Art Deco Pink Flamingos – The Comeback Kid Of Collectibles

The incredible collectible pink flamingo is one of those type things that are either totally loved or completely ignored. Depends on human taste and objectivity. As many consider it art as others consider it junk.

The evolution of this as a decorative object dates back to the 1940’s a company called Union Products in a small Ma. Town called Leminster. They produced bit plastic animals for the front yard, but had not yet thought of the pink flamingo. Even those animals were, indeed, so tacky, they were huge sellers. A good analogy was like having the ugliest dog, so ugly it’s cute. People had to have them. They were all two dimensional like a cut-out board reindeer Christmas decoration is.

About a decade later, a serious art student who worked at Union named Don Featherstone was Although Don was a serious sculptor and classical art student, his first project was to redesign their popular duck and this time make it 3-dimensional The company figured it would be a bigger seller. The company was wrong and the 3d duck ended up in the local park. He had used a live duck as a model but still no real success.

He then figured people wanted color and something exotic. They came to mind but he could not find a live one for a model so he turned to National Geographic. Smart move. They had plenty of photos. Using clay, he built his prototype. then used to make a plaster cast. The plaster cast, in turn, was used to form the molds for the plastic. The original design called for detailed wooden legs, but they proved to be too costly and were replaced by the metal ones still seen today. While the exact date was never recorded, the first pink flamingo was created several years before 1960.

The late 1950’s just happened to be perfect timing for the flamingo. The American population was moving out of the city and behind white picket fence lawns, a perfect resting place for the big pink bird.

The late 1950’s fashion trends were bright, bold colors. Grays and blacks had been here forever and people were ready for a change. The plastic industry was thriving and now allowed for hot colors like bright green, vivid ruby, and, of course, hot flamingo pink. Pink refrigerators, washing machines, and of course who didn’t want a pink Caddie?

The love of the pink flamingo was short-lived due to timing. The 1960’s was a time of rebellion, especially against anything man-made, and the plastic flamingo was certainly not heaven-sent (though many serious collectors still consider it so). All the major department stores, (Sears being the biggest back then as this was way pre-Walmart) removed the items from lack of sales. Collectors went underground to flea markets and niche gift shops as they still do.

Many collectors are still very serious about them and go so far as to travel with them.
We all know that what is art to one person is garbage to the next. Bans have been placed on pink flamingos all over the country. As a result, Union Plastics was forced to introduce a blue flamingo to work inside the laws of city ordinances. But for every action to a reaction there is another action, eh? These towns then changed the laws to ban all plastic flamingos. Many refused to obey the ordinances and the laws have rarely been enforced in most of the communities.

Until this day, pink flamingo items are still some of the most sought after in the country, and the Internet is where the majority of the shopping is done, saving collectors large amounts of money from having to travel to find their beloved bird. Now they are available on everything from coffee mugs to boxer shorts to beer steins to clocks, all valuable and desirable collectibles (for those who love them that is).

AND I’m an Artist: Art as a Hobby

The dictionary definition of hobby is: “A pursuit outside one’s regular occupation engaged in especially for relaxation.” (Merriam-Webster)

The word hobby evokes an image of something you love to do, something you ache for when you’re sitting as your desk looking out at the window at a sunny day, something you never seem to have quite enough time for.

So why is it that some people call art a hobby, and some people don’t?

And do the ones who are doing art as a hobby have more freedom, relaxation and fun? While the rest of us “serious artists” only run into creative roadblocks once we step off the hobby train and put on the “artist” hat?

I began thinking about art as a hobby when I heard about Downtown Jam, a Toronto club made up of three studio rooms where amateur musicians can sign-up for a night of jamming.

No audience, no performance, simply playing for fun.

I asked Andrew Hall, the owner of Downtown Jam, the differences he sees between a “jammer” and a professional musician. He says a “jammer” doesn’t make his or her living from their music. They have another job, and come to Downtown Jam as a way to unwind and de-stress at the end of their workday.

So I started thinking some more about the difference between being an artist and having art as a hobby. First I wondered why someone would want to have art as a hobby, and I came up with three main reasons.

1. Freedom.

2. Relaxation.

3. Fun.

As I looked closer at each of these reasons, I found that each of them are the tip of a very big iceberg of emotional, mental and creative considerations in what was turning out to be a very complex topic!!

Freedom

Art as a hobby means freedom from the creative constraints that might be involved once you claim it as a business, way of life or part of your identity.

Additionally, a hobby involves more personal choice and expression of the artist’s personal creative preferences.

This is as opposed to using creativity in a more commercial setting, to fulfill a commission as part of a job or in a therapeutic setting where clinical considerations come before personal creative fulfillment.

Darlene, a full-time artist, wrote in an email, “I now work in a full time job doing art, though it is not my style or passion, I still do enjoy it…..others think of me as a professional artist…..I just don’t feel that way at this time”.

Art as a hobby doesn’t just involve a sense of “freedom FROM”, it also involves a sense of “freedom TO”.

When it’s not something we feel we “have to” start, work on or complete, don’t we approach a creative project with more zest? When we’re involved in a hobby, isn’t it more about the “doing” than about the finishing?

The downside to this freedom is that there’s no pressure to perform, to get better, to challenge ourselves or to grow. And it becomes too easy to “hide our light under a bushel” and keep our creative gifts to ourselves instead of sharing them with the world.

Another down side of this approach to art is that hobbies are usually the first thing to go when we get busy.

And doesn’t freedom contradict what we know to be true about creativity? We’re not free to do it; we’re COMPELLED to do it. It’s not really a choice.

Like Elaine wrote in the Everyday Artist blog, ” Art is my life. It’s my identity, it’s the way I’m put together on the inside…… sooner or later I have to do something creative…..”

Relaxation

The very definition of hobby at the beginning of this article speaks of relaxation as the purpose.

While the process of pursuing our creative expression CAN be relaxing and peaceful when we’re in the creative flow, BEING an artist can be a source of stress. Roadblocks to creativity impact our mental, physical and emotional well-being, as well as our relationships with others.

A.V. writes that art isn’t something he DOES, to relax or for any other reason, it’s something he IS.

“It is not possible to have anything creative as a hobby. Even what may be considered as a passive activity like listening to music becomes meaningful only when you sink your whole being into it…For a properly integrated person there can be no hobbies; only other dimensions of the person.”

Fun

Art as a hobby calls for a sense of FUN and lack of “serious” or “hard” work.

But when we’re in it for fun, it implies that we don’t take ourselves seriously as artists. And this rubs some artists the wrong way.

As Steve writes, “…if I consider art as just a hobby, I feel I am doing myself an injustice and neglecting something that I love so much.”

This impacts your interactions and relationships with:

* The government, as there may be financial repercussions for not declaring your creative work

* Other artists, how you’re perceived by them and the support you can give and receive

* Your family and friends, and how respectful they are of your creative time

* The general public, your customers and prospective customers

* Yourself!

And also, when we tell ourselves our art is just for fun, there’s no impetus to put in the time and effort to move past our current level of skill and achieve mastery.

This isn’t always true, of course. Andrew Hall tells me that his “jammers” sometimes set a goal of learning how to play all 500+ songs in the Downtown Jam songbook. And that definitely takes work! But he also says, “the typical ‘jammer’ does not or should not take her/his musical skills too seriously.”

Doug writes, “Keeping art as a hobby is not only good sense, it’s good for you. For years, even when I wasn’t sure of my “artistic connection” I continued to make collages and each time I would enter that creative “flow” know for sure that whether it’s a hobby, a calling, or a professional or all — art is not only necessary, it’s bliss in pure form.”

Andrew Hall discussed the rewards that his regular “jammers” enjoy. “This is a health club” and a much-needed outlet for releasing stress. The club provides a chance to meet wonderful people who are all there for the same reasons, and “you can count on having fun here”. Andrew strives (and succeeds) to make the club as welcoming and fun as possible.

In my own experience of using music as a hobby, I have to say that I had a FANTASTIC time at Downtown Jam.

I’m already blessed to be able to use my creativity in many forms in my work life – my music therapy calls on my musical, interpersonal, therapeutic and clinical skills, my freelance writing calls on my organizational, creative problem-solving, coaching, collaborative and writing skills, and my article writing and product creation for artists allows me to draw on and combine all of the above.

And just as other folks who seek out art as a fun and relaxing diversion, free of any external constraints, expectations or demands, I often long for a creative outlet that doesn’t have a product, performance or any specific outcome in mind, but that’s just fun for me in the moment.

And that’s what I found at Downtown Jam.

As long as I’m pursuing my work in a meaningful way and sharing my gifts with the world, there’s nothing wrong with seeking out a creative setting that’s JUST FOR ME.

So as long as I’m not hiding out in my hobby, then branching out to explore my creativity in a way that’s purely for freedom, relaxation and fun, is a wonderful way to recharge, refresh and reward myself for my creative work during the rest of the week.

If you see art as a hobby, or if you’re behaving as if it is, what could be different for you if you took it to the next level and claimed is as part of your identity or as a profession?

And if the serious business of your art-making is constantly fraught with roadblocks and stress, keeping you from enjoying your art in a passionate way, what could be different for you if you found a way to use your art (or maybe a related art form) as a hobby?

© Linda Dessau, 2006.

The New Art – “Reborn” Dolls

During the 1990’s doll collecting took on new life with the introduction of “reborning”. Reborning started as a method of taking pre-fabricated dolls and making them appear more life like. Since then, reborning has evolved into a new art form.

Artists who reborn dolls begin by stripping dolls of all factory paint and hair and then applying new paint in multiple, ultra thin layers. Hair is then rooted, or micro-rooted, using mohair or human hair and felting needles. While it is true some artists use wigs or paint the hair on, most root the hair by hand. Many dolls are then stuffed and weighted to make the doll feel more life like as well.

Reborn dolls became so popular that companies began to emerge that produce doll parts… simply for the purpose of reborning. This is also called “newborning” (since the parts have never actually been assembled into a doll prior to being “reborn”). The techniques used for newborning are the same as reborning… only the stripping part is skipped since the doll parts come in vinyl/silicone free of paint.

Several layers of paint are required to achieve the depth necessary for the look of real skin tone. Each layer is painted and allowed to set, or be heat set, before applying the next layer. If the paint is not set between each layer the paints will run together and the effect will be lost. Some artists use air dry paints, but most prefer to use heat set oil paints by Genesis. With these paints you can heat the parts to 260 and then continue to the next layer. If you use traditional oil paints you have to wait several days between each layer. With air dry paints you run the risk of the paint curing before you get it just like you want it. These are the reasons most artists take matters into their own hands and use the heat set oils. Artists usually require at least 7 layers to complete the process, but many take upwards of 12 or more layers to achieve the look they desire.

Hair rooting is another skill that must be mastered for the baby to look as realistic as possible. Some artists choose to use wigs, but wigs are not natural looking and as such are used rarely by true reborn artists. Rooting is the process of taking mohair or human hair and inserting it into the dolls head using felting needles. This process can sometimes leave the dolls looking “plugged” (like poor barbie). With thick hair this is not really an issue, but to get the thin newborn hair look the hair must be micro-rooted. Micro-rooting is the same basic process, however, the hair is rooted one to two strands at a time. This creates a very natural look, but can take days to complete.

With so much skill needed to create a fine collectible baby, you can see why the art of reborning has gained such ground in the art world. Very few people can master all of the elements needed to create a genuinely realistic looking doll. To add to that, many artists have begun sculpting their own dolls from clay to get an even more precise look they are after. Silicone dolls poured from such molds are in high demand recently. It is easy to see this art form taking yet another pathway in the doll market.

Many dolls come with letters of authenticity which raise the value of said dolls in the collectors market. For instance, an artist can make only a limited number of a certain mold and those dolls quickly become rare and therefore much more valuable than a mass produced kit. Some of the earliest artists to gain recognition for their art, have recently become very valuable and highly sought after. Since reborning is s relatively new “invention”, no one dares to venture a guess at just how valuable some of these can get in time.

Reborns and newborns are no longer just dolls collected through eBay, but a league all their own.