Look familiar? If you’ve been reading The Vintage Traveler for a month, then you’ll recognize this Martex design from a earlier post where I showed a modern dress that used a modified version of a Mid Century Martex print found on a linen towel. I was delighted to get the same towel, but in blue in the mail the other day.
It was a gift from Mod Betty of Retro Roadmap, who had found the dress that sparked my original post. Sometimes I think I ought to put Mod Betty (along with a few others who are always sending great leads my way) on the payroll. But then I remember that there is no payroll, so MB ends up getting paid the same as I do.
I find the current obsession with mid 20th century design to be interesting, and a bit amusing. Being born in 1955, I was surrounded with “modern” design. When a generation that had not been as exposed to this design rediscovered it ten or fifteen years ago, I thought it a bit odd. What was so commonplace to me looked fresh and exciting to their eyes. And I can see that they were right.
I can’t see myself living in a house surrounded by the artifacts of my childhood, but I look at the Mid Century houses of so many of my online friends and I can easily see the appeal of the style. I realize that I was very lucky to grow up surrounded by good design. Well, except for the lamps, and I’m sorry, but the Fifties and Sixties saw the birth of some mighty ugly lamps.
I bet there is a black version of this one.
When it comes to textile design, I really think that the designers of the 1940s through 60s were at the top of the game. The simplicity of these Martex towels say “Cocktail Time” without the overly cutesy-ness of similar designs being made today.
Thanks so much, Beth!
Part of the fun of the Metropolitan Museum of Art is its fantastic book and gift store. After our visit we barely had 15 minutes to shop before closing, but as we were walking through the shop, my eye was caught by a favorite Vera Neumann design. This little book is filled with recipes for favorite cocktails, of course. Built into the back is a magnet so it can become part of your refrigerator decor.
If you have been a reader here for a while, you might recognize the design. I have a set of cocktail napkins, though the colorway is different, and I recently spotted a set in blue. These have been reproduced in recent years, but the new ones have a very shiny thread for the hem overcasting, so be sure to always look.
The Vera Company owns the original artwork for many of Vera’s designs, and they often enter into agreements with companies who want to use the work.
The little book has a page where it tells a bit about Vera Neumann. The part about the White House is interesting. The fabric used by Bess Truman was Vera’s famous fern design. It didn’t stay in the White House long, as they did not survive the remodeling by Mrs. Kennedy.
Before I’m accused of not knowing the words to the famous poem, I’d like to say this is the Tammis Keefe version – a version for a more mature audience.
You may remember a post from several years ago, where I found one of these Keefe designs that was ripped off and used without crediting her. I had seen the cocktail napkins on one of my favorite etsy stores, CallMeJasper, and was wanting them badly, but could not manage the justifiably high price tag. I did eventually break down, return to the thrift store and buy the plate, but I’ve been looking for a set of the napkins ever since.
You might imagine me, walking through the antique mall on Tuesday, hoping something would catch my eye, and then I look down and there they were, a complete set of eight tiny slight tipsy reindeer. I snatched the set up and hoped for the best as I turned the price tag over so I could read it. $12. I felt like a bandit as I ran to the counter to buy them before someone realized that just one of them was worth more than that.
And so it is in the collectibles business. Sometimes you have to over-pay to get a marvelous thing, and other times you find a bargain of the very best kind.
Merry Christmas to me!
My latest Vera purchase, in the original box, no less! Do they look familiar? If so, you may have seen the same napkins here, but in a red and green colorway.
I was really happy to spot these on eBay, mainly because they go so well with the Cocktail Time plates:
But I’m not going to spend this entire post bragging about my new Vera napkins. I want to talk a little about how products were developed at Vera. I originally got this information from Vera’s nephew, Fred Salaff, and it is discussed in the new book on Vera, Vera, the Art and Life of an Icon.
All the designs at Vera were painted by Vera herself. They all started out as square paintings, as if she were designing scarves. For each collection, all the paintings were hung and then the division heads and designers would choose which designs they wanted to use. Coordinating pieces, like my napkins and plates, were not deliberately done; each department got to choose which designs it wanted to use. As a result, sometimes a popular motif was made into a scarf and a napkin. There might also be an apron that would coordinate.
So that explains why some designs, like strawberries or pink roses in a vase, or a particular butterfly design might be seen in several different products. After each division made their choices, it was up to them to translate the original design into their product. They also worked on different colorways, as in the case of my cocktail napkins.
The way the company operated tends to help the modern Vera collector. There is so much material, and so many choices that the collector can be very specialized and still find plenty of things that make the heart sing! I’ve obviously fond of the citrusy prints and colors, and it all does not have to match to make me happy. The colors seem to draw it all together into a cohesive unit.
will be a Vera cocktail party!
Just when I thought I’d seen all the great Vera cocktail designs, I stumbled across the towel and napkins shown here. The colors are so warm that they heat up a room just by their mere presence!
So as soon as the weather cooperates, I’ll invite the girl friends over for an afternoon of sunshine and cocktails. I’m open to recipes, as I’m not much of a cook (no comments from Little Brother, please!). I may not be able to cook, but I know a great dish when I see one!
I don’t know about the food, but you could crystal centerpieces with fruit that bring the linens to life!
Saturday, February 20th 2010 @ 10:08 AM
Posted by KeLLy Ann:
Those are Wonderful. I especially like the one with the Oranges and the one with the Watermelon.
Saturday, February 20th 2010 @ 12:04 PM
Ooh I would love to be in virtual attendance – sounds like a great reason to have a party, and something cheery to look forward to! 🙂
Sunday, February 21st 2010 @ 7:53 AM
Posted by Holly:
I’ll have a Beefeater gin martini, dirty not too dry with extra olives. Stirred not shaken, please.
Keep an eye on your cocktail napkins and canape plates, girl (especially if I show up at the party wielding a large handbag!)
Sunday, February 21st 2010 @ 3:53 PM
Posted by LB:
You could always check to see if LB Catering has an opening. Anyways, cooking is easy – you just have to hold your mouth right.
Tuesday, February 23rd 2010 @ 6:55 PM
Posted by Lizzie:
Oh course! LB Catering! Now why didn’t I think of that? I wonder if mac and cheese goes with martinis and rum swizzles?
Wednesday, February 24th 2010 @ 7:11 PM
Just the thing for that New Years party:
Who needs a recipe book for cocktails as long as you have your Cocktail Mixer? This handy little dial-a-drink dates to 1943. I just hope the bartender stays sober, otherwise he’ll never be able to work the thing!
Most of these drinks I’ve never even heard of. So I’ll be ready if anyone ever asks for a Highstepper or a Taxi. How about a Hiawatha or a Snag-tooth Nell?
For some reason, these dials were quite popular during the 1940s. They covered a variety of topics – everything from facts about the planets to first aid. I always thought they were for children – a fun way to present facts. I guess this one is for the child in the over 21 set!
Posted by Amari:
So what time do I need to come over?
Tuesday, December 29th 2009 @ 8:29 AM
Posted by Lizzie:
Well, seeing as how we are both morning people, better make it about 8 pm!
Tuesday, December 29th 2009 @ 9:21 AM
What a swell dial-a-drink! I love these things and have started a small collection. So what the tarnation is in a Snag-Tooth Nell?? Have a wonderful New Year! 🙂
Tuesday, December 29th 2009 @ 9:57 AM
Posted by Lizzie:
Snag-Tooth Nell:Ounce of gin, ounce of Italian vermouth, ounce of French vermouth, ounce of orange juice, shake in fine ice, strain, serve!
And Happy New Year to you as well!
Tuesday, December 29th 2009 @ 10:05 AM
Posted by Rachel:
so a cute contraption! I have seen all sorts of dials but not one like that!
Wednesday, December 30th 2009 @ 7:39 AM
Posted by Anonymous:
My parents had one of these – and “cocktail hour” was a big part of their lives. For some reason all I can remember is “rum yummies.” 🙂
Wednesday, December 30th 2009 @ 7:40 AM
The perfect cocktail party invitations! I found not one, but 2 packs of these super invites from the early 60s. That means I can have one big party and invite 24 people, or 2 smaller parties and invite 12 people, or 3 even smaller parties and have 8 people. Or, I could just send myself one every once and a while and keep these all for myself!
I found these in an antique store for 50 cents a pack, so all of you who think antique stores are too expensive to shop in, think again!