Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween from Goreyana!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Stuffed Creatures Part 2: Edward Gorey Hand Made Dolls

In my posting from October 6, 2010, I began a discussion of stuffed creatures and toys which are based on the works of Edward Gorey. The second area we will explore are the bean bag animals made by Edward Gorey himself. These are the rarest and most valuable of the Gorey stuffed dolls. Mr. Gorey made dolls himself in very limited quantities - making the patterns, cutting the fabric, sewing and stuffing the dolls - usually while watching television in the evenings.

Edward Gorey almost always stuffed these creatures with rice. I once saw a short film on Mr. Gorey where he demonstrated how he would push the rice into the figures using a chopstick. Because he used a food staple to fill his creatures, they are susceptible to high humidity and to invasions by bugs or mice if they are not stored properly. I was told that after Mr. Gorey's death, a box of half eaten creatures was found in his home. I have discussed proper storage suggestions for these rare pieces in my posting from March 31, 2010.

There are five main creatures that Edward Gorey created himself: Figbash, Bats, Frogs, Elephants and Salamanders. I have heard that there he also made some fantasy creatures, but I have not seen any of these myself (some were reportedly in the box of half eaten dolls). Rarely sold during his lifetime, Mr. Gorey usually gave his creatures to friends and associates as gifts. The notable exception are the Figbash dolls.

Figbash - The most obtainable of all the creatures he created, a black Figbash doll originally accompanied each of the 26 lettered copies of The Raging Tide. Figbash dolls were next offered in black or white fabric for sale in the lobby at his theatrical shows which were performed near his home. Eventually, Gotham Book Mart was able to procure Figbash dolls in a variety of fabrics, which were offered for sale to collectors. I have several Figbash dolls in my collection (see my posting from March 31, 2010).

Bats - Created in shiny silver (and sometimes pink satin) fabric, bats were made for friends. Mr. Gorey created a handful of bat dolls to decorate one friend's Christmas tree, and it was rumored that he gave each cast member of Dracula a bat doll (I have not been able to confirm this story). I do not have a bat in my collection - the photo is from an auction listing.

Frogs - I have a wonderful Gorey frog in my collection. Like the commercially produced frogs (to be discussed in a later posting), these amphibians can lay splayed flat or sit up in a wonderfully lumpy way. The frogs have button eyes. I was told that Mr. Gorey created a frog out of holiday fabric for each cast member of his play Stumbling Christmas.

Elephants - I have yet to add one of these fantastically floppy pachyderms to my every expanding menagerie. The elephant in the photo was offered by Bromer Booksellers in their 2001 catalog. Elephants are fairly elusive and rarely become available. They are also the most three dimensional of all the Gorey-made dolls.

Salamanders - The rarest of the creatures (I believe), the salamander is practically an abstract animal bean bag. The example in my collection is made in a deliciously "mod" black and white dotted fabric which adds to the Rorschach quality of this toy. The tail is sewn in a twisted curly-cue and the head looks like a pair of pincers. This stuffed animal must have been particularly difficult to sew, turn inside out and then stuff with rice.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Vengeance of the Witch-Finder

Brad Strickland took on the job of completing and/or writing books for stories left behind by John Bellairs when the author died in 1991. The Vengeance of the Witch-Finder is the second title completed by Mr. Strickland in the series. Published in 1993 by Dial Books for Young Readers, New York, The Vengeance of the Witch-Finder takes place concurrently with the events outlined in Mr. Strickland's previous book, The Ghost in the Mirror (see my posting from September 22, 2010).

Once again, Edward Gorey was retained to create a full color painting for the dust jacket, a black & white frontis illustration, and a spot illustration of a maze pictured on page 32. The drawing of the maze appears to be lost, but the dust jacket and frontis original artwork are not.

Bromer Booksellers sold the dust jacket artwork (two pieces of original art: one large color painting and one hand-lettered title typography) in their now famous 2001 catalog of Edward Gorey artwork, books and ephemera. The dust jacket image does not read particularly well as a single piece of art, but the execution and subject matter are top notch. The skeleton wearing glasses with plants growing up through it on the back cover of the book is particularly delightful.

I was not able to obtain the color dust jacket artwork from Bromer, but I was fortunate enough to secure the frontis illustration (from Gotham Book Mart). In this fantastically spooky illustration, a ghostly figure appears outside a window, distressing Lewis so he drops his candlestick (the book he is holding in his other hand will soon burst into flames!). The moody crosshatching is perfectly executed, with the ghostly head and hands of the apparition glowing against the midnight sky.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Auction News

The past two weeks were Edward Gorey madness at auction houses on separate ends of the country.

On October 7, 2010 Pacific Book Auction in San Francisco sold the collection (with additional items added) of Henry Toledano, author of Goreyography - the 1996 Edward Gorey bibliographical checklist. The auction featured over 100 lots of Gorey material. Bidding was strong for the material which included many signed, limited edition books and ephemera. A number of unusual prints were sold, including the rare Elephantamos (one of 26 lettered sets of nine prints featuring elephant-headed figures). For books, the star of the show was a copy of The Raging Tide, copy "J" of 26 lettered copies that came with a stuffed Figbash doll - hand made by Edward Gorey himself. This was the first appearance of these rare dolls, which have become much sought after by collectors.

Following up the excitement at PBA, Swann Galleries in New York City threw its own Gorey Party on Thursday, October 14th. If the first auction was a delicious meal, this second auction was a feast for Gorey collectors. Many of the rarest Gorey collectibles were offered in just under 50 lots, and some stellar prices were realized. The two stars of this show were the limited edition Amphigorey (#34 of 50 copies accompanied by an original piece of artwork - art later published in Categor y), and The Sopping Thursday (#C of 26 lettered copies with an original piece of artwork). Even though these two lots took top billing, this auction was chock full of items which rarely become available. The quality and variety of the items was reinforced by the exceptionally strong bidding throughout this auction, with only a few lots not being sold.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Pointless Book

The Pointless Book: or Nature & Art is probably Edward Gorey's most aptly named work.
The publication of a new volume by Edward Gorey was always an event. As collectors, we were told when something new was on the horizon, and the anticipation was palpable as the publication date drew near. An exercise in seeing just how mad his devotees really were, The Pointless Book: or Nature & Art consists of pen scratchings (Nature) or squiggles (Art) on each page. It has been called existential, minimalist, and avante garde - but pointless is the correct word - and we are all pre-warned on the cover! I will go so far as to say I got mad at Mr. Gorey when this book arrived in the mail.

The Pointless Book: or Nature & Art by Garrod Weedy was published in 1993 by The Fantod Press with the copyright on the back cover. According to F is for Fantods by Edward Bradford, about 400 copies total of this book were printed. The book has a limited edition of 100 copies which have been signed and numbered by Mr. Gorey as "Garrod Weedy" inside the front cover and these signed copies were issued in a plain white envelope. I am showing copy #98/100, and an unsigned copy. Mr. Gorey did not sign any of the "regular" copies of this title. The announcement card from The Gotham Book Mart is shown to the left.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Edward Gorey Stuffed Characters & Creatures

An interesting Edward Gorey collecting area is Stuffed Creatures. Stuffed Gorey characters fall into three main categories:

1) Stuffed animals and creatures made by Edward Gorey himself.
2) Commercially made Gorey stuffed dolls, including limited edition dolls.
3) Home-made dolls based on Edward Gorey characters.

The third category is the hardest to define because, like Gorey-inspired tattoos which I have run across in person and on the internet, there probably are a multitude of home-made stuffed creatures floating around in private collections.

In a previous post (January 19, 2009), I have shown and discussed the Henry Clump doll which my partner Bill made and then presented to me in unique packaging 30 years ago.

For a Christmas gift two years ago, I was surprised with a "Black Doll" which Bill made for me. It is an appropriately squishy black velvet creation that now resides with Henry in a chair in our library.

Bill has been an industrious creature craftsman. About 20 years ago, he sewed a stuffed "Twisby" as a toy for one of our dogs, but the doll (and sadly the dog) are just a happy memory at this point in time.

I will show dolls from the first two other collecting areas in upcoming posts.