Fred Press, American artist Lionel Suttie, Australian industrial designer
Fred Press was an American artist, and from 1950 to the 1980s was the chief designer of Rubel & Co on NY’s Fifth Avenue. He set out to revolutionise giftware, bringing his artistic sensibilities to domestic ware. Here we see a cheese/fruit board, in the shape of an apple, with one of his iconic drawings reproduced on the ceramic tile. The tile itself was made in Japan and is set in American teak, and it is signed Fred Press.
Lionel Suttie was an Australian industrial designer, bought in to Bessemer to revolutionise the design of utility ware– butter dishes, sugar bowls and table ware. This was the first time mass produced melamine products were thought worthy of design – or that they could make could make a design statement. In this image- a russet brown lidded condiment bowl, an avocado cup and saucer and a yellow sugar bowl.
Altogether a fine homage to the 70s -and- 70s designers.
This is a superb example of split cane – a hat rack employing a complex interlacing of cane members with six hooks for six hats. The rack was made in the 40s so there is a bit of wear to the once shiny cane; I like the patina it has developed but you might want to re-varnish it; totally up to you.
Split cane became very fashionable in the 40s in Australia and furniture from the small – magazine rack- to the large- entire sofa suites was made from it. Australian cane has quite a distinctive dark spotty appearance which makes it very attractive; other cane tends to be more monochrome.
One of the hat hooks has sagged a little- giving the rack an asymmetrical appearance which I think is kinda nice. The cane is in excellent condition and the hook could be steamed and re-formed to its original shape if desired. The hat rack is ready to hang.
Two delightful jigsaws, made from timber, in Australia in the 60s. The first was made by Louise Rayner Toys; the second – a teaching clock, is unmarked. Both jigsaws came from a nursery school, who purchased them in the 60s but now deemed them too ‘old-fashioned’ for today’s children. So – hello – retro!
I do remember playing with a clock jigsaw when I was at nursery school- the plastic handles are adjustable and have to be moved in order to get all the pieces in. And I just love the funky glasses on the coloured jigsaw- which is very ‘analogue’ with a clock and a rotary telephone!
Both jigsaws are in excellent vintage condition; with very little wear and are for sale: $AU45
Clock and barometer souvenir
made in Australia 1940s
I’ve featured quite a bit of Mulga wood on this blog: . and a fair bit of kitsch. Often Mulga wood and kitsch go hand-in–hand, as is the case here. Mulga wood was used in 1940s souvenir works as it is a hardwood –unusual in a native from the wattle family – and was considered ‘export quality’. The timber is cut and arranged to show off its famous bi-colouring, as is the Australia-shaped base of this 40s souvenir.
The clock- with alarm and glow-in-the-dark numbers and hands, is paired with a barometer [working; naturally it’s in Fahrenheit] and a gilt koala. The wind-up clock is functional- but I can’t attest to its accuracy. But a barometer and a clock and a gilt koala all on an Australia-shaped Mulga wood base? Doesn’t get much better!
I’ve teamed the souvenir with a Bushell’s tea jar from the same era. The rusted lid adds another brown tone, and the glass picks up the glass on the clock and barometer.
A fantastic Mahjong set of bamboo and bone: made in Japan in the 30s!
Complete with betting sticks, wind of the round, and a great 30s case. I am speaking to you Mahjong players out there…this is a gorgeous set.
I learned to play Mahjong in my 20s. It’s a mixture of cards and gin-rummy; but with a tactile placement and playing of tiles. You can play fast and dirty and win –or go for an impossible hand; a combination of ideas, collections or collaborations – and get a way better score.
We play it as a family every Christmas – which is why I associate it with this time. I always go for the impossible score – because I like the odds – and also, because it encourages others to win!
This fabulous Shadow Box was a staple in the interior furnishings of the 40s and 50s: it hangs on a wall to showcase knick-knacks and small ornaments. The timber has a great bevelled edge, and the two ‘boxes’ come apart to nest inside each other for transport/storage. The original flat pack!
Shadow Boxes were made in both square and circular shapes; and the square-shaped boxes were either two or three boxes, and the clever design means you can arrange the boxes so they are ascending or descending. And the depth of the boxes means that the tops can be used to display objects; so objects need not just be ‘framed’ within the boxes.
I’ve styled the Shadow Box with some dog figurines; but of course it would suit any small vintage collection.
The Shadow Box would make an excellent Christmas gift for a vintage collector, and it’s for sale: $AU40
These 40s bookends are made from Mulga wood- which has been cut to show off its famous bi-colouring, and still has the bark of the tree intact. Mulga wood was used in 1940s souvenir works like these as it is a hardwood –unusual in a native from the wattle family – and was considered ‘export quality’. The wood is heavy and dense and so- makes for fantastic book ends.
With the bookends are part of our Observer book collection. These little ‘field’ books run from 1 through 100; 1 is British Birds and 100 is Wayside and Woodland. Some collectors collect only 1-79 [the purists] ; or collect every edition of one of the series. I like the idea of 100 coloured spines lined up- and we have around 30 or so still to collect. One can buy them from specialist booksellers, natch- but I like to discover them in second hand bookshops across the world [we found one in Berlin whilst there.]
So – the bookends are in perfect condition. For collectors of Australiana, Australian timber, or those who just need a decent pair of 40s bookends- here they are. I also have a marvellous pair of bookends with Mulga wood & pewter kangaroos [see previous post.]
Aboriginal motif souvenirware,
made in Australia 1950s
Post war arts and crafts saw a rise in the popularity of ‘Australiana’ – replacing traditional English motifs with Australian themes; invariably Aboriginal motifs. In the 1950s these appropriated [and westernised] indigenous motifs were hugely popular as souvenirware.
The beaten copper image of an Aboriginal tribesman here is laid on an indigenous timber – with a handy thermometer [still working, btw] what’s not to love? The timber is Mulga wood – much collected and much documented on this blog. This is hugely collectible.
The Aboriginal motif sourvenirware is for sale: $AUD45
Kookaburra perpetual calendar,
made in Australia 1940s
This pewter kookaburra sits on a boomerang-shaped timber base: the timber is traditional Mulga wood- which has been cut and arranged to show off its famous bi-colouring. Mulga wood was used in 1940s souvenir works like these as it is a hardwood –unusual in a native from the wattle family – and was considered ‘export quality’. A transfer sticker on the base, in the shape of Australia, proudly proclaims “Genuine Australian Mulga” in case one confuses it for fake Mulga, or worse still, a non-Australian Mulga.
Kookaburras are very collectible right now: and I have a great fondness for a perpetual calendar. The daily ritual of changing the date as one sits down to work in a mostly digital world is very pleasant. You’ll notice if you look closely at the image that the calendar pieces were made by The Daily Set, printed in England. This is the only part of the item that was imported; seems Australia couldn’t print calendar pieces in the 40s.
The perpetual calendar is not for sale as it makes up part of Trish’s burgeoning kookaburra collection. I have tried to claim is as part of my burgeoning Mulga wood collection – but nothing doing!
I love stationery. And I love retro: so retro stationery is a favourite! My drawing office is indeed – paperless- due to all the retro timber stationery folders and file boxes I have.
This large timber box file comes complete with original alphabetic dividers and file cards. The dividers are stout cardboard with riveted steel alphabet plates. Never been used. The file cards are pristine – circa 1970s – also never been used. And the timber box – also in great condition- has that fantastic diagonal opening so typical of the 70s.
SO tempted to keep this file box – and add it to the working collection in my office, but I can’t with any good conscience. I have ample. So this file box is for sale: $AUD55