucker for inexpensive boxes of Russell Stover chocolates covered in red cellophane and the large chocolate hearts filled with strawberry marshmallow! Yum! The delicacies of childhood. Of course we all loved those boxes of sugar hearts with writing on them – more for the novelty – I can barely remember the taste.

Meanwhile, as an adult I have expanded my birthday into a month long celebration – dinner or lunch with a series of Aquarian friends to keep things cheerful during one of winter’s dullest months. It isn’t news to anyone living in the northeast that February is perhaps the very snowiest month and I was born in a blizzard. I at least had the good grace to send my mother to the hospital at about 3:00 in the afternoon, rather than the middle of the night. Over the years I have made numerous birthday plans for travel or even far flung restaurant reservations that have been canceled or postponed due to many feet of snow piling up. These days I assume snow is likely and plan accordingly.

As a postscript I offer Cookie and her fascination with these ornaments this morning as a slide show! Fish glue? Did the seller have a cat? She won’t leave them alone! I don’t know where, but these will have to go on a high shelf if I am not willing to turn them into cat toys.

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