Saturday, 1 September 2012

Indifferent Luck

Click on image to see large size
If only Marina of Mayfair could have foretold for me that I wasn't going to be able to blog for a while. She's spot-on with my being 'Tired of Indifferent Luck'. Right at the moment, I'm concentrating on 'real' work, and my time is too short for blogging. Sigh.

But surely bringing Curious Objects to the world is more important, I hear you exclaim. Well, ordinarily I would agree, but I'm the afraid the pesky business of earning money to keep from starving is taking all my attention. Perhaps I would do better if I had that four leaf clover in its attractive plastic 'medallion'...

Monday, 16 July 2012

Cut-up Cakes

This charming recipe leaflet from 1959 was designed to promote Baker's Angel Flake Coconut as a cake decorating ingredient. Basically, whatever you want the cake to resemble, you cover it in coconut flakes.
This makes sense for a lion's mane, or a teddy's fur, but is less obvious for a reindeer, giraffe or fish.

 The cakes are ingeniously designed by cutting up a basic cake shape, and reassembling the pieces.
 Myrtle and Milton are nothing to do with Mickey and Minnie, of course.
 Tortie the Turtle is probably the least appetising, in my opinion.
 But most worrying of all are 'The Cut-Up Kids', who appear to have no arms, poor things.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Friday Postcards - Kittens, Kittens, Kittens!

Postcard kittens fit in many receptacles. Kittens in baskets.

Kittens in a fruit bowl.
 Kitten in a coffee pot.
I have no reasonable explanation of this phenomenon.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Wherever There's Squirt...

 ...there's Fun! Well, who knew?  I assume Squirt was just fizzy lemonade, like 7-up. As if a soft drink called Squirt wasn't marvellous enough, they even have their own recipes for such delights as a 'Squirt-Kebab' or a 'Squirticle'.

I think this barbecue recipe leaflet dates from around 1959. Being about barbecues, it was written for men, including 'Falling-off-a-log Punch', which is "especially easy, because you get your wife to do it!". 
Hmmm, I think that little Squirt better watch out what his wife does with that melon baller....

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Bat-Socks, Bat-Pants

When Tim Burton's 'Batman' film came out in 1989, an absurd amount of merchandise was released. Mr Kitsch was slightly obsessed at the time, and bought as much as he could afford., including this rather unlikely collection of items -Batman handkerchiefs, Batman swim shorts, Batman and Joker socks and Batman & Joker boxer shorts. Because of course you want to have Jack Nicholson's face on your underwear, with the words "Ha Ha Ha".

It's an odd phenomenon, isn't it, the marketing of character clothing to adults? On one hand, I tend to despise the wearer of a Simpsons tie, but on the other hand, what does it matter? Why shouldn't people wear cartoon characters? Well, like just about everything we wear, the actual garment doesn't count, it's the social construct we put around it.

So, what social construct do we put around Bat-pants? That to wear them would be very, very wrong. 

I am pleased to report that Mr Kitsch just kept these as collectors items, and in the end, sold them on Ebay. Yes, on Ebay, there's even a market for secondhand novelty pants...

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Smoking Monkeys

 Back in the 1980s, when I was an art student, I used to love going into joke shops. They had such wonderful stuff, often in very old-fashioned packaging. It was brilliant when I was able to get a card like this, that the novelties were attached to. Just look at that packaging, with the monkeys in all their different poses, but all with fags hanging out of their mouths.

Today you don't really get joke shops, just those horrible places that sell novelties, the stuff of hen parties and tasteless Christmas presents from work colleagues. Maybe I'm getting old. Maybe the world is no longer amused by a smoking monkey. Mind you, I'm not entirely sure the whole world ever appreciated the fun to be had from sticking a fake cigarette in a plastic monkey's mouth. Did they really blow smoke rings like the pictures? And did they have health insurance?

Monday, 9 July 2012

Simple Direct Wording

This advert is from the 1930s. Although Mr Shelley Castle promises to send you his formula "in simple direct wording", I somehow doubt it. Can you imagine any advert these days being quite so wordy? Or using phrases such as "Mr Castle refuses to be considered as the author of an experiment or the promulgator of a theory"? Do today's life coaches and self-help gurus "eschew" connections with mystery?

I'd love to know what you got if you sent off for "the formula". Presumably not very much, but an offer of further information for a small fee. Ah yes, I'm sure Mr Castle understood modern common-sense psychology as far as that goes...

Friday, 6 July 2012

Postcard Friday - Sitting on My Ass at Margate

In keeping with the lovely summer weather, I was going to show you a postcard from my collection of grim-looking hotel scenes. But then I saw this, and I thought, let's cheer ourselves up, with a couple of really jolly women having fun on their hols, sitting on a fake donkey.

The back of the card says'"Lido Snaps", The Cliftonville Lido, Margate'. I guess the photographer just waited on the prom with his donkey and took your photo.

I absolutely love that donkey! I really, really want one to keep in the living room. Wouldn't everything be better if you could just hop on a fake donkey to cheer yourself up? Gee up there, Daisy!

Mind you, I can envisage some trouble over naming him/her. You see, Mr Kitsch is adamant that any horse or donkey we own would have to be named 'I Love Carrots'. Surprisingly, this has come up more than once in our wide-ranging discussions over the years, and is always contentious. I think that gives you some idea of the intellectual level at which we operate.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Pin-Up Girl

Perhaps I should write a book about bad craft projects. Here's one. There was a bit of a fad for these little pin dollies, back in the 1960s and 1970s. She's made of a hemisphere of polystyrene, decorated with pinned-on sequins and beads. Her head is attached with a vicious-looking spike.Her arms are pipecleaners (or chenille wire, if you prefer), pinned to her body with the bouquet. Her headdress and veil are pinned to her kitsch plastic head.

Basically this was a craft for someone who didn't actually want to learn any craft skill beyond sticking pins into things.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Curious Friend - Eartha Kitsch and her Trojan Dog

As it's the Fourth of July, I'm very pleased to introduce a guest blogger from the States. Eartha Kitsch lives in Nashville, but I first 'met' her on Flickr, where her photos and her writing captivated me immediately. Now she also has a fabulous blog, Ranch Dressing with Eartha Kitsch, where you can see both her beautiful home, and some of her very odd vintage finds. Like this one...
The Mister and I found this creation in a box lot of fascinating goodies that was given to us. We have no idea where it came from originally or what on Earth the mysterious Jamie Potts who made it was thinking! Well, it's obvious that he was thinking about sex but the way that he expressed it is a perplexing combination of shadow box vignette and cryptic dirty limerick.

On the front of the piece you see an innocent dalmatian in a natty kerchief. The items around him are what make this so puzzling. They are:

A rifle
A really old condom
Some "safe sex" tattoos (including the first hickey tattoo that I've ever seen)
A stack of logs
A small bowl
A straw hat that has been through the ringer

From what the creator, Jamie wrote on the back, it sounds like a bug may be missing from this scenario. Not that the missing clue would help it make any more sense! Here is what is scrawled on the back:

Hat - gonna get caught
Dog - the man
.... - ready to eat
Bowl - the woman
Bug - something humming around
Logs - heat gets stirred up
Shotgun - if daddy catches you
Trojans - safe sex
Sex tattoos - put and lick

------Jamie Potts

There you have it! I'm not sure if this was made for some steam-of-consciousness art class or if he made it to woo a suitor. I'm hoping that it's the wooing one because it makes me laugh so hard to think of what the intended sweetheart who received this must have thought.

Jamie Potts, I don't know who or where you are but I'd like to thank you for giving me the giggle fits and question marks over my head. Also, thanks for the eight year old condom.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Lucky Mao

Although I don't exactly believe in luck*, I am always drawn to lucky charms of all kinds. The whole idea of talismans, amulets, or just a simple lucky object is fascinating. And they are usually visually interesting too. So I end up collecting all sorts of lucky objects.

I don't know much about these Chinese charms, except that red is considered a lucky colour, and so the chillis are lucky by association.  And presumably, by the same token, Mao and his little red book were also lucky.
Each charm has a picture of Mao on one side, and then another portrait on the other side, presumably of some hero or official of the Communist Party. I'm not too familiar with the heroes of the People's Liberation Army and the like. (After a quick bit of research, I think one or both of them could be Zhou Enlai?) It doesn't really matter who it is, there's just something a bit bonkers about having a lucky Communist Party mascot, isn't there?

* What I mean by that, is that, although I don't believe that certain things are lucky, I still find myself 'touching wood' or feeling I should buy a lottery ticket if I'm having a 'lucky' day. Does that make sense? Not really.

Monday, 2 July 2012

All Out Nuclear War (Harmless)

Yes, it's another ad from the comics - "Make all out war in your own home". To be honest, with four siblings, all out war was not unknown in our house when I was little. However, I don't think that's what they had in mind when they promised, rather scarily "enough nuclear battle equipment for maximum effort warfare".

Despite all the talk of "firepower and manpower", inter-continental ballistic missile launchers, "oxy-radar packs", a "double-stage warhead" and "hand-gun radi-activators", it also claims that this set is made of "multi-colour unbreakable plastic", and is "harmless".
Phew! And so the free world was saved...

Friday, 29 June 2012

Friday Postcard - Mr Cool

Oh yeah, he's cool alright. Just call him Mister Freeeeze, chillaxing in his white suit, writing... what? Poetry? A love letter? His shopping list?

What on earth is this old postcard about? I mean, why would anyone...? Why is he...? Just WHY?

And to be totally honest, that does not look like the comfiest couch.  Nor the most practical lamp. And as soon he stands up, he's going to kick over that badly-placed plant, and there'll be John Innes No. 3 all over his carpet.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Beautify Your Home

Much as I love me a bit of kitsch art, I think they may have gone slightly overboard on this 1968 advert for the "exquisite reproduction" of the "dramatic painting" called 'Rock Pool Rendezvous'.

Apparently, in the opinion of their Managing Director, it's "the most tasteful and beautiful horse painting he has seen". Golly! "See what a dramatic change an expensive picture can make in your home....You'll be amazed at the wonderful change that takes place in your room the moment you hang this giant picture (forty one inches wide by twenty five inches deep)". Yep, I can see how it would make quite an impact...

Not that it's really expensive. Oh no. "Thanks to an international scoop", you could get this magnificent artwork for just 19/6, instead of the "nine or ten guineas" you could pay.

As these 1960s kitsch prints are getting more and more collectable, I thought I'd try to find a photo of one of these that might have survived all these years. Sadly, I couldn't find one. I tried various searches, and it made me laugh when I was scrolling through the results for 'kitsch horse painting' to find a couple of photos of mine, and one of Mr Kitsch's (none of which were horses). I think if you type 'kitsch' anything in Google, eventually you'll find something of mine...

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Curious Friends - Pop Artist?

I make no apology for another appearance of my famous can of Jubilade. If you follow my Kitsch and Curious blog, you will already know the story of how it came to be featured in a Diamond Jubilee exhibition in London.

As well as the BBC website, and The Evening Standard, it has also appeared in Time Out, and the Guardian website. I also got a query about it appearing in the Sunday Mail Live magazine, but I don't know if that happened. This little pop can took on a life of its own.

The exhibition ended on Sunday, and the curator, Josh Knowles brought my motley collection back to me this week. But there was a wonderful surprise for me. He had got the can signed by Sir Peter Blake, no less!
When Josh picked up the Jubilee stuff from me, we had had a short conversation about collecting and the work of Peter Blake. Josh had been at the Art Car Boot Fair alongside Peter Blake, and I was pretty envious of that.

Being the lovely guy he is, Josh remembered that, and when he met up with Peter Blake again, at a radio interview about the Jubilee exhibition, he took my can along to get it signed. How bloody brilliant is that?

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Man It's Cool!

Man it's cool! What can be so cool, that a man in a jaunty trilby hat calls anyone 'Man'? Of course, it's his crazy cigarette holder! It's a 'Beatnick' cigarette holder!
Not even able to spell 'Beatnik', the makers of this novelty item clearly have no idea what a beatnik looks like, either. A beret and a black polo neck sweater would have been more to the point, rather than that Madison Avenue square on the packet.

And did beatniks even use cigarette holders? Was it cool to smoke your Gauloises through 14 inches of plastic pipe? Whatever the case, I don't think this absurdly long holder was ever really cool. They can't even get the simplest bit of hipster talk right...
'Away out'?  Not surprising, as that woman looks more like Katie Boyle than a beatnik. Or even a beatnick.

I have had this... toy? for 30 years, and I think it's one of my all-time favourite things. Partly because of the whole insane concept, partly because the packet is both good and bad at the same time, and partly because it was one of the things that started off my 'toys in packets' collection.
Back in the 1980s, you could find quite a lot of stuff still being sold in the same packaging they had used in the 1960s. Joke shop novelties in particular. I wish I'd bought more at the time, but couldn't afford it.

But astonishingly, this one is still available in exactly the same packaging. I feel a bit cheated, having kept mine for thirty years. (They still can't spell 'beatnik', though.)

Monday, 25 June 2012

The Duel and Other Matches

Some examples of the fine work of The Western India Match Co. Ltd.. Matchbox labels and matchbooks are yet another thing I could easily start collecting. To be honest, by most people's standards, I've already got enough to call it a collection, but I don't go looking for them, so it doesn't count.

Anyway, I got these labels from Ebay not long ago. I love the graphics and the slightly off-kilter themes. They got me thinking as to why a match maker would bother to have so many different designs on their matchboxes.
Presumably there was no difference between the 'Deer and Tiger' matches and 'Three Monkeys' matches? Did they make the different labels because they knew people would collect them? 
I haven't been able to find the answer, but I have discovered that matchbox label collecting is called phillumeny. So now you know as much as I do.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Friday Postcards - Butlin's Bars

With the holiday season here (you can tell from all the rain), I thought some happy holiday postcards would be appropriate. And what could be better than jolly old Butlin's?

So we start off at the top with the Beachcomber Bar at Minehead. Obviously an attempt to follow the 1950s Tiki craze, it looks pretty fabulous! As well as the Pacific-style Tiki columns and bamboo furniture, they've mixed in a bit of Cornish fishing paraphenalia, including plastic fish suspended in the nets on the ceiling. Brilliant! (Click on the images to get a better view.)

Random stuff suspended from the ceiling was a mandatory feature of these Butlin's bars, it seems. The interior decorator at The Pig and Whistle seems to have gone beserk and chucked everything s/he could find up there...
And in The Blinking Owl Bar, the decor is... Tyrolean?  I'm not sure. I'm more than a little distracted by the ceiling decorations. this time, they've suspended two girls up there, in flowery seats!
 Looking at it closely, I think those strange seats are suspended from a rail, that disappears behind curtains. So, if I'm right, those girls were winched back and forth, high above the heads of the boozing patrons! How marvellously bizarre!

The next card is another Blinking Owl Bar, this time in Clacton. It's got the same lampshades and wooden beams as Minehead, but the ceiling looks a little low for girls on rails.
And last, but not least, we have The Crazy Horse Saloon in Clacton. Yee-ha! Clearly an authentic slice of the Wild West on the Essex coast. Note the two singing cowboys at the bar with guitars (entertainment all-in). It all looks like fun, although I'm a bit worried about the gun just lying on the rail in the foreground!
Obviously, I would have loved to visit all these super-kitsch venues! If only I had a time machine...

Mind you, I don't think I would have enjoyed everything back then. This is what's written on the back of that last postcard, (dated 1969)

Dear Jean, Doug and children
We are having a lovely time, with the sun out everyday, the wind has dropped today (tues) and its quite Hot. I went in for the Miss Pinta comp. and had to talk and say what was wrong with our husbands, I said mine nagged, the man said that was no good, and made me dance with a Redcoat in front of everyone. Still it was a laugh. I didn't win. Hope the cat is alright. See you Sunday.
Love Margaret, Tom and the Boys.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Ernie and Ernie

These ceramic ERNIE money boxes seem to have something of the stone idol about them. I can imagine offering them sacrifices in the hope of getting a good win on the Premium Bonds. I'm not sure what a robotic god would like as a sacrifice - some nuts and bolts and a giant size can of WD40, perhaps?

Well, I may make that experiment later, as I could certainly do with a million pound win right now, but as we only have an ancient £5 in Premium Bonds left, I doubt if we stand much chance.

I can't actually remember how I managed to acquire two of these beauties, but as I love retro robots and vintage ceramics, it's hardly surprising. You see quite a few of these around at vintage fairs and the like, so they must have made thousands of them. I imagine they were issued by the Post Office themselves - a little robot army, trying to collect up everyone's cash.

As you probably know, ERNIE (Electronic Random Number Indicating Equipment) was first used in 1957 to pick the winning Premium Bond numbers. I think it's rather endearing that Ernie was anthropomorphised to such an extent. According to the Premium Bond website, he receives Christmas and Valentine's cards. I imagine they are mostly from the executives of NS&I, thankful they are still in a job.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Curious Friends - Sir Hiram Maxim's Pipe of Peace

This wonderful-looking contraption caught my eye in Stroud Museum last year. Its vaguely bong-like appearance, and elaborate name were enough to intrigue me, and I took this photo. Later on, when I posted it on Flickr, someone suggested this must be the same Sir Hiram Maxim, who created a tethered flying machine, even before the Wright Brothers.

I had never heard of him, so I looked him up, and discovered he was quite an inventor. Probably his most successful invention was the first portable automatic machine gun. Wikipedia says he also invented "a curling iron, an apparatus for demagnetizing watches, magno-electric machines, devices to prevent the rolling of ships, eyelet and riveting machines, aircraft artillery, an aerial torpedo gun, coffee substitutes, and various oil, steam, and gas engines".

His flying machine experiments resulted in a steam-powered flying machine, which was tested on rails in 1894. It sounds like a steampunk dream. It rose in the air, but was tethered for the experiment, so that it could be controlled. Unfortunately, it was probably not a viable design, as Sir Hiram gave up work on it.

In 1904, he tried to promote his investigation into flight by creating an amusement ride -"Sir Hiram Maxim's Captive Flying Machines". This was the sort of ride you still see today, with 'aeroplanes' flying outward from a central spinning rig. Despite the popularity of the ride, Sir Hiram lost interest, because he was not allowed to give the machines their own flying controls.

Amazingly, there is still one of these original rides working at Blackpool Pleasure Beach today. You can see it here. It's certainly a tribute to the man, that his invention is still being used, over 100 years later.

Unsurprisingly, the same cannot be said of the scary-looking 'Pipe of Peace', which he devised to relieve his bronchitis.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

The Baby-Faced Fisherman of Mevagissey

I wonder what a real Cornish fisherman would make of this doll? Even back in the 1960s, when this doll was probably made, it must have been galling to see your ailing industry portrayed as a holiday souvenir.

This one hasn't got much of a catch, has he? Just a couple of mackerel, by the look of it. But hey, he's a cutie, isn't he? And I'm impressed by how he manages to keep his red lipstick so beautifully applied, whilst piloting a fishing smack in all weathers.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Your Own Polaris Nuclear Sub!

I really, really wish I could send off for one of these. What on earth did you get when you bought a Polaris Nuclear Submarine for less than $7?

Well, according to the advert, "the most powerful weapon in the world!" and  "a giant of fun, adventure and science". Crikey!

Like last week's Atomic Age Rifle, this is another of those ads that used to appear regularly in American comics of the 1960s. You can only gasp at the sheer exploitation and blatant misinformation in this ad aimed at children. "What hours of imaginative play and fun as you and your friends dive, surface, maneuver, watch the enemy through the periscope and fire your nuclear missiles and torpedoes! What thrills as you play at hunting sunken treasures in pirate waters and exploring the strange and mysterious bottom of the deep ocean floor!".

Obviously, the key word here is imaginative. Yes kids, you will only do those things in your imagination. In reality, you will be sitting in a cardboard box. Because I think that's what they mean when they say it's "sturdily constructed of 200lb fibreboard".
That's a heck of a lot of imagination...

[Update: I found a picture!]

Friday, 15 June 2012

Friday Postcards - Hey, Hey! We're the Monkeys

I love this series of postcards, but I do find them somewhat mysterious. Someone has gone to a lot of trouble to set up these homely scenes of monkey life, but what are they trying to portray?
What is the message? What do they symbolise? What is the relationship between them? Is Big Monkey a kind of Everyman, living out a dull and ultimately meaningless existence? Does it say we are all just apes, even if we wear a shirt and tie? Or are they trying to tell us, "Yes! There is jam on your daily bread. There is comfort to be found in the sharing of a simple meal. Yes! We have no bananas."? 

And is Little Monkey really a doctor?