Lucky for some…

So since Christmas, my blog has been a bit low on, um, words. And pictures. And the longer it goes on, the harder it gets to jump back in, but here I am! Back and raring to blog! Whether you’re raring to listen is another matter. We shall see…

Anyway – I have my theme: black cats. I recently launched a range of cards called Jazz Cats inspired by a very fleeting encounter with one of those gorgeously elegant, elongated ceramic cat ornaments so popular in the 1950s. The cat in question belonged to my good chum and fellow retrophile Fiona ‘Notorious Kitsch’ Culshaw and it seems that my timing was perfect as shortly after immortalising the little chap in card form, he was smashed to smithereens. (A moment’s silence, if you will, for the passing of a small chunk of kitsch history.) But not to worry – she’s got plenty more!

RIP kitty.

I even bought one of my own to display alongside cards at trade shows:

Hello Kitty!


(He hasn’t got a name yet – a competition may follow… )  Anyway, all this got me thinking: why were black cats so iconic in the 1950s? It’s hard to think of another era so fixated with motifs: poodles, Mexican, Chinese and African charicatures, Eiffel Towers, playing cards, atomic stars, fish, shells, boomerangs and kidneys, cherries, palm trees… so why cats?

Well, my investigations have turned up some interesting items, but no real explanation so until I get an answer on a postcard, I’ll just do a bit of Show & Tell.

First up – nothing says 1950s more than a pair of (black) cat’s eyes spex frames (and if you’re a fan of vintage face furniture, you could do worse than visit this site):


(Jazz) Puss in Spex


...and as immortalised by the incomparable Gary Larson

Then I found these cuties – 1950s black cat salt and pepper shakers, made by Shafford (Japan). Shiny black red clay ceramic with painted details (it says here).

condiments of the seasoning...

And finally – an Italian children’s carnival ride. Made of fibreglass and resting on a metal base with spring mechanism ‘for easy riding’, it’s from the 1950’s and is possibly the weirdest cat-themed item I’ve seen so far. Not sure you’d get away with that nicely exposed open spring mechanism these days, somehow…  Today, they’d call it being maimed: in the 1950s, it was simply ‘A Valuable Lesson Learnt, Jimmy’…

So there you have it – a conclusion-free examination of the black cat as iconic motif in 1950s design. I think I just failed that module. The only really useful piece of information I can pass on is this, courtesy of Fiona: if you have one of those tall cat ornaments, you’re best off  keeping it on a blob of BluTak.


4 responses to “Lucky for some…

  1. Fab post, yes I mourn my kitty, but as you know I do have 2 more, just not one quite like that kitty!

    Love all that stuff especially the 50s carnival ride, LOVE it!

  2. I know – the death trap ride! It’s for sale too, if you want it for your living room… you’re probably small enough to ride it too!! I’m about to acqure a new kitty – I can see this turning into a dangerous hobby…

  3. Oh, dear. I was just working myself up to say ‘What about Bell, Book and Candle? A great 50s film with cool design and a BLACK CAT called Pyewacket!’, but then Google reached down from on high and snatched that dream away by showing me some images of Kim Novak holding a SIAMESE cat. What the hell, it’s still a great film for a dreary afternoon and at least there is a cat in it.
    Now I haven’t watched the film in years, but I certainly remember 50s New York… Jimmie Stewart… Jazz… Jack Lemmon playing bongos and Witchcraft. If that doesn’t fit in with Jazz cats I don’t know what does.
    Great to see the blog back on track and the Jazz Cats theme is too cool for school daddio (and I mean that in a good way!).

  4. Thanks Mr P! So that’s 1950s New York y’say? Jimmy Stooort? Jazz? Witchcraft? AND bongos?? That sounds like a film that’s not so much up my street as knocking on the door, letting itself in, kicking off its shoes, slipping into something a little more comfortable and fixing itself a drink… Ah, roll on dreary afternoon!

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