Pam’s Pictorama Post: In honor of the onset of Chinese New Year today – Happy Year of the Rooster! – I decided to focus on this heretofore unsung cat member of Deitch studio. Years ago we spotted and admired one of these lucky “beckoning” kitties at our favorite Mexican restaurant across the street, a splendid hole in the wall establishment run by a Korean family, where we get our Friday night take out every week. I hopped down to Chinatown and picked one up for Kim. I think it was an anniversary gift, but it might have been Valentine’s Day. Our little fellow waved cheerfully until the batteries ran out – then sadly the innards fell out when we tried to change the batteries. Waving or not, we remain fond of him despite this and stubbornly cling to the idea that he is indeed lucky.
My friend, Mr. Google, was ready at hand to tell me that this kitty is Japanese, although popular with Chinese merchants (we will have to assume Koreans as well) and has the official name Maneki-neko – roughly translated as beckoning kitty. Evidently these are modeled specifically on something called a calico Japanese bobtail – and yep, I checked and sure enough he is indeed a bobtail although ours does not indicate calico as some do. His red collar is just that, the kind of collar cats would wear – bibs with little bells to scare off the birds. (I saw a cat wearing such a contraption in Tibet in a monastery once – the cat looked rather aggrieved, although I assume he or she was used to it. Made sense to me that Buddhist monks wouldn’t abide bird catching.)
The large item in his right paw is said to be a coin – the promise of good fortune. They are available in red, black and pink, as well as gold, and different colors mean different things – good fortune, luring away evil spirits, and love – of course! And they are produced in every medium from porcelain and plastic to metal and plaster. Frankly, we can’t decide exactly what ours is made of, perhaps a pot metal. I read that the calico ones are the luckiest – that’s what they have at the Mexican take-out. I show you one of those below.
I was the Secret Santa to my boss this year and I gave him a tiny plastic version of one of these. I figured there was no more appropriate gift than that for a fellow fundraiser, but don’t tell him. Santa should remain a secret.
As Pictorama readers already know – and despite what you might think otherwise – black kitties are actually considered good luck by many and certainly we are of that opinion here at Deitch Studio. In a past post, Lucky Black Cat, I give a look at an early flyer that sold all sorts of lucky black cat paraphernalia. In an earlier post of the same name, Lucky Black Cat refers to a stuffed black cat held by Olympic British swimmer Ruth Moris-Hancock in a photo card circa 1936. Still, we’re secretly relieved that Blackie has that nice white badge on his chest – we wouldn’t want anyone to be scared of him!