Friday, April 12, 2013

The Skinny -- Rie Cramer

Rie Cramer
Marie Cramer, better known as Rie, was an illustrator of her times.  Her images perfectly capture the essence of the 1920s and 30s, from her color choices to her linework and detail to her subject matter and point of view.  Her work features flowing Art Nouveau figures, with bright, saturated color, and lots of personality.  We Blackbird girls love illustrators, and her work makes us so, so happy.

The youngest in a family of four girls, Rie Cramer was born and raised in the Dutch East Indies, more specifically in Java, Indonesia, in 1887.  Her father, Henry Cramer, was often absent, as he was with the "packet service", traveling on ships with cargo.  Her mother, Elisabeth Frederika Schenck, took Rie and her sisters back to The Netherlands when she was 9 years old, and she attended an art academy in The Hague, the third largest city in the country, from 1905 to 1907.

At 17, she left a folder of her work -- drawings and rhymes -- with a publisher, W. de Haan, in Utrecht.  They loved it, and she got a contract in 1906 to do the book, Of Girls and Boys.  She did a sequel a year later.  

"In contrast to the then usual moralistic and educational children's books were these playful books about domestic life and the world of the child. The illustrations were not only informative, but appealed to the imagination and made the book much more accessible to children than the usual children's literature."*

Rie went on to illustrate books for other Dutch authors, like Nienke Hichtum and Anna Sutorius, as well as the classics, like Grimm's Fairy Tales and Alice in Wonderland.  She was heavily influenced by the art of other illustrators from around the world, like Arthur Rackham and Edmund Dulac.  She worked with a dark black outline, and then filled in with watercolors.

Rie was married two times, both ending in divorce, and she had a passionate, life-changing affair with married art critic Albert Plasschaert that ended in 1919.  She had no children.  But she lived for her art, going on to make dolls, ceramics, and even write plays and novels under a pseudonym.  She also wrote for a children's magazine, Sunshine, in the 1920s and 30s.

World War II was especially difficult for Rie.  In 1940, the Germans invaded the Netherlands.  Two of Rie's pre-war novels, She,We, and You and The Land of Promise were banned for their anti-Nazi message.  She worked against the Nazis, hiding refugees and writing poetry, called Verses of Resistance.  Through it all, though, she continued to illustrate children's books.  After the war, her fame spread to Britain and beyond, and she wrote a series of children's radio shows, of which 42 episodes aired in 1954 and 1955.

The Little Mermaid

Rie's later years were spent in Mallorca, living with friends.  According to her, it was the best time of her life. She wrote several books about Mallorca, and her love for cats.  She was crazy about her cats, and even posed with one of her cats for her passport photo.  In 1971, she moved back to the Netherlands.  Rie died at the age of 89 in 1977.  

Critics have said that Rie neglected part of society with her art, focusing too much on the whimsy and beauty, and not enough on the realness of the world during the time she worked.  However, her lighthearted, beautiful art speaks more to me because the fantasy she put into every illustration.  Rie captured the most important element of childhood in her work -- imagination and fun.


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

On the Radar -- Buzzzzz

Back in November we talked about it's time for the bees themselves. We Blackbird girls always love insects and bugs, but we have a special place in our hearts for bees.  We are avid Sherlock Holmes fans, and Laurie R. King's series, starting with The Beekeeper's Apprentice, is one of our favorite things.  Along with, well, you know,  Robert Downey, Jr. as Sherlock... 

Oh, Sherlock!
But even our other favorite, Alexander McQueen had bees all over his last runway.  So we decided maybe it's not just us, and maybe it's not just the honeycomb.  Today's On the Radar is dedicated to the royal bee, in all its beauty.

Above is a vintage buckle from Bay Tree Gifts on Etsy, available here

And here's the Alexander McQueen collar that we're drooling over...

Let's look at some art from Etsy.  A new print:

By GollyBard on Etsy, here.

And something vintage (I'm reallllllyyyy digging this pull down chart...oh, for the wall space to hang it!):

From Linda Bell on Etsy, here.

Light fixture, maybe?

By Marie Christophe

And finally, stunning bee drop earrings:

By Alexis Bittar

Monday, April 8, 2013

Junk Love Monday: The Collection That Shall Not Be

We generally have very little restraint when it comes to adding new collections to the ever-growing list. But, believe it or not, we do occasionally have to put effort into not collecting certain things. These are usually items that tempt us with their beauty and/or quirkiness, but to buy one would open the proverbial Pandora's box. We might not have room for a full collection, or the funds to really apply ourselves to it. And still these items taunt us, tempt us, and haunt us wherever we go. And so, we introduce the first Collection That Shall Not Be: vintage potato chip cans.
snack time -  retro Krun-Chee potato chip container made by Sunshine Biscuits
From FayeTravisVintage on Etsy

I love potato chips. I inherited this from my father, who used to press his face to the living room window waiting for the Charles Chips man. I also love tins, which makes it doubly difficult to resist buying vintage potato chip cans. They have great graphics, and they used to have chips in them! But, I have to constantly remind myself of two things: 1. Chip cans are large, which means they take up a lot of space, which we don't have a lot of; and 2. Chip cans aren't very expensive--you can get some good ones for pretty cheap, which is a dangerous way to start a collection of large things. They're too easy to buy....
Humpty Dumpty Potato Chips Tin, Humpty Dumpty Potato Chips, Humpty Dumpty, Vintage Tin, Large Tin Can
From SundayTown on Etsy
The trouble is that we see them everywhere. If there was a reward for finding old chip cans, I would be rolling in money right now. Sometimes, we might go to 4 different antique malls in the same day, and come across a dozen different potato chip cans before we go home. This is why I'm not allowed to buy one. Whenever I fall in love, which happens fairly regularly, we have to have The Conversation....

Her: If you like it, you could buy it.
Me: We have no room.
Her: We could make room.
Me: What about all the others? You know if I buy one, I won't be able to turn down the rest.
Her: You're right. Potato chip cans are a gateway drug.

1937 New Era Potato Chip Tin 1lb
From ElaineMary on Etsy
It sounds funny, but we're serious. Sometimes, when you fall in love with good junk, you close your eyes and envision the life you can make together. I close my eyes and know with absolute certainty that my collection will be huge. I will become the girl who can't say no. The collection will get out of hand, my other things will be obscured by my mountain of large tins, and then I'll either have to put them in storage or officially stop collecting. A crew will have to come extract me from my house, because I won't be able to get to the door.  My depression will be contagious, monarchies will fall, icebergs will melt....Seriously, I cannot allow myself to buy the first potato chip can, because I won't be able to stop myself.
Vintage "Red Dot" Potato Chip Tin Madison, Wisconsin
From sugarSCOUT on Etsy

But I can certainly look.
Vintage Charles Waffle Chips Tin
From VintageCoolETC on Etsy

Vintage Mrs Ihrie's Potato Chips Tin - Vintage Chip Tin Can Advertising
From AGoGoVintage on Etsy

Large Vintage Potato Chip Tin - Becker Potato Chips - Vintage Advertising Tin
From Thebeezkneezvintage on Etsy