SHERWIN WILLIAMS 1934-The New Home Decorator


In 1981 I was invited to participate, as a graphic designer, in  Jerri Allen's  Apron Project. Jerri was founder and member of  the performance group, The Waitresses:  I decided to make a postcard as my contribution. I took a vintage Sherwin Williams paint catalog and reworked it into a poem/postcard. Here's how:

This is the original page from a 1935 Sherwin Williams Catalog: The Authentic Home Decorator

 Sherwin will 1935, vintage paint catalog, woman washing wall, woman with sponge, home 1935, pink wall
Sherwin Willams, The Authentic Home Decorator, 1935 p.15

First, Make a Copy of the Image: At the time, I was living in Schoharie County in upstate New York. Strange as it may seem today, the nearest copy machine was an hour drive away. Because I was working as a writer/designer in this beautiful but techno-barren part of the world I owned a copy machine to have at my home studio. It was a Mita 900-D. It used a roll of coated paper and loose toner, very annoying, but made fabulous and interesting copies, quite unlike what you can do now with today's desktop scan/copy/printers. It only used black toner, but the blacks were very very black. I miss it.

This is what a scan/copy looks like now from my Epson NX400. I love that I can do color scans and prints but for black and white it can't  replicate what the Mita would do:

 Sherwin will 1935 detail, woman washing wall, woman in apron, woman with sponge, pink wall

Second: chose your text, here's what I chose, you can see it in the first three parargraphs of the original page, above.:

 Sherwin williams text for poem

Next: Black (or red) out the words you don't want. In other words, edit:

 Sherwin will blackout text 

I also added a bit of extra text, not from the Sherwin Williams catalog, because I wanted to add to the atmosphere of the poem with a mythological reference. I chose this quote from Robert Graves, The Greek Myths

"Goat Skin aprons were the habitual costume of Libyan girls. Athene's garments and aegis were borrowed  by the Greeks from the Libyan women....It will have been death for a man to remove an aegis - the goat-skin chastity tunic worn by Libyan girls."

Next: Assemble. Today I'd do it in a design software. Because there was no such thing in those ancient days, I had to assemble mine with Mita copes and typeset - which I had to have done by a type house. I found a font that was as close to the original as possible. I used  letraset sheets for the background and put everything together with glue. Rubber cement. You can see that the apron is pink. I wanted a dash of color, and in those days you could get a two color print made. I'm sorry to say I can't remember what I had to to do make this ready for the printer. Probably I had to give them a second image, just of the apron color so they could make two plates. I really don't miss those days.

Next:  send it to the printer. I used Tower Press, a woman owned and operated print shop in New York City. When I say send, I mean via the Post Office. Or get in a car and drive the three hours to NYC. Today you'd make a PDF file and email it to the printer.

Et Voila!

Here is the card I made in 1981,  printed as post cards which I sold for several years in shops around the country:

 Sherwin williams apron housewife goddess
Liza Cowan, postcard, Sherwin Williams Aproned Housewife Goddess, 1981

Here's the back:

 Sherwin williams apron housewife back
Liza Cowan, Sherwin Williams Aproned Housewife Goddess postcard 1981, back

For more about blackout poems see Austin Kleon , Austin's blog and his book are well worth an in depth look. To see something about this card on his blog check here