Felix Match

Pam’s Pictorama Post: This item comes to us via Instagram and a lovely woman named Sandy who is one of the owners of a store in Dallas, Texas called Curiosities (@curiositiesantique or getcuriosities.com) and who reached out with a photo of this great Felix match holder which I had to have, well, immediately. We spoke on the phone and I had tucked a number of other items into my virtual cart before we were done – more on those in the weeks to come. Turns out Sandy is a fan of Kim’s work and follows the comings and goings of life here at Deitch Studio and knew that a piece like this Felix would be catnip to us at Pictorama – and she was right!

Decorated package from Curiosities

These off-model Felix pieces are like primitive art and it is hard to say if they were made from designs, maybe in magazines, or were just simply made items pounded out and sold, capitalizing on Felix’s appeal and flying under the radar of the copyright cops. Years ago I wrote about the East End of London shops which turned out some of my favorite gleefully free-form mohair Felix toys (almost assuredly not licensed) as a way of employing indigent women in the East End of London. (That post can be found here and is a favorite. I wrote about another such homemade piece, shown below, which can be found here.)

Another recent acquisition I wrote about back in August which smacks of being homemade from a blueprint or kit.

Matches played a bigger role in the world in early 20th century life than we may remember today, living now in a world of lighters and probably less of a need for them in general with less cigarette smoking and all. Among my prized possessions are two feline versions of what are known as “match safes” – these designed for keeping your matches dry and handy – and, in a word, safe. I have written posts on those two here and here. (Meanwhile, if you want to be entertained by the story of matches I suggest the 1932 pre-code film The Match King, based on a true story, which takes on the premise of getting rich, one match via manipulation and a monopoly on the match market.)

Pams-Pictorama.com collection
Pams-Pictorama.com collection

This Felix match holder feels like it was made commercially, if perhaps by a small enterprise. The wood is very light. I like the addition of this fang-y sort of gap tooth grin and the four decorative whiskers. The face looks as though it was sprayed on through a stencil of sorts. He has some wear on him and it would appear someone reached in for many matches over time, wearing the white paint of the cup away almost entirely. The place where he hung from a nail on top, is almost worn through – probably pulled a bit on the nail when matches were taken each time. It is my only hesitation about whether he hangs in the kitchen or remains with the toys in the other room.

Of course this object speaks to the day when stoves were lit with wooden matches every time they were used. The Apartment with Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine was on yesterday and I overheard the snippet where he runs up the stairs in a panic because he smells gas and she has turned it on without realizing that it required manual lighting each time. It was a bit old fashioned even when that film was made in 1960, self-lighting gas stoves probably having been introduced into newer models as a safety measure, but older stoves not yet replaced.

While my ancient gas stoves in my first apartments were technically self-lighting, I can assure you that both my apartments in London and my first in New York frequently needed a prompt from a match to get going. In fact the immediate predecessor to my current stove had a pilot light that went out frequently enough that I have a box of wooden matches in the kitchen drawer right now – somehow using a lighter for that task never seemed entirely safe. Even if he hangs in the kitchen I will not tax him with holding onto our matches and it would be nice to bring a jolly touch of Felix into our kitchen.

Match safe – Ya Gotta Make Calls

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Pam Pictorama Post:  This match safe is a favorite and I have a postcard from the same era (side two drawing or at least a similar one) pinned above my desk at the office. Everything else aside, I believe it is true, Ya Gotta Make Calls if You Want Results!  I like to be reminded.

I missed the match safe era by several decades.  I gather the small box of wooden matches slipped in the middle – keeping them, well, safe I guess.  I have seen photos of match safes that held loose matches – some cat ones too although I don’t own any and the general theme seems to run more to dogs for some reason.  These are standing affairs of heavy metal which I imagine lived next to the stove. Many of the ones meant to be carried around are of silver and sometimes parts of sets.  Cigarette or cigar case and tools, and match safe.  The occasional cat there.

This match safe, the only celluloid cat one I have seen of this type – I’d have a whole collection if I could find them – was purchased on eBay a number of years ago. (Although this blog is having the effect of reminding me that I should go back to ferreting out this and that I haven’t looked for lately.  Just what I need – more stuff!)  Much to my surprise, it came from the collection of and was sold to me by Sally Cruickshank. She did not, ummm, acknowledge the Kim Deitch connection when the purchase was made, despite his name on the email.  Probably for the best. I guess it is a small world of cat collectibles. Anyway, this is on a shelf at the foot of our bed and I am very fond of it indeed. Now get out there and make some calls!