Friday, October 30, 2015

America's Got a Case of Souvenir Mania

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For days on end William Bird locked himself in a brightly lit storage room with hair clippings, a wood chip and two 80-year-old pieces of cake. There was also a punch bowl and the cuff of a woman’s blouse stained with Abraham Lincoln’s blood. Bird, known to friends as Larry (no Celtics jersey, but almost as tall), was digging through the American History Museum’s political history collection for overlooked gems to put in his new book, Souvenir Nation, out this month from Princeton Architectural Press, and the subject of an exhibit by the same title opening August 9 at the Smithsonian Castle.

The things he exhumed didn’t usually look like treasure at all: bits of rock, a napkin, a fish-shaped can opener. But “if you drill down deeply enough into the things that you have,” says Bird, a curator at the museum, “there really is a much richer history than you might ever think just by looking at the surface.”
The United States, it turns out, was a nation of casual plunderers from the start. Visitors to Mount Vernon snapped splinters from the moldings; beachgoers in Massachusetts chiseled off chunks of Plymouth Rock; tourists snipped fabric from the White House curtains. By the early 19th century, newspapers were referring to illicit souvenir hunting as a “national mania.”
Bird thinks that the practice was so popular because it allowed any American, regardless of social standing, to connect with the nation’s history. “If the past could be touched,” he says, “it could be chipped away, excavated, carted off and whittled into pocket-size bits, giving form to persons, places and events that lingered forever in the act of possession.” In contrast, mass-produced mementos, he says, “only partially satisfy an emotional urge to connect with an ached-for past.”
After culling the museum’s collection, Bird ditched the white gloves and moved back into his office down the hall to research the keepsakes. He focused on more than 50 relics, including a vase carved out of a timber from the USS Constitution, a piece of the white towel used to signal the Confederate surrender at Appomattox and a chunk of Plymouth Rock. The two pieces of cake are from President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 52nd birthday celebration (a fund-raiser for polio patients), and the hair clippings are from various presidents. (A reporter once wrote that Andrew Jackson gave away so many locks that he sometimes had “the appearance of having passed from the hands of the barber.”)
Objects arrived in the collection from abroad as well—a sugar cube-size block of the Bastille, a painted fragment of the Berlin Wall, a stone from Joan of Arc’s dungeon. When Napoleon Bonaparte left for exile on the island of Elba in 1815, he gave two table napkins to William Bayard, a wealthy American traveler, who in turn passed them on to the future mother-in-law of Smithsonian Secretary Spencer Fullerton Baird.
Bird’s favorite object in the collection is a pinkie-size chip from the wooden tie that completed America’s first transcontinental railroad. An 8-year-old named Hart Farwell collected the chip a month after the tie was nailed down in May 1869 and kept it with him as he grew to become a pioneer independent telephone company developer in Indiana. Bird likes to display the sliver on an oversized pedestal, partly as a joke, but partly as a reminder of how large it loomed in the mind of the boy collector.
“Many historians are grounded in the belief that objects are not supposed to cause you to have feelings,” he says. “When it comes to this stuff, though, each thing has its own little human story. How can you not feel a personal connection?”
Americans mostly quit defacing historical objects after the rise of the preservation movement in the late 19th century. Yet travelers and history buffs still pick up found objects, Bird suggests, because they’re more personal than prefab trinkets. The collecting impulse lives on—thank goodness. “You can’t have a museum without people who are interested in finding and saving things,” Bird says.

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A toy Statue of Liberty was one of thousands sold to raise funds to build the real statue's pedestal. (Eli Meir Kaplan)
Above Text and Images from

Souvenir Nation: Relics, Keepsakes, and Curios from the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History Hardcover – May 21, 2013


History of Souvenir Spoons

Above images from Sterling Flatware Fashions.

History Of Souvenir Spoons

Collecting souvenir spoons has been a popular hobby for many Americans since 
the late 1800s when this European fad swept the nation.
Souvenir spoons grew out of the birth of leisure tourism in Europe around the 
mid 1800s. Wealthy Americans on a Grand Tour of Europe brought home these 
souvenirs marked with the names of cities and some of the famous landmarks 
they had seen.
The first souvenir spoons produced in the United States were products of 
well-traveled silversmiths. The inaugural souvenir spoon was produced in 
1889 by Galt & Bros of Washington D.C. It featured a profile of 
George Washington and was created to mark the 100th anniversary of his 
presidency. It was shortly followed by the Martha Washington spoon.
A year or so later the most famous collector’s spoon was designed, sparking 
a national obsession that lasted until World War One. In 1890 jeweler 
Seth F. Low visited Germany and purchased several unusual spoons. Upon 
his return he designed the Salem Witch Spoon for his father’s company and 
it was trademarked on January 13, 1891. Low described the design as featuring 
"the raised figure of a witch, the word Salem, and the three witch pins of the 
same size and shape as those preserved in the Court House at Salem”. Several 
thousand were sold.
The interest in souvenir spoons suddenly exploded. At the end of 1890, there 
were only a handful patented or in production in America. Around half a year later, 
hundreds of souvenir spoon patterns were being produced to commemorate 
American cities and towns, famous people, historical events and significant 
events of the time.
In 1891 several books on collecting souvenir spoons were published and by the 
time of the Chicago World Fair in 1893, what is now considered the Golden Age 
of souvenir spoons had well and truly begun.
This grand world fair was also known as the Columbian Exposition, as it 
commemorated the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus's arrival in the 
New World.  It lifted souvenir spoon collecting to a whole new level. At the time 
this was a niche hobby. Along with 27 million visitors, the fair brought spoon 
collecting national exposure.  Some reports say more commemorative spoons 
were produced for the Columbian Exposition than for any other event in history.  
But the 1893 Expo was not the only factor in creating this spoon collecting 
phenomenon. The 19th century was a time of immense growth in the United States' 
economy. It was the age of industrialization with the rapid acceleration of 
technology and the invention of mass production techniques. The production of 
souvenir spoons became more efficient and the volume of goods increased.
Further, the collapse of the silver market also in 1893 meant silver became 
affordable to many ordinary Americans for the first time, whilst retaining its 
image of being for the privileged and wealthy.
Over the next 30 years every expo, fair and event was an opportunity to 
create a souvenir spoon. But the mania was short-lived, by the advent of 
World War One the appetite for souvenir spoons had waned and by the end 
of the war it had almost disappeared.
Today it is once again a niche hobby. Embellished spoons at tourist 
attractions are a familiar sight and hundreds of spoons change hands at 
auctions around the world.
Text source is PBS. Link here

Link here to see more intricate designed spoons from various time periods. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Hannukkah Menorah and Eye Lash Wand by Omer Polak, Designer

The Hanukkah Menorah or Chanukiah (Hebrew) is a nine-branched candelabrum lit during the eight-day holiday of Hanukkah. The menorah, usually, built from a nine permanent bodies filled with oil and wicks that are replaced all through the holiday.

This Menorah is made out of one body that contains the oil for all the holidays. The menora made out of two stainless steel sheets that welded to each other and then inflated by air pressure. By this process (FIDU Technology) every object gets a unique shape.

FoMo is a 3D printed flower, (by Stratasys), combined with more than 200 real eyelashes. Each eyelash contains a secret wish and a privet story.

What if we could read the wishes through the eyelashes ? What if we could make it true by connecting people to each other ? Do we all have the same basic wishes or is it very unique and private? How does the digital world affects the old tradition of superstitions and why do we still need it ? This project deal with questions about our social behavior and beliefs. superstition, and old customs changing through the years and being affected by the high technology and the possibilities it brings to our life. 

Bread Sculpture, Andere Monjo, Designer

source is

Objects, Studio Fludd

Studio Fludd

Our campaign for Teatro Fondamenta Nuove.
We imagined and put together a mutant-combo-geek molecule to represent
the multiform nature of this space for contemporary arts in Venice. 
Our 2012-13 season here.

Studio Fludd, Designers

Photographic meditations on the ambiguous stages of matter.
Still-lifes exploring different consistencies,
materials and other funny things - like candy cotton from Moscow.

Text and images from

Creature Brush, Hilary Sanders, Artist

Creature/Brush, 2012, 
2mm graphite pencil leads, heatshrink tubing, cotton yarn, nickel silver, 
5 x 10 x 5 in.
Photo: Hilary Sanders

“Hilary Sanders created a body of work using graphite to make tactile, organic forms combined with metal, which can be used as drawing implements when worn,” Marilyn da Silva explains. Sanders loves the feel of graphite – even as she laments its fragility and impermanence.
Her training: I received a BFA in jewelry and metal arts from California College of the Arts. I’ve also spent the years since school working for a number of jewelers, and I think of that as another kind of training.
What makes her work unique: Many of my pieces are not quite wearable in the traditional sense (or even beyond the traditional sense), but I feel like they should be considered jewelry, because of the way they were made, the way the materials are treated, and how they are meant to be used. While they are capable of just being small sculptures, their tactility and relationship to the body are some of their most interesting and exciting features.
Why she makes jewelry: Jewelry making is a very natural place of art creation for me. Its size and intimacy is suited to my quiet personality. The conventional tools and processes speak to the part of me that likes to engineer things.
Her biggest challenge: Making pieces that are durable enough to draw with. When the pieces are exhibited, viewers cannot help but try drawing with them when no one is looking. I love that people want to touch them, but I always fear something will break. I know that dissolution of the graphite is inevitable, Hilary Sanders Epiphanies but the pieces were treated so preciously in their making, I haven’t gotten to the point of letting go.
Her biggest reward: The epiphany moments, in which material, design, process, and an idea come together at the same time. My process is nonlinear, and these elements bounce around in my head separately for the longest time, which can be frustrating. When they come together, it’s almost with a sense of relief that I can say to myself, “This is going to work.”
What she’s working on now: Developing more traditional and wearable production lines of jewelry. Also, I’m working up the guts to make larger graphite-based work that I’ve been thinking about for ages.
- See more at:

Sarah Illenberger, Artist, Berlin

Sarah Illenberger is a multi-disciplinary artist based in Berlin working at the intersection of art, graphic design, and photography. With a focus on analog craftwork using everyday items, Sarah is renowned for creating vivid, witty images that open up new perspectives on seemingly familiar subjects. Her ability to transform ordinary materials into complex and unexpected visual experiences has been utilized to develop concepts for clients from the fields of culture and business in several countries. In her aim to explore the fertile overlap between art and design, she’s collaborated with numerous photographers and artists, and filled exhibition spaces with self-initiated projects in Paris, Tokyo, and Berlin. 

Examples of work that can inspire ideas for Memento assignment. 

I do not have a source for the artwork that appears below. 
If this is your work, please contact me at 
so I may credit the work with your name. 

Sunday, October 18, 2015

David Lu, Artist

Paper Folding techniques can produce innovative results. 
The examples below demonstrate folding and marks made with ink pen. 

A lot more to see. Link here

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Color Charts and Schemes

When you mix two opposites together anywhere on the Color Wheel, the result becomes increasingly neutral.