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Hoard it

Vintage WHSmith 1960s wrapping paper

This week Shelf Appeal was referred to as someone who ‘likes paper bags and cake’. There is no defense against this definition. It is true. Herewith, then, some paper of old and dusty appearance. Shelf Appeal would not want to disappoint fans.

WHSmith have been present on the British high street since 1828. They sold books and stationery then, they sell them today. Photographs of the early shops are fairly easy to find. And very smart they were too. Some few beautiful Carter tiles are left on facades, occasionally you trip over an example on travels and have to whip out a camera and partake of the loveliness. WHSmith opened their first railway booth in Euston station in 1848 which is such a nice thing to read as they have one there still.

The paper used to wrap their stationery purchases is, funnily enough, less well documented. Shelf Appeal has a couple of bits of WHSmith paper. This one is particularly pretty. And probably of mid-late 1960s vintage. The abstract roundels reveal, if you look carefully: a sad looking bear, an ink quill, ink bottle and parchment (I like to think it is parchment, not simply thick wannabe parchment paper), a book with generous looking eraser (remember those blue and cream erasers?) and a decorative arabesque which, if you have had too much coffee, looks a bit like one of Braque’s birds.

The logo here is simply ‘smith’s’, lowercase and lovely. WHSmith look to have played quite a lot with their logo over the years. Probably each time someone new took over the governing board and wanted to update their look to appeal to those young folk. Happily the ‘WH’, which stood for William Henry, is back with it’s Smith these days.

It can be confidently asserted that these sorts of scraps of paper were taken off purchases at the time, folded and stored in a drawer somewhere. Probably piles and piles of them. To ‘come in useful’ one day. The same was and is – by relatives of a certain vintage – done with plastic carrier bags. It is an ephemerist’s propinquitous dream, this storing of packaging. For if odd sorts didn’t hoard, other odd sorts would not be able to handle, collect and write about these things.

For the little people

Monkey toy Inside the rainbow Russian childrens book illustrations

Shelf Appeal normally likes an oldish book or booklet. A bit of rust around the staples and a bit of foxing across the paper. But this week Shelf Appeal has got excited over a new thing.

There have been quite a few posts here about Russian children’s book illustration. Yet aside from online sites of interest, the books about such things have mostly been in other languages than English. The Japanese like these illustrations very much. But a handsome new tome in English has appeared, full of juicy examples of the genre. And the text, rather than situating the illustrations in a dryish narrative allows contemporary words to set the scene. It is really interesting, reading quotes and excerpts from the same period as the illustration.

And if you never get past the pictures, it’s no shame. They are (no lie) fabulous. I tried to think what it is that makes me so glad to see these illustrations. The limited colour palette, for sure. The emphasis on silhouette, shapes and block colour. The Soviet-arbitrated subject matter ranging from transport and toys to uniforms, from building, to life as a good little citizen.

These books embody the idea of learning through play. They are playful. They have less than subtle messages. In fact they are nothing less than manifestos for the children.

Roll with it

Olle Eksell mt masking tape

It’s nice to receive little things from a long way away. My good friend went to Japan recently. What would I like? Well, a roll of rather special sticky tape, if you please.

I have had a book (the book) on the Swedish illustrator Mr Olle Eksell for a while. I have had a bit of a stationery crush on the lovely Japanese brand mt masking tape for a while, too. A collaboration betwixt the two could only ever be a very nice thing.

And so, in amongst a pile of lovely paper tat from Japan, came not one but two rolls of said tape. One roll of Circus, seen here. One roll of Bird Pencil.

It didn’t disappoint. Such nice drawings. Such nice matt, opaque tape. This is not to use, you understand. Well, not all of it. I have to keep just enough of each, perched on the shelf, looking happy, making me happy.

Olle Eksell mt masking tape wrapper


Czech it out

Kubasta advert

Twitter has bought me mostly nothing but nice things. Daily bits of gossip, both personal and professional. Links to the weird, beautiful, popular and obscure. A way of finding new people who share links with my worlds, personal and professional.

I was just sent a link to a lovely online resource about Vojtěch Kubašta, a Czech artist who was an illustrator and maker of wonderful paper pop up things. I might have found the website eventually. But how much nicer to have someone else find it and think: ‘Hmm, Shelf Appeal might like this.’ Then that someone takes the time to send it through. Virtual propinquity.

I do love an online resource of pretty paper things. One click after another of cooing and gasps of delight. This particular collection was bought together by the Bienes Museum of the Modern Book, which seems to me a place I might like to just go and live in.

The Kubašta archive covers adverts, pop-up books, posters, calendars, postcards. It is a pretty spectacular body of work. I now want to find a bit of Kubašta for myself. Perhaps a little book. Perhaps a little pop up book. For the online simply wets my appetite for a bit of the offline – to put on the shelf.

Kubasta Koh-i-noor advert

Swing low

tnum & Mason hammock 1936

A new de luxe garden Hammock this.  Fresh and lovely and sold by Fortnum & Mason in 1936. All pieces fully sprung, with pullman armrests between each cushion. The whole covered in ‘a new material in a beautiful and exclusive modern design.’  Slashes of red and camel zing across the surface, with what looks like a nice red fringing on the top and bottom of the hammock.

This postcard is a corker. The illustration (who needs photos?) making the most of the fabric repeat.  It is probably by W Hendy who designed the Fortnum things that Edward Bawden didn’t in the 1930s. There is not too much sense of the great untamed outdoors here, a bit of grass but nicely tamed and civilised. Thank goodness.

I wonder if that modern design of fabric is by Marion Dorn? She is better known for her strictly modernist rugs and weaves (including some masterly moquettes for London Underground) but her printed textile designs certainly weren’t far behind all that. Strong of repeat and bold in colour they were, which is what makes me wonder about this one.

Dorn was working on and off for Fortnum’s (wasn’t everybody?) both directly as Marion Dorn Designs Limited and through manufacturers like Warners and Donald Brothers fabrics. Her partner (it was such a scandal, dear) Edward McKnight Kauffer was doing some graphic things for them too. So it all makes sense, to me anyway.

I feel with these bits of furniture and a little seaside deco bide-a-wee, I might actually enjoy a bit of (my least favourite season) summer.

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