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Pam’s Pictorama Post: Elephants are a sub-genre here at Pictorama, a casual collecting category here at Deitch Studio. (A few previous elephant posts can be found here and here and an especially Deitchian one here.) Without really trying or thinking about it we have amassed not that many, but some choice elephant bits, and when this one caught my eye the other day (in the middle of negotiating a very large purchase to be revealed in a future post) I didn’t miss a beat before adding him onto the bill.

He is wonderfully modeled with his elephant skin well defined, nicely wrinkly just like the real thing. His trunk is proudly up – I’m a trunk up girl although I understand that there are those who believe good luck result only from down as well as those of us who believe in up. (And I gather still other cultures which believe either will do and all elephants are lucky!) His trunk is curled up onto his head, revealing short tusks and his empathetic elephant eyes.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

I am very pleased with the shade of red they saw fit to paint him and find his worn and chipped spots create a nice patina effect rather than take away from his appeal. I have some trouble imaging him all neatly painted actually, but I am sure I would have adored him as a child if I had seen or been fortunate to receive him in his nascent state.

He is, as the title of this post implies, a bank, small slot at the base of the back of his head – albeit a small bank which could only have held a few dollars worth of silver saved by an industrious child. His bottom is painted a wonderful sea green and Vanio 1936 is embossed in the bottom.

This one credited to the Minneapolis Art Institute Collection.

Mr. Google doesn’t reveal much about Vanio, but these banks are referred to as penny banks since they are so small. I saw examples in two different greens (one for sale on eBay – I’m very tempted to buy a mate, one example belongs to the Minneapolis Institute of Art), black and a dusky white in addition to my red. There would have been a key for the bottom, a few examples had theirs, but it would be hard to see on my example. They made a fairly righteous Scotty dog bank too in a similar array of colors.

Scotty version of a Vanio penny bank for sale on eBay at time of publication.
Bank bottom on mine – oddly I paid less than $48 for him, that is an old tag.

This elephant wandered into the house just as Kim was designing the decor in a 1940 room in a new story that will go in his upcoming collection, How I Make Comics. He added our fellow in, turning him into an ashtray which was more appropriate for the story. Shown below, I close by sharing a bonus detail from the pencil sketch here – look out for the finished product in his next book in the story called The Two Maries.

Kim’s pencil sketch for an upcoming story called The Two Marie’s.

Another Elephant Box

Pam’s Pictorama Post: A number of years ago I wrote about a small wooden box I keep on my desk at my office which Kim made, long before he knew me, and gave to his mother. When closing up her apartment it was one of the items that found its way back to us and Kim gave it to me. I treasure it and keep a few special items in it. I have written about the box (here) and the items housed there (here).

This box is one of the items that remains in my midtown office which has not migrated back to my desk here at the apartment. It keeps me company there when I make my occasional work visits to Columbus Circle.

Wooden box decorated by Kim. Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

Unexpectedly I recently had the chance to purchase an elephant box for Kim in turn, just before Valentine’s Day this year. A few months back I had added a new vendor to my Instagram feed (@lucyameliaeastwood) and a steady stream of bits of early 20th century British detritus in the form of Bakelite bits, jewelry, shoes and dresses from the 1940’s, now washes over me more or less daily. The jewelry is of the sort that I would routinely purchase if the shop was down the street and visited periodically (think cheerful glass bead necklaces, clip on and screw back costume earrings aplenty), but for the first several months I didn’t see anything which merited me ordering it from Great Britain.

Butterfly pin.

Then this wonderful elephant box appeared and it caught my eye immediately. Still, to order such a relatively small item to be shipped all the way from England, to be packed and shipped seemed like a lot to ask of the seller. As I weighed it, the rather splendid celluloid butterfly (above) also showed up and those combined did indeed seem like a reasonable request. (I have written about the strange interest in insect jewelry which has overtaken me during this long pandemic Instagram season. That post can be found here. The British seemed to make a lot of jewelry with an insect theme in the dawning decades of the 20th century – the war torn years. I wonder if there is a correlation with that and also with their appeal to me at this pandemic time?)

Found elephant toy repainted by Kim. Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

Readers of Pictorama know that the fragility of celluloid generally worries me despite the attraction of its ephemeral beauty. I fret that the rough and tumble of life here at Deitch Studio (there are cats! it is small and crowded!) does not seem like a safe landing for fragile items, but we make occasional exceptions. (I wrote about my fear of fragile celluloid purchases in a post here.)

However this little fellow made the perfect Valentine gift for Kim. We think he is rather splendid in his early plastic, ivory-like appeal, his trunk up for good luck and prosperity. I wonder what it held originally, if anything, or if just produced for the likes of us looking to fill it with something.

Carved wooden elephant gracing our shelf which belonged to Kim’s mom as well.

Elephants are a bit of a theme or subculture here at Deitch Studio and Pictorama. A rather splendid metal toy, a Kim find, resides on a shelf at the foot of our bed. Meanwhile, in his next book Kim has a great elephant story – it is sitting, inked and awaiting publication at the other end of the table I write from while he finishes the last stories for the appendix of his next book.

Metal elephant which resides at the foot of our bed!

For the moment, the elephant box is living on Kim’s desk atop some volumes which are permanent fixtures there and the butterfly pin (also very fragile and I think can only be worn in a way where it won’t encounter a jacket or an errant purse strap) is with it and may ultimately reside within. A spot in a calm spot on a shelf, one where books do not come and go too often, will be found for it, protected from the hurly burly of life here at Deitch Studio.

Celluloid cat. Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

The Elephant Eyes Have It

 

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Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: Today’s Pictorama is an odd item in a few ways. It was found, not purchased and it was Kim who encountered it on the street one day, not me. (Kim casually, somewhat unconsciously and occasionally, collects detritus – generally interesting metal bits and tiny plastic toys – off the street. These pile up in his pockets and eventually migrate to shelves in the apartment.) Elephants make up only the tiniest subset of collectibles and collected here at Deitch Studios (although for one you can see this nifty box Kim gave me here), but Kim and I have a soft spot for elephants, both real and toy. I for one have always wanted a good size elephant on wheels riding toy and keep a weather-eye out for the right one. Today’s item isn’t an especially old toy like most of the early 20th century items in the house, some starting to bump up toward the 100 year mark now. He began life as standard issue contemporary. I sometimes worry about the child who must have been sad to lose him.

For those of you who follow us on a variety of social media you might know that we went to the Prospect Park Zoo this summer, following our noses on an elephant that was or might have been story, research for a tale Kim is mulling over for his next book. This September, in his work that combines dance and music about animals called Spaces, Wynton Marsalis informed that elephants can be trained to dance in tandem, perhaps the only animals to do so. In another performance he also reminded that, while elephant hide is advertised to be tough, it is in reality very sensitive both to touch and the sun, and therefore that you might want to bring one some lotion if you had the chance to meet one.

This little fellow was found by Kim many years ago now. His is a simple and economical profile, but somehow has just enough elephant charm. One day I came home from work and much to my surprise, Kim had replaced the elephant’s casually applied on and missing features (shadows of his former eyes and toes can be seen if you look carefully) with painted on Deitchien new ones, making him a one-of-a-kind. He has subsequently taken up residence on a shelf, after sampling several other perches in the apartment. He is shown below in a page from Kim’s book Alias the Cat, sitting on his desk. That was probably shortly after Kim christened his new features.

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The one thing we all know about elephants is their great memories, repositories of much which of good and bad. They hold long grudges and deep affections, almost as if these were in proportion to their out-sized selves. I like to think this fellow is grateful to Kim for rescuing him from the streets of New York and supplying him with a fine new set of sporty features. For us he is a lucky elephant and are pleased that he is a member of the family here, contentedly spending his days amongst the kitties and toy cats.