Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Declaration of Independence

Several books in my shop have declared independence from the tyranny of shipping costs if they are mailed to U.S. destinations.  Search for "free shipping" under my shop and you'll get a listing of all of the little freedom-fighters.

Sarah Palin, when asked about these brave little books, said:

"They who warned uh, wonderdiva that she wasn't gonna be takin' away their right to a new home, uh by ringing those bells, and um, makin' sure as they are riding their horse through Etsy to send those warning shots and bells that we were going to be sure and we were going to be free from shipping fees, and we were going to be mailed."

Monday, June 27, 2011


In the late 1910's and early 1920's, Donohue Press put out a series of  children's books that they called the Peter Rabbit series.  These books were notable for their very true-to-original versions of classic tales and were not sanitized for the sake of the tykes.  There was a lot of murder and mayhem that would rival a more gruesome episode of "CSI" or "Law and Order:  SVU."   The art work in the books was not attributed to an artist or artists, but the work was fairly typical of the era and was colorful, cute and anthropomorphic.  It's a perversely amusing contrast to all the death threats and killing going on in the stories. 

One particular book has cover art that does not match the interior artwork and was most probably done by another artist, without attribution.  But I am convinced that the person who illustrated the cover for The Little Small Red Hen was really loaded when they did this cover:

That's a pretty realistic depiction of a chicken, save for the apron and those shoes.  Look at those tiny little shoes, how did she shove her big old hen feet in them?   Was she into foot binding?  Those legs make me think of women in sensible shoes who haven't shaved their legs.  I can't take my eyes off of them.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Treasury love

A beautiful, enigmatic treasury that includes an item from my shop. 

And a lovely green and blue treasury that include a vintage child's chair that is in my shop.

Friso Henstra is beyond cool

Earlier this year I found a group of 1960's to 1970's books being sold in a lot; most of them were publications of Parent's Magazine Press, most of them being extremely well-kept.  In it was a copy of The Silver Whistle by Jay Williams and illustrated by Friso Henstra.  Oh. My. God.  I didn't think I'd ever find an illustrator from that era who drew me in the way the Golden Age illustrators do.  

Henstra began his career as a cartoonist, but when he illustrated a book for Jay Williams, his career took off.  The style he was using in the 1960's and early 1970's  is much like the animations that Terry Gilliam of Monty Python did in the same time frame:

Friso Henstra, from The Silver Whistle
Terry Gilliam's creations for the opening credits of Monty Python's Flying Circus:

Let me diverge from Henstra love for a moment to marvel at Gilliam's work and how he is the godfather of steampunk.  

I could spend more time talking about the Williams/Henstra collaboration and other authors who used Henstra as their illustrator, but another blogger has done a much nicer job of putting that information together, so do check out Authors and Illustrators and the entries on Henstra.  

Read it and get hooked!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Of Birds and Blue and Vintage Green

A lovely treasury featuring a book from my shop

It reminds me of a baby bluejay that fell out of the nest that was in a tree in my front yard during a storm last year.  We pulled down a deserted robin's nest that was in a spot in the back yard and put it in a cedar tree in the front yard, and put baby bird in it.  His parents cared for him until he was able to take wing and leave the nest.  I got a photo of him the last morning that he was in the nest:

Monday, June 6, 2011


Maginel Wright Enright Barney was born Margaret Ellen Wright, but her mother created "Maginel" as a conjunction of Maggie Nell.  And maybe "Maggie-Nell" is how they pronounced Maginel, although I prefer to pronounce it more like the word magic, as in "MAJ-inel." 

What a gene pool.  Her older brother was Frank Lloyd Wright, and we all know what he did for a good share of his life.  (Built lots of buildings, chased lots of women.)  Frank was 14 years older than Maginel, and a lifelong collector of Japanese prints.  It would seem that looking at her older brother's collection certainly had an influence on her work. 

From "Flower Fairies, c. 1915

 Maginel's rendering of plants and flowers has always been, to me, more interesting, nuanced and technically superb than her illustration of human beings.  However, since she was often illustrating fairies and children for children's books, the work was going to be simpler and stylized. 

I've also been intrigued by her use of large color fields in illustrations:

From When Little Thoughts Go Rhyming, c. 1916

There's a lot of mathematical precision in the way she divided and composed each illustration -- and I think it created an order and serenity in her work.  I've never read any scholarship regarding how much other artists working at the same time influenced her work, nor do I know anyone has taken the time to look into it.  However, it would make sense that she was looking at a lot of contemporary, cutting-edge artwork --  it wasn't like the Wright family were cultural slouches.  And my primary reason for speculating about her influences are the incredibly intense illustrations for Honey Bear, c. 1923.

The author Tom Wolfe, who says that Honey Bear made him want to be a writer before he could read, called Maginel an artist is the "japanais vienna secessionist" style, which in Tom Wolfe-ese, means Japanese influenced art nouveau.  And most of the time, that was true.  But to my eyes, her work in Honey Bear looks like Matisse in his Fauvism period:

And since Fauvism came from the term les Fauves, which means "the wild beasts" and Honey Bear was about a wild beast in a forest, I think doing Fauvist illustrations was absolutely perfect.  Maybe that wasn't what Maginel was up to, but it's my theory and I'm sticking with it.