Friday, February 24, 2012

Vera Neumann Paints

Okay, show of hands...who's heard of Vera Neumann? I'll wait while you think it over. No? Don't think you have? Well, have you ever been out thrifting and run across a brilliantly colored, wildly geometric or abstract floral scarf signed with a little ladybug and the simple word "Vera?" Then you've heard of Vera Neumann, whether you know it or not.

I ran across a scarf like that--bright blue strawberries with green leaves on a gauzy white background. It was quirky and colorful and made me happy--I mean, come on! Blue strawberries? Wonderful! Then I found the signature. And I thought, "Where have I heard that name before?" It sounded familiar but I couldn't quite place it...So, off to the library I went!

My blue strawberry scarf, a Verasheer by Vera product

I found a wonderful book about her, "Vera: The Life of an Icon" by Susan Seid. And let me tell you, more women artists need to know about Vera Neumann! She was so inspirational!

Her career spanned FIVE DECADES, between her label debut in 1942 and her death in 1993. She designed wallpaper, bedding, tableclothes, dishtowels, Mikasa china, dresses, blouses and, of course, scarves. And every single thing she created was based on an original artwork--she painted everything she sold before it was silk-screened onto the fabric. And sister did it all on her own! Well, with the help and support of her loving husband. BUT all the art was hers. All the product ideas were hers. The innovations. And all at a time--the 40s, 50s, 60s--when women were still fighting for equality and against discrimination. She worked her way up from silk-screening small runs of her designs literally on their dining room table to a owning a multi-million dollar company whose products and designs graced the homes of thousands of American women--and even the White House!

And what makes me happiest about her story is that for her, it was all about the art. She really believed that art should be accessible for everyone, not just the rich. That's why she never stopped placing her designs on everyday household linens. That's why she priced her scarves lower than any comparable designs--according to the book, Vera's scarves cost between $2 and $10, while Geoffrey Beene and Pauline Trigere scarves were upwards of $25.

And her designs were wide-ranging. She used Japanese sumi-e techniques and watercolors and sketches, and her favorite subjects were all colorful and bright, suns and flowers and plants and geometric patterns inspired by her travels and the folk art and traditions she encountered--but nothing was too mundane to be beautiful. She put bunches of carrots on some products, sketches of eyeglasses and tennis rackets on others. (And blue strawberries!) A quick trip to Google or an Etsy search will bring up literally hundreds, possibly thousands, of different designs from Vera's long and extremely prolific career. If you've never done so, I really recommend perusing them! There are whole Flickr groups devoted to Vera textiles, even.

Just a few of Vera's designs...

I sometimes ask myself WHY I create. What's the point of art? And someone like Vera Neumann helps to answer that question for me--art is to be beautiful. Art doesn't have to have a point other than that. It can just be bright and wonderful and let even your dishtowel make you smile. Thanks, Vera!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Indoor Photography, 1948

My mother just gave me a manual on indoor photography with a still camera put out by Kodak in 1948. Oh, it's so kitschy and wonderful! I had to share some of the wonderful, clever little illustrations. I wish they still made camera and photography guides like this!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

At the Koffee Kup

I spent most of my youth moving around...I hardly ever spent more than 2 years in one place. My father's job necessitated it--every time he got promoted, he got transferred to another of the company's many locations. Having grown up as the perpetual "new kid in town," it's still always weird and wonderful for me to be known, to be recognized, to be a regular somewhere. There's a small, family-owned restaurant in the town my husband and I live in now--the Koffee Kup. We go there just about every weekend for breakfast. The waitress knows us, knows our orders, asks, "Your usual today?" The busboy brings us our coffee and our water without asking first because he knows we want it. We see the same other customers every week. It's...nice. It's not quite Cheers--they don't yell our names when we walk in--but it's nice to be known. So of course, when I was testing my new Canon A-1 camera, I had to take a series at the Koffee Kup.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Antique Shop

PeekHistory of the WorldSingerGlasswareAtop an UnderwoodCamera

Antique Shop, a set on Flickr.

Last month, my husband showed up to visit me at work, extremely excited. He'd bought me a gift...a beautiful Canon A-1 camera with a 50mm 1.4 lens. I shot and shot and shot with that thing and when the first roll of Kodak Tri-X film came back, I couldn't have been happier with the results! Such amazing tones! I've finally gotten around to scanning them in, and will be uploading them in themed batches. The first batch--scenes from my favorite antique shop!

Sunday, April 3, 2011


Joe Hill, an amazing author (read his novels "Heart-Shaped Box" if you want to be scared to death or "Horns" if you want to look at the devil in a whole new way) who is very active on Twitter, has started a hashtag meme: #fundamentals. He's given several explanations of just what he means by this...I'll paraphrase them here rather than just copying and pasting. A fundamental is something that serves as a foundation for how you understand the world, a touch-stone you go back to over and over, a directional sign on your personal road map. It isn't necessarily your favorite song, but it's the song that defines how you go about understanding all songs. It isn't necessarily your favorite book, but it's the book that serves as a foundation for all books of that type. Etc. I'm very much enjoying reading over the answers other people have given, and also with really looking at my own life and my own fundamentals! It's a good thing to do, I understand how you understand the world.

The answers I've given so far include:

For sci-fi/fantasy novels: "American Gods" by Neil Gaiman; "The Book of the New Sun" series by Gene Wolfe; "The Telling" by Ursula K. LeGuin; "The Orphan's Tales" by Catherynne Valente.

For poetry: "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" by T.S. Eliot; "13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird" by Wallace Stevens; "Instructions" by Neil Gaiman; "Howl" by Allen Ginsberg.

For caffeinated beverages: English Breakfast tea with sugar and milk; southern-style sweet iced tea; jasmine green tea; French roast coffee, black.

For the simple pleasures in life: A new book; an empty highway in the sunlight; warm fingers; a purring cat; socks hot from the dryer; the first crocus of spring.

For comfort food: Hot, salty miso soup; grilled cheese; mashed potatoes with butter; pasta with cream sauce; chocolate milk shakes.

For desserts: Lemon sorbet; nutella crepes; chocolate chip cookies; apple pie; mochi.