Saturday, May 18, 2013

Edward Gorey Theatrical Pinback Buttons

Since originally publishing this post, a friend generously gifted me with the two buttons I was missing from Edward Gorey's Cape Cod theatrical productions. The revised post follows:

Edward Gorey created pinback buttons for most of the theatrical entertainments he was involved with. He also created a number of pinback buttons for the New York City Ballet. These buttons were usually made in very limited quantities and were sold in lobbies and gift stores at the events. Extra buttons were usually sold by Gotham Book Mart. Even though they were inexpensive souvenirs, they can be quite difficult to find today, making them a challenging collectible to acquire.

Mr. Gorey usually drew a unique image for the pinback buttons, making each button the only place you will find the image. If the image also appeared on a program or poster, he would redraw it to size for the button rather than reducing it down. Each design is a vignette that often includes the title of the production it was created for. Below I am showing a complete collection of the buttons from his productions on the Cape.

From 1994 onward, Figbash makes frequent appearances on the buttons, as well as on posters, programs, announcement cards, and even on stage. I own one of the earliest white hand sewn Figbash dolls that was included as part of the set decoration on Chinese Gossip.

Tinned Lettuce & Amphigorey - These two productions were performed in New York City and not on the Cape. Tinned Lettuce is from 1985 and Amphigorey from 1994. I attended performances of both of these productions. The Tinned Lettuce button is the only one to have a maker's mark along the edge: N C SLATER CORP NYC 10011 (followed by a minute logo). All other buttons are unmarked.

 Lost Shoelaces 1987 - Another souvenir from this production are the printed shoelaces which were sold in pairs.

Useful Urns 1990 - The small boy appears on many theatrical posters and buttons.

Stuffed Elephants 1990 - Mr. Gorey created many prints of elephants as well as sewing actual stuffed elephant toys.

Flapping Ankles 1991 - Eggplant, Boy, Frog...

Crazed Teacups 1992 - The boy is adrift atop teacups which are floating in Chinese-style clouds or waves.

Blithering Christmas 1992 - Why Mr. Gorey associated Robots and Reptiles with Christmas is anyone's guess.

Chinese Gossip 1994 - Figbash does ballet.

Inverted Commas 1995

Salome 1995 - Figbash in a supplicating gesture. This button does not have the name of the play on it, but rather a command for the viewer.

 Stumbling Christmas 1995 - Figbash blows the Holiday Horn of Plenty.

Epistolary Play 1997 - Figbash dances with a replaceable pen point of the sort that Gorey used in his drawing pens.

English Soup 1998 - Figbash with an urn, there was also a limited edition print created for this production.

Tragic Secrets - This is a pose I have yet to see any of my dogs achieve...but they try... According to Rick Jones, director of The Edward Gorey House, Tragic Secrets was scheduled to be performed but had to be cancelled due to the illness of "the most important actor". Another production was mounted and the button is all that remains of what might have been.


cae said...

These are fabulous - I was completely unaware of them. A book of the collected buttons/pins would be marvelous. Thanks for sharing!

ampootozote said...

I doubt that there are enough of these to be their own book, but Carol Verberg does show some of these buttons in her books Edward Gorey Plays Cape Cod & Edward Gorey On Stage.

The pinback buttons that seem to be appearing on eBay these days are home made and are not official Edward Gorey merchandise.

Virginia Davis said...

Gosh I would have loved to see some of these plays! What were they about? I've read Carol Verberg's book, but I still don't quite get a sense. Great post! Have you seen any of them?

ampootozote said...

I only got to see Tinned Lettuce and Amphigorey, which was the updated "professional" version of TL. You can get a sense of some of the theatricals and find videos of some of the puppets on YouTube. There is some documentary footage posted on the site showing rehearsals.