Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Fur Designs of Edward Gorey, Part 2

Here is an interesting article which was sent to me by another collector regarding Edward Gorey's Ben Kahn Fur collection. This article/interview was published in January 1979 when the collection was still in the design stages. It shows several of the drawings Mr. Gorey had completed for proposed fur coats and accessories.

Below, I am typing out the article/interview since the copy can be a little hard to read on the scan and it is an interesting view of/by Edward Gorey:


Edward Gorey - successful book illustrator, writer and designer of stage sets for the Broadway production of Dracula - has worked out a business arrangement to design a line of men's furs for Ben Kahn.

On the day of this interview he is going to meet Ernest Graf, President of the firm. Together, they will review Gorey's fanciful sketches and make further plans for the artist's first formal venture into the fashion business.

Edward Gorey walks to his closet silently because he is wearing sneakers as usual with his outfit of the moment or any moment - dungarees and a sweater torn at one elbow. He opens the door.

The closet is stuffed full of fur coats too numerous to  count. He has designed them all over a period of many years. There is no room in the closet for his other possessions. His hands, adorned with enormous African-inspired rings of brass and bronze, reach in and pull out the fur of the day - Russian raccoon dyed blue. He slips into it, wrapping it around his sturdy 6'4" frame. The collar swaddles his neck, hiding the gold loop earring in his left ear. Part of his greying beard disappears into the collar as well.

Edward Gorey has six cats, five strays and an Abyssinian. They are his silent critics. Before leaving for the Ben Kahn showroom, he glances at them and at the accumulation of books and illustrations that occupy various spaces in his one-room apartment.

Incredulity and Shock

Edward Gorey's drawings and text, apart from Dracula stage sets and forthcoming pop-up books, have more than a touch of the macabre. But, like Charles Addams, the dark side of his nature works itself out in his art. In conversation, Edward Gorey is a benign and sociable citizen. The most hair-raising statement he made in the course of the pleasant interview was the following:

"Neiman-Marcus is charging $25,000 for a fisher coat. That is one of the lunatic things. I have a fisher coat. It's old-fashioned now because I've had it fifteen years. It's not quite full length but it's very bulky and it has a great big collar and huge cuffs. It's skin-on-skin which is what I prefer anyway. I hate all this letting-out business. I paid (Gorey's voice draws it out slowly and conspiratorially) seven hundred and fifty dollars for it! In fifteen years, a fisher coat has gone up from $750 to $25,000!"

"About fur design," Gorey says, "let the fur speak for itself. I hate fussy designs, these sort of ditsy things, little bits of leather, epaulets, little bits of brass.... My favorite fur is fisher. The most comfortable fur is mink. I have two, three mink coats as a matter of fact...My favorite fur color is bright yellows."

It was suggested that conservationists might consider it decadent to dye fur bright yellow, or blue, or olive green, to which Gorey replied:

"I have my qualms about it. But if you start thinking that way, if you're wearing leather, if you're eating...No. And (he chuckles) nobody's proved that vegetables don't suffer, actually. Maybe every time you pull a carrot out of the ground it's letting out a scream!"

-Lillian Gordon
New York Guide,   January 15 - 21, 1979

1 comment:

mike zim said...

Interesting, to learn he was 6'4".
Just finished reading the delicious Floating Worlds, about his letters & envelope art.
A photo of him & Neumeyer standing together suggests N was likewise a tall guy.