August 11, 2011


Holiday Cards 2011: Sierra Club—Nature’s Details; Creature Comforts; Gorey Holidays; “She Knitted Mufflers Endlessly.” Pomegranate. $15 each (Details; Comforts; Gorey); $12 (Mufflers).

     ’Tis the season to be premature. Or ahead of the times. But what is wrong with considering winter-holiday cards in the warmer months of the year? After all, it is winter right now in the Southern Hemisphere; and given the amusement and attractiveness that winter-holiday cards from Pomegranate can deliver, it is tempting to get them earlier in the year than the season for which they are intended – giving you more time to enjoy them yourself before sending them on their way. So why not “think outside the box” (a hackneyed phrase if there ever was one) by thinking about what is inside the boxes of cards that Pomegranate is offering for the upcoming winter holidays? You could, for example, think of the many animal-and-nature-focused Sierra Club cards – a portion of the proceeds from their sale goes to further Sierra Club objectives. Nature’s Details is a particularly attractive set of four winter scenes (five cards of each scene) in which nary an animal is to be seen. The photos (by Art Wolfe, Patrick J. Endries, Jan Vermeer and Larry Michael) are all about detail and the elegant simplicity of frost-tinged foliage. Vermeer’s “Frost-Covered Leaves” showcases the red-and-green color combination traditionally associated with Christmas, with green the dominant color and bits of red peeking through. Endries’ “Bearberry with Frost” is the reverse: red dominates here, in big splashes, with green surrounding it and sometimes emerging from it. Wolfe’s “Frosted Aspen and Oak Leaves” is more of a late-autumn scene than a dead-of-winter one, with yellows and oranges – as well as green, red and brown – making up an attractive color palette. And the main color is purple in Michael’s “Dogberry Leaves with Frost,” in which green and red make their appearance with very considerable subtlety. All the cards say “Season’s Greetings” inside, and all are lovely expressions of warmth designed for a chillier time of year.

     The colors are red and white, and the designs very different, in Creature Comforts, a set of 12 beautifully embossed cards (three each of four designs) in which each scene is shown in white, with just a few splotches of red to add pinpoints of interest and a touch of the whimsical. “Bear in the Woods” shows a bruin amid stylized trees, with three red birds perched neatly among the bare limbs. “Holly Owl” shows the bird front and center, surrounded by white foliage – with a few red berries peeking out at the ends of branches. “Penguins in Mufflers” shows just what it says: a group of the cold-loving birds, shown all in white rather in their usual tuxedo colors, with three of their number sporting bright red neckwear. And “Graceful Reindeer” portrays a very white deer – with bright red button nose – with two birds perching on the ends of its antlers and two red-and-white Christmas ornaments on the snowy ground. These cards too say “Season’s Greetings” inside, and they represent a burst of seasonal warmth and pleasure for anyone who enjoys the lighter side of winter holidays.

     The work of Edward Gorey (1925-2000) can provide light moments for the holidays, too. Yes, it can – despite Gorey’s well-deserved reputation for focusing on the outré and fantastic rather than the warm and cuddly. There is some Gorey work that fits the holiday season very nicely indeed, although admittedly in a somewhat offbeat way. The 20 cards in the Gorey Holiday box – five each of four designs – will tickle the funnybones of people whose funnybones are more responsive to the wry and outlandish than to the ho-ho-ho tradition. Two of the cards feature seasonal decorating themes that incorporate a cooperative crocodilian creature into Christmas customs. A third card, in which the meticulous detail of Gorey’s cross-hatched art shows to particularly good effect, shows a family wrapping (or attempting to wrap) a tree whose bare branches are festooned with the occasional leaf and an odd critter here and there. And the fourth card shows a huge polar bear, wearing ice skates, making a presentation to a little boy in old-fashioned dress – all illustrating the caption, “A Future Unremembered Poet of the Seventeenth Century Accepts a Christmas Cookie from the Great Veiled Bear.” Utter absurdity…along with utter charm of a uniquely Gorey-an cast.

     Seasonal cards by Gorey are also available from Pomegranate in single-design packs, such as the 12 included in “She Knitted Mufflers Endlessly.” All these cards are the same on the front (and all, like the other Gorey cards, say “Season’s Greetings” inside). Here the highly detailed picture is of a dressed-for-winter, six-person Victorian or Edwardian family, out for a cold-weather stroll, with each family member wearing a muffler that is very long indeed, if not quite endless. The people and background are in black-and-white, as usual in Gorey’s drawings, but the mufflers provide splashes of color: green, red, green-and-red, purple, lavender and blue-and-black. Not all of these are seasonal colors, to be sure, but then, not all of Gorey’s seasonal drawings will seem fully appropriate to the time of year for which they are employed. This particular illustration comes from Gorey’s The Glorious Nosebleed (1975), but there is no blood in evidence here, or even implied. Nevertheless, both sender and receiver need to be people who look beyond the ordinary, past the straightforward, in order to appreciate the Gorey cards intended for the upcoming season. You know who you are. And if you are the sort of person you know yourself to be, you will know at once whether Gorey’s unmistakable art will delight you in seasons cold or seasons warm. Or both.

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