Monday, April 30, 2012

The Well-Dressed Retro Pet

Back when I adopted my first pug, the internet wasn't quite the gushing fountain of retro goodness that we take for granted today.  Finding appropriately retro neckwear for her was a gigantic hit-or-miss affair.  There was no Etsy, for one thing, and back then nobody was marketing anything specifically targeted at the retro-pet culture (I just know there were others out there like myself, frustrated by having nothing but cutesy nylon pawprint collars to put on our dogs).  If I wasn't so sewing-impaired, I swear I would have attempted to conquer that little niche market single-handedly.

Nowadays, though, there's plenty of great stuff out there for pet owners with a retro aesthetic.  My first pug is long gone, but her final years found her sporting some really spectacular collars.  Now it's Marlee's turn (she's the atomic puglet pictured in my last post), and thanks to Etsy and a few other fun places, she has quite a lovely collection o' collars.  It's not really as outrageous as it might seem for a single dog to have literally dozens.  She goes to work with me, and hey, I sure wouldn't want to wear the same thing to the job day after day.  Oh, who am I kidding?  Yes, I'm one of those crazy dog people.  So sue me.  Below, a sampling of the insanity.

We have this one, but in pink:

She got this one for Christmas, purchased from TheModDog, one of our faves.  Not stricly retro, per se, but it certainly has flair:

During summer, I'm all about the Hawaiian or tropical-themed collars.  We got several of these from Furry Baby Fashions.  She usually has at least a few Hawaiian prints available.  BONUS: She does collars for da kittehs too!

Lately I've been putting Marlee in these adorable collars with bows.  I think of this one as her "flirty fifties" style.  Just need some cat-eye glasses and little capri pants (no, I don't put cutesy clothing on the dog -- except jackets for warmth, explained next.  I mean, I have to draw the line somewhere).  The best bows 'n' collars are in the Crazy for Collars store.

And finally, what retro pug would be complete without a fabulous Pug Snuggly coat for those nippy winter days?  I must confess that Marlee has three of them.  But it's so hard to find clothing that fits pugs!  Their bodies are just plain different from other dogs, what with the thick chest and wide neck coupled with their short stature.  Anyway, that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.  This one is a lovely black corduroy with a cherries print.

And yes, our beloved rescue cat Gidget has her own wardrobe.  Hard to see in this pic, but she's sporting a fetching aqua collar with brown skull print.  Punk Rock Kitteh!

In a future post, I'll go over the available online options for retro pet beds.  Because dogs and cats sleep better on cushions made from Michael Miller pinup girls fabric.  It's been scientifically proven.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

My, What Big Eyes You Have

I'm not one to care too much about the decor of my office at work.  As long as I have a sturdy desk, decent computer and plenty of desktop junk, I'm good.  But as it happens, my office turned out to be the perfect place to display one of my larger collections.

I work for a nonprofit animal welfare organization.  Basically, we're a large animal shelter with numerous programs and community services.  So hey, we all love animals, right?  I figured my horde of sad-eyed Enesco pity puppies and pity kitties would be right at home.

I've been picking up these little beauties one at a time over the last 10 years or so.  My personal policy is to never pay more than five bucks for one of them (although I confess that I've broken that rule a couple times for ones I simply had to have -- you know how it goes).  These were mass-produced to an unbelievable degree in the 1960s, so they're simply not scarce or rare, and paying a lot for them is just silly.

Here's another view, to give you an idea of the depth of the big-eyed insanity on top of my file cabinet:

Oh, and did I mention I also collect those pressed-cardboard faux paintings of pity kitties and pity puppies?  You gotta love the Gigs:

That's the office wall behind my desk.  I know the whole pity puppy phenomenon isn't to everyone's liking, but I figured that since I work at a shelter, people would dig 'em.  But it's been a mixed reaction.

I can use the figurines and prints as a kind of litmus test when I meet new employees.  If they go, "Omigod, those are terrible!  How can you live with them just STARING at you like that?  It's soooooo sad!" then it's a pretty safe bet we're not going to be bosom buddies.  However, the one person in five who says, "Heh.  Those are awesome" is probably going to be my new BFF, or at least someone with a decent sense of irony.

Because these images don't make me sad.  In fact, they kind of crack me up.  They're just so unbelievably over-the-top.  I mean, it's not enough that the miserable-looking pups and kitties with the beseeching eyes look like their hydrocephalic heads are about to snap off their spindly little necks.  But the artist had to go one further and put them in downright horrifying situations, to further emphasize the pathetic mood.  One has a frayed rope around its neck and a few bread crusts (BREAD CRUSTS!) to eat.  Another is in a seedy alley with overturned garbage cans.  Then there's the junkyard, railroad tracks, and kitten-trapped-outside-the-window.

This collection is a little later vintage than I usually collect, but I don't know what to say.  I just have some kind of fondness for these freaky big-eyed animals.  Don't know why.

On another subject entirely, here's Atomic Auntie's atomic puglet, who accompanies me to work every day.
What?  Totally unrelated.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Mermaid Mania

I'm the first to admit that I'm an insatiable collector.  I just plain like STUFF, and lots of it.  If one of something is nice, two is better, and then hey, why not 10?  They all basically start the same way: I stumble across some kitschy object (a spaghetti poodle, an anthropomorphic teabag holder, whatever), fall in love, and promptly want another.  And another.  And so on, until anyone visiting my house for the first time looks around and says, "Um, you have lots of ... things, don't you?"

Although most of my collections are of vintage 1950s/60s mass-produced items, and therefore reasonably priced for the most part, an exception is my collection of mermaid wall plaques.  These were decorative ceramics intended for display in one's midcentury bathroom (plenty of folks remember a pair of them gracing the wall in grandma's john).  Of course, one can only hope that said bathroom had all its original pink fixtures, but that's a post for another day.

Unlike my other collections, these mermaids can get pricey.  Like, way too overpriced, in my not-so-humble opinion, for mass-produced items that really aren't exceedingly rare.  So I've been gathering my mermaids bit by little bit, seeking out bargains and refusing to pay the (outrageous) prices typically seen on eBay, over the last 10 years.

My bathroom is far too small to display the quantity of them I've accumulated, so they hang on the wall in the dining area.  I painted the wall a vivid aqua to give them an appropriately water-ish background.  Every once in a while, sitting at the kitchen table, I think about the fact that they were probably displayed in someone's bathroom and are most likely covered in midcentury cooties.  But I give all my vintage ceramics a decent wash when I get them.  And not much puts me off my food, I can assure you.

Many of the mermaids originally came with their own ceramic bubbles, starfish, sea horses, etc., to better create a complete underwater tableau.  The bubbles and accessories are often missing from the sets today, but there are a couple of dedicated mermaid-lovers out there who make repros available from vintage molds.

These two are, hands (fins?) down, my favorites in the whole collection.  There's just something so wonderfully retro about them, and I especially love the way their hair "floats" around them (a detail some of the other designers seem to have overlooked).  The bubbles are repros from mermaid guru Sandy Shores,
whose website seems to have disasppeared at the moment (hopefully not for good).

I got these two little Lefton beauties at an absolute steal from someone who was liquidating a bunch of NOS (new old stock) items from his late parents' store.  They even came in the original wooden crate with straw.

This trio is by Norcrest, and I've had them for almost 10 years.  There's absolutely no way I could afford to buy them today, given that the price of this particular set has, like, quintupled since the days when I was first collecting.  I've even seen them sell singly for more than what I paid for the whole group.  So they're pretty much the crown jewels of my collection, and naturally I gloat when I see them outrageously priced on eBay.  Because if you're not smug about your bargains, then you're just not doing it right.

This little gal is also a favorite of mine.  Most of the mermaids just seem to be posing, but this one's actively a-swimmin'.

Here's the whole collection.  In future posts: the adorable niecelets, spaghetti poodles, anthropomorphic fruit and veggies, ramblings about planting a gnome garden, and ever so much more.  Stay tuned!