October 26, 2006


Journals: Frank Lloyd Wright Pocket Journal; New York Times Traveler’s Journal. Pomegranate. $14.95 each.

Postcards: Charles Addams; R. Crumb’s Mr. Natural. Pomegranate. $9.95 each.

Knowledge Cards: What Do You Know About Golf?; What Do You Know About Jazz?; Hey Bartender! Pomegranate. $9.95 each.

Holiday Cards: Charles Addams; Frank Lloyd Wright Decorative Elements. Pomegranate. $15 each.

     Have you noticed how close we are getting to Christmas and the generalized winter gift-giving season?  Are you feeling the hot breath of incipient craziness breathing down your neck as you contemplate all the people for whom you want to buy things, when you haven’t got a clue what things to buy?  Fear not: frantic times are not here yet, and you can head them off very nicely indeed with some of the thoughtful, well-made offerings of an unusually artistic California company called Pomegranate Communications.

     What makes the company unusually artistic is the way it brings genuine art into everyday life in unexpected ways.  Take the humble journal.  The Frank Lloyd Wright Pocket Journal features a beautifully embossed geometric cover design by the famed architect, plus pages with squares – one of Wright’s oft-used shapes – as background, plus a size (less than four by six inches) that makes it easy to carry anywhere.  It’s a blank book, suitable for jotting down your own artistic (or other) thoughts.  Or try the slightly larger New York Times Traveler’s Journal if peregrination is one of your preferences – or a preference of a gift recipient.  The blank pages here have standard horizontal lines, but they are far from the only feature: this journal contains itinerary pages, checklists of items to be sure to take on a trip, temperature and measurement conversions, time zones, tipping suggestions – even a dozen crossword puzzles to pass the time while stuck in an airport, at a train station or on llama back.

     Travelers looking to send home something other than scenic postcards – or people simply looking for offbeat ways to communicate a few words through the mail – can try a book of postcards by Charles Addams or a box of them by underground cartoonist R. (for Robert) Crumb.  The Addams cards, which are bound together and perforated to tear out easily, range from the seasonally touching (a valentine slipped under a door that is quintuple-bolted to keep the world out), to the gently macabre (a color portrait of the Addams Family), to the slightly weird (an orchestra with one member standing ready to push a plunger and blow the stage up).  These are certainly nontraditional greetings.  So are the Mr. Natural cards, which come boxed and which feature four color Crumb drawings and six in black-and-white.  These range from Mr. Natural doing the dishes to a card in which one of Crumb’s typical big-and-buxom babes is sitting on Mr. Natural, holding him down, while saying, “Just tell me real quick what the secret of the universe is.”  No, these are not for everybody.  Don’t ask anyone on your gift list if he or she would like these – if you have to ask, the answer is no.

     Some things that are a little more mainstream, and that make very nice stocking stuffers, are Pomegranate’s Knowledge Card decks.  They really are decks of cards – 48 per box – featuring interesting and/or little-known facts about a wide variety of subjects.  Pomegranate makes a lot of these decks.  Some new and attractive ones are What Do You Know About Golf? by William Rogin and What Do You Know About Jazz? by Michael Ehlers.  Find someone who thinks he or she knows golf and try out these questions: Who were the cleekmakers? Who was the first Olympic golf medalist?  Then find a self-proclaimed jazz expert and try these: Whose primary instrument is bagpipes? Who wrote (not performed) “Lullaby of Birdland”?  Each card gives questions on one side, answers on the other – and the jazz set includes listening suggestions, too.

     A third Knowledge Cards set could have been called “What Do You Know About Mixed Drinks?” – but Jeff Burkhart’s deck is actually called Hey Bartender!  Anyone who partakes of exotic drinks will appreciate this one, in which Burkhart (who really is a bartender) asks how a particular drink is made, then gives the recipe on the back…along with background information and mixing hints.

     Now, what sort of seasonal greeting cards might you give people along with these many and various gifts?  Pomegranate has plenty of possibilities, some of which use the same artists who appear in the gift items – but in different ways.  Thus, the Charles Addams assortment – 20 cards, five each of four designs – features more amusingly heartwarming work than you would expect from Addams.  True, “Snowman March” could be a little spooky – all those snowmen heading in the same direction – but the snow guys don’t really look sinister.  “Inside Snowman” (who is in an apartment looking out) is wistful, “Snow Family” (including a snow dog) is cute, and “Lone Brownstone” (nicely decorated, standing amid faceless skyscrapers) is actually touching.

     If you prefer something more abstract but equally seasonal, Frank Lloyd Wright Decorative Elements presents four of Wright’s geometric shapes (five cards of each design) colored mostly in seasonal reds and greens.  Although none of the designs was created for seasonal purposes, they certainly seem right for Christmas and winter – “Oak Park Home and Studio,” for example, has a churchlike feel, while “Marin County Civic Center” looks like a tree ornament.  It’s enough to make you welcome the season instead of dreading its pressures.

No comments:

Post a Comment