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February 2012

NEEDLE PACKS: More from the archives.

For all you fans of needle packs, sewing ephemera, mid century ephemera, women's history, historians of sewing and needlle arts, graphic design lovers ...have I named all the fan categories for mid twentieth century needle packs? Of course not. Why do you love needle packs? Enlighten me.

Meanwhile here are some more delicious images from the Liza Cowan Ephemera Collections.

Needle pack coal easel drop signed 1000
Unusual needlepack in the shape of a coal bin. Liza Cowan Ephemera Collections.


Needle pack home guard custom color paint easel s Liza Cowan Ephemera collections
A gift from Gambles Home guard Custom Matched Colors, diecut in the shape of a paint can. Liza Cowan Ephemera Collections.

Needle pack united states ship liza cowan ephemera collections
United States, Ocean liner. The popular travel theme.

Needle pack lucky lucky new york paris Liza oan Ephemera collectioan
Lucky Lucky New York-Paris. Needle book, Lucky That's all. Liza Cowan Ephemera collections.

Needle pack one world Liza Cowan Ephemera Collections
One World.  World's best needle book. Liza Cowan Ephemera Collections.


Needle pack bulldog  children running with dog liza Cown ephemera collections
Bulldog Needle Book. Liza Cowan Ephemera Collections.


Needlepack pigo needle book Liza Cowan Ephemera Collections
Pigo Needle Book. Liza Cowan Ephemera Collections


Needle pack army navy Liza Cowan Ephemera Collections
The army an Navy Needle Book. Liza Cowan Ephemera Collections


PAINT BY NUMBER: A video from the 2007 Pine Street Art Works Exhibit

Liza Cowan et al, Paint By Number, at Pine Street Art Works on Art Express, PBS

I've just found this video by Paul Larsen, host of Mountain Lake PBS' popular show Art Express.  The show segment is about Paint By NumberAnonymous Works from Mid 20th Century America, one of the most successful, and one of my favorite, of all the exhibits I curated during my five year tenure as Director and owner of the Burlington,Vermont art gallery, Pine Street Art Works. 

The video features Harry Bliss, Mark Waskow, Christie Mitchell and Liza Cowan.


Mad Magazine no 41 Sept 1958 Paint By Number Liza Cowan Ephemera Collections
Mad Magazine, September 1958. Liza Cowan Ephemera Collections

Here's what I wrote in 2007 about the exhibit on the Pine Street Art Works Website:

Paint by number. The craze of the 1950's - paint by number swept the nation in the era of Eisenhower, Levittown, post war prosperity, and a post war concept of leisure time - which probably had more to do with women being squeezed out of the workforce and back into the home than with any real decrease in the need for labor. It doesn't seem surprising that paint by number was marketed to women, although plenty of men did enjoy making the paintings.

Is Paint By Number art now? Was it art then? Do time, distance and a changing art market alter our perceptions and judgements? 

At Pine Street Art Works we love them, or we wouldn't be showing them. We are fascinated by their subversive allure - the tension created between the pleasure of viewing and the original - and ongoing - horrified responses by the gate keepers of high culture. 

Although now PBN has been the subject of a show at the Smithsonian, and of many academic and popular essays, and regularly show up in design magazines and blogs, there is still the vacillating response - are we allowed the pleasure we get from looking at (or making) these paintings? 

Most of the paint by number sets of the fifties and early sixties depicted nostolgic scenes: historic and pastoral landscapes, christian religious images, adorable or noble animals, sentimental glimpes of far distant cultures as well as copies from the canon of romanticized European figurative art. Critics at the time were disgusted with the mechanized mass produced nostalgia.

But now, with our vantage point from the 21st century, these paintings have aquired the patina of age and distance. Have they aquired the "aura" that Walter Benjamin wrote about? Or are we nostalgic for the more innocent nostalgia of the 50's? Are we caught up in second order - or even third order -nostalgia?

The August Paint By Number show doesn't answer these questions but provides some gorgeous evidence for future theories.

The website I refer to in the video, where I saw the post about the room-sized Paint By Number that inspired me to curate the show, was and the painting was by Curtis Robinson. You can see it HERE. I was very pleased that Curtis actually came to Burlington to see the show.

For more images from the exhibit see Pine Street Art Works website and an earlier post on SeeSaw

Paint by number exhibition pine street art works norman rockwell clown design liza cowan 2007
Postcard for Paint By Number exhibit Pine Street Art Works, design by Liza Cowan 2007


Tibor gergely self portrait oil painting 1935
Tibor Gergely, self portait, 1935

Tibor Gergely is best known in the US as the glorious illustrator of Scuffy The Tugboat and The Five Firemen, and 70+ other well loved childrens books, most published by Golden Books. If that were his only work, it would have been enough. But that is far from the whole story.

Tibor gergely, Gossip. #FC40 from
Tibor Gergely, Gossip, from part of a large series of drawings he made in the 1920's and 30's in and around the village of Kortvelyes, Hungary.

Gergely, an Austrian Jew, had a full, rich, life as an artist and intellectual in Budapest and Vienna before he emigrated to the US in 1939. You can find his story and more images at

Tibor Gergely sketch of Paul Robeson '29 Vienna
Tibor Gergely portrait of Paul Robeson, signed by Paul Robeson

While Gergely was in exile in Vienna in the 1920's he worked for the newspaper Der Tag. This portrait of Paul Robeson is one of many he made for the paper.

Tibor gergely charcoal sketch of woman in hat
Tibor Gergely, charcoal sketch of woman in hat.

“It often happens that the essence of a whole lies concealed in some minor, insignificant detail. To find that detail and to express with it the whole - this is the joy of discovery, and the painterly gratification of the artist.”  Tibor Gergely

Fleeing the Nazi regime, Gergely and his wife, the painter Anna Lesznai, landed in New York City, and immediately fell in love with the hustle and bustle of Manhattan.

Tibor gergely %22the battery%22
Tibor Gergely, The Battery, guache, painted from atop the Staten Island Ferry Terminal.

Shortly after he came to the US, Gergely met Georges Duplaix, who was head of production at Artists and Writers Guild and they collaborated on Topsy Turvy Circus. In 1942 Duplaix  became head of the Graphics Department at Simon and Shuster where he introduced Gergely to Lucille Ogle. They, along with Albert Leventhal, created Golden Books. Here Gergely found the home that would bring him millions of delighted readers. He created illustrations for over seventy Little Golden Books.

  Tibor gergely a year in the city 1948

Tibor Gergely, A Year In The City, Simon & Shuster, 1948


Tibor gergely fireman illustration with color samples
Tibor Gergely,  the right half of an original illustration for "Five Little Firemen" 1942 

tibor gergely the taxi that hurried

Tibor Gergely, The Taxi That Hurried

Tibor gergely five little firemen
Tibor Gergely, Five Little Firemen

tibor gergely, scuffy the tugboat

Tibor Gergely, Scuffy The Tugboat


Körtvélyesi kert | Artportal
Painting by Anna Lesznai found here


You might be interested in this book about Golden Books.

  Golden Legacy; How Golden books won children's hearts

Golden Legacy, How Golden Books Won Children's Hearts, Changed Publishing Forever, And Became an American Icon Along The Way.

Interveiw with author Leonard S. Marcus HERE

And here is a wonderful little documentary about Gergely by his step great granddaughter, Sabrina Jaszi, including a telephone interview with her very knowlegable father, Peter Jaszi. 


YouTube video about Gergely

And it give me great pleasure to be able to make some Small Equals Keepsake Boxes with Gergely images. I only use pages from books - mostly Goldens - that are too beat up to salvage. I sometimes have them in stock, sometimes not, depending on what old books I can find. Look for them at my ONLINE STORE


  Small equals keepsake box tibor gergely the chief is on his way

Small Equals Keepsake Box with Tibor Gergely illustration on lid.

If you are interested in seeing more Gergely images I have a lot of them collected at Pinterest.


Keepsake box, small equals, chicken painting by Liza CowanSmall Equals Keepsake Box, chicken painting by Liza Cowan
For those readers who have been enjoying my ephemera and my art over the years - I'm now putting them on the Keepsake Boxes I've been developing for the past couple of years.
I have the boxes made for me in Vermont, of Vermont pine, so they are lovely and local. Small footprint for me, please. Vermont Wooden Box, the company that manufactures the boxes, is a tiny outfit on a dirt road about an hour's drive from my studio. Feels just right to me.
Small Equals Keepsake Box. Sew To The Moon. Cowan Ephemera Collections
I know there are a lot of needle pack lovers out there, and these make great sewing kits.  See more about needlepack HERE on this blog.
Box lacted food open
Small Equals Keepsake Box, Wells Richardson Lactated Food, Cowan Ephemera Collections

You can read more about Wells Richardson & Co. HERE on this blog.

Small Equals Keepsake Box, Trumpet Vine, photo Liza Cowan
These boxes and more are available at the Small Equals Online Store HERE




Ml spoor hickory dickory three mice liza cowan collections
Mary Louise Spoor. From 1917 schoolroom poster

Two Mary Louise Spoor schoolroom posters are now available at my online store. One is a single sided triptych of Hickory Dickory Dock.


Mary Louise Spoor, Hickory Dickory Dock. Cowan collections. Mary Louise Spoor, Hickory Dickory Dock  

ML Spoor Bye baby bunting med.
Mary Louise Spoor, Bye Baby Bunting

Posters available HERE
More about Mary Louise Spoor on this blog HERE