Friday, July 30, 2010

Retro Picture List - 10 To Inspire You

For your viewing pleasure here are 10 retro images from media such as vintage books, propaganda, ads and print that are sure to please retro and vintage design style enthusiasts.  Very popular at present in decorating circles it isn't just the artsy crowd that are investigating retro possibilities and sourcing retro style. Companies are at times opting for retro style logo's and ad campaigns believed to help engender trust, girls are dressing like wild 1960's singer Marianne Faithfull (who reportedly said that Kate Moss stole her dress sense) and other idols of the past , collectors are scrounging through flea markets and garage sales looking for rare LP's or Eames chairs.  The classic car buffs with their polished and motorised gems, chefs chasing old forgotten recipes and the list is endless, retro appreciation takes many forms. Timeless style is everywhere if you take the time to open your eyes and look for it.  I hope you enjoy this list please feel free to leave a comment.

Image: A propaganda ad produced by British Government 1939 during the Second World War

Now available in a wide range of colors and on everything from posters, t-towels, mugs and mouse pads the 'Keep Calm And Carry On' message is definitely getting heard by and appealing to the masses, especially in the wake of the recent world financial crisis.  Designed as a piece of morale raising propaganda by the British Government during the second world war it almost never saw the light of day which is lucky as it was created to be used in the event of England being invaded. 

The third in a series of three posters the others being 'Your Courage, Your Cheerfulness, Your Resolution Will Bring Us Victory' and 'Freedom Is In Peril', the 'Keep Calm And Carry On' poster was rediscovered in 2000 in Barter Books in Northumberland, England.  As crown copyright expires after 50 years this image was in the public domain and so the store owners printed off a series of different merchandise bearing the image and from there it just took off to become the worldwide phenomenon it is today.  There are many places that you can purchase 'Keep Calm' paraphernalia including from the people who kindled our love affair with this image -  the owners of Barter Books. - EBay is another great place to start looking for creative 'Keep Calm' goods.

Image: Cover of Mr Dog by Margaret Wise Brown by S. Hensley

Little Golden Books have been a constant childhood favorite since 1942 and I for one have fond memories of my parents reading me stories from The Little Golden Book range when I was young and learning to read myself while enjoying entertaining stories such as Mister Dog: The Dog Who Belonged To Himself written by Margaret Wise Brown and beautifully illustrated by Garth Williams. 

This timeless tale was written in 1952 and is about a friendly, independent dog named Crispins Crispian who belongs to himself, is a conservative who likes everything in it's own place at it's right time, lives alone and dreams his own dreams.  Quite a modern role model of sorts and I know I found him an inspiring and fun character when I was a child. (and still do!)  Mr Dog befriends a boy and the 2 spend a perfect day each living his own life happily and as he pleases but together.  Like all Little Golden Books the illustrations are classic and gorgeous and a pleasure to drink in with your eyes.  Little Golden Books are available from all good book stores, eBay, second-hand shops and toy stores.  One place I can recommend in Australia is Booktopia who I have found to be a good online book store to deal with.

Image:  Hitachi ad

Retro ads are fascinating and make great wall art and craft project materials today as well as being a fantastic muse to designers.  Note how modern and fashionable the models look in the ad.  Or looked then.  Coupled with the state of the art (for the 1960's) Hitachi Mini Stereos these girls were at the forefront of techno fashion savvy at the time.  Having a mini stereo would have been the equivalent of the new Apple IPhone today.

Places to source retro ads are second-hand shops, market stalls, garage sales, poster shops and eBay.

Image: Toilet Roll Doll by S. Hensley Copyright Orsons Retro

The toilet roll doll, what a concept.  Reviled and loved it certainly epitomises retro decorating in one of it's most kitsch forms and was extremely popular in the 1950's.  For those who may have escaped an encounter with a toilet roll doll her voluminous dress hides a toilet roll as an intended decorative and handy storage device.  Whether or not it is considered a stylish addition to the home is always dependant on the eye of the beholder. 

Got a yearning to bring the toilet roll doll craze back beginning with your toilet or bathroom?  You can try eBay and other auction sites, thrift shops, second-hand stores, garage sales  and markets.  Also keep an eye out for old craft books and magazines that may have patterns.

Image: Norman Rockwell print A Scholarly Pace by S. Hensley

Norman Rockwell is an American artist who lived from February 3, 1894 - November 8, 1978 and found lasting fame for his whimsical illustrations and paintings depicting idealised childhood and American life.  His work featured on the cover of numerous Boy's Life magazine covers and calendars and he forged a close relationship with the Boy Scouts of America.  A series of paintings he did called 'The Four Freedoms' were used during the Second World War to promote war bonds by the United States Treasury and several of his paintings have featured on postage stamps.  More recently a Rockwell painting 'Breaking Home Ties' sold at auction at Sotheby's for $15.4 million in 2006.

Rockwell's charming body of work is sure to continue to be a firm favorite in the future. Want to showcase some fabulous vintage prints on your walls?  As with all these examples eBay and other auction sites are a great place to begin a search also markets, garage sales and vintage poster sellers.

Image: Hypercolor T-Shirt by S. Hensley Copyright Orsons Retro

Like a whirlwind out of nowhere the Hypercolor T-shirt swept the world in a fast and furious frenzy of color changing due to temperature during the 1980's.  Using a special pigment invented in Japan the Hypercolor t-shirt phenomenon exploded in fluro pinks, blues, greens and yellows exposing for all to see our heat status.  (an indicator of sweat - only in the 80's!)  Feel a little embarrassed when reading this and thinking about your younger, former self unashamedly sporting hypercolor back in the day?  Don't feel bad it seems a new generation are embracing hypercolor with several new companies selling retro inspired hypercolor tee's.  A local QLD online shop you can buy hypercolor products from is Klub Retro.  Email

Image: Spirit of 76 Red Kit-Cat Clock by S. Hensley Copyright Orsons Retro

Since the mid 1930's a Kit-Cat clock has been sold every 30 minutes!  That's the claim of the California Kit-Cat Clock company whose cat character has been amusing and entrancing people all over the world since it's depression era beginnings all those years ago.  In fact the red Kit-Cat Clock (pictured) is the Spirit of '76 model that was released in 2009 to commemorate the passage of time of this cute kitchen wall accessory.  (the kitchen was the traditional resting place of Kit-Cat clocks but they look great everywhere.)  The original Kit-Cat clock is black.  Both the red and black original Kit-Cat clocks can be purchased direct from Orsons Retro.

Image:  Beef Goulash can by S. Hensley Copyright Orsons Retro

I know this may seem a little weird (unless you are also a can connoisseur) but I keep this can displayed in my home as an example of great art, that is how spectacular I think the design of this Podravka brand Beef Goulash is.  It's simply stunning.  The bright tri-color scheme coupled with the stand-out and easy on the eyes retro typeset lends itself beautifully to it's primary task which is to lead supermarket shoppers eyes to it's trustworthy, old fashioned, country farm fresh goulash (that's how I interpret this cans artwork) over it's competitors on the shelves and it does this job superbly.  There are many wonderful retro logo's and packaging's out there and a quick scan of your cupboards will probably procure some fine examples.  It goes to show that classic retro style can be found in unlikely places.
Image:  Vintage Furniture book cover by S. Hensley Copyright Orsons Retro

Old books can always be relied upon to have lovely vintage imagery and this book Vintage Furniture by Fay Sweet is a testament to that.  I can also recommend this book as an informative read.  An elegant lady, cool and graceful like Grace Kelly is reclining daintily on a still incredibly fashionable Barcelona Chair.  Her hand resting with familiar nonchalance on her (groomed within an inch of it's life) Afghan Hound, a pretty picture of a still attainable yesteryear.  Designer vintage furniture is big business with good quality pieces selling for tens of thousands of dollars.  Books, magazines, old advertisements and old movies are all brilliant places to scour for retro ideas.

Image: Hand Knitted Blankets by S. Hensley Copyright Orsons Retro

During the 1950's a television revolution occurred when TV screens turned from black and white to all the colors of the rainbow, so it seemed, and with it came the color revolution.  For the next 3 decades bright colors would be all the rage and although there was a brief stint during the nineties when color all but disappeared from catwalks our appreciation is now again strong as ever. These hand knitted wool blankets typify the color scheme of the 1960's and 70's with striking stripes of complementary hues all carefully selected for an authentic retro aesthetic.  These blankets are available from Orsons Retro and are made here in Queensland.

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