Tuesday 1 February 2011

Felt Hearts & Valentines... seeing red!

Wherever you look at the moment you can't help but see RED! Hearts, roses, ribbons, balloons everywhere, frantically signalling the approach of Valentines Day, encouraging us all to buy red...

However, on a much more subtle note, there's a great opportunity to see some wonderful Valentine Day cards that look back to past times. Tucked away at Dimbola Museum, Valentine cards from the Shell Art Collection are on display.

 A sweeter song, my Valentine, 1954, Ronald Ferris.  Copyright Shell Brands International AG, courtesy Shell Art Collection.
       The lark’s a-wing, my Valentine, 1955, Asgeir Scott.  Copyright Shell Brands International AG, courtesy Shell Art Collection.

 This is the hour, my Valentine, 1951, Claudia Freedman.  Copyright Shell Brands International AG, courtesy Shell Art Collection.
 At last you know, my Valentine, 1953, Leo Huskinson.  Copyright Shell Brands International AG, courtesy Shell Art Collection

...And hardly a red heart in sight, just charming designs reflecting a much more gentile era. Lady motorists in the 1930's were a rare commodity and those with accounts at Shell garages were nurtured! The tradition of sending the Shell Valentine card began in 1938 and continued right up until 1975, with 65,000 female customers receiving cards in 1950. All the cards were sent anonymously, but the shell imagery, the motoring themes and the familiar Shell slogan rounding off the verse were all a bit of a give-away!

Putting my "illustrator's" hat on for a moment - I just love the designs, the visual humour, together with the clever play on words in the verses. These were fantastic commissions, beautifully executed by some of the best commercial artists of the day. The printed cards have been treasured and have rightly become collectable. Some of my particular favourites are shown above - click on them to enlarge and you can read the verses. 

The earliest Valentine cards in the exhibition date back to the beginning of the 19th century. All the cards wonderfully reflect the tastes & attitudes of their time. The Victorians loved incorporating natural elements into their cards, dried flowers, leaves, feathers, hair and there's even a tiny bird pressed into one of the cards... Quite a feat (how did it fit in the envelope?) - certainly not acceptable in today's world!

This is a fascinating exhibition and well worth a visit, and it's on until the 17th March.   

I started making my Felt Heart brooches a couple of years ago, photographing them with old love letters to make images for Valentine cards. Some of these love letters date back to the 1850's, beautifully handwritten, folded into tiny envelopes with Victorian Penny Red stamps. Again, legacies of past times... 

My Felt Heart brooches and Valentine cards are all available to buy through my Folksy shop.

Hope yours is a Happy Valentine's Day!
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