November 17, 2005


Boxed Panoramic Notecards: M.C. Escher—Metamorphosis; Frank Lloyd Wright—Avery Coonley Playhouse Windows. Pomegranate. $15.95 each.

Boxed Holiday Cards: Frank Lloyd Wright—Avery Coonley Playhouse Windows. Pomegranate. $15.

Classical Music: An Illustrated Journal. Pomegranate. $16.95.

     The winter holidays are fast approaching, and with them comes the annual epidemic of gift-itis: What to give to whom?  Where to get it?  How to find something reasonably priced but not tacky?  Is there anything reasonably priced but not tacky?  And so on.

     If you tend to catch gift-itis, you should know that there is a one-word cure for its symptoms: Pomegranate.  This is a company dedicated to producing art for mass consumption – and if that sounds like an inevitable contradiction in terms, you haven’t seen Pomegranate’s product line.  The company licenses images from some of the great artists, museums and other art spots of the world, then puts them together in consistently high-quality packaging, in forms that are perfect for gift-giving or for you to use yourself.  Pomegranate’s offerings cover a wide variety of items, some of them quite unusual.  Boxed notecards, for example, are scarcely a new gift idea – though it must be said that Pomegranate’s many ones are unusually well made.  But what about panoramic boxed notecards?  These are cards measuring just under four inches by just over nine inches, packed 16 to a box (four each of four designs), and featuring art that fits the long-and-thin format exceptionally well.  Two especially attractive card sets are based on works by M.C. Escher and Frank Lloyd Wright.  The Escher set contains four details from his Metamorphosis II (1940), each a fascinating study in transformation.  In one, a city’s buildings and streets become steadily more stylized until they turn into chess pieces on a chessboard.  In another, geometric shapes increasingly approximate perfect hexagons; then the hexagons start to look like chambers of a beehive, and dots in them start to look like bee larvae; finally, adults insects emerge from the hive.  Descriptions never do Escher justice, though: his works, which combine surrealism with science, have to be seen to be believed (and even when seen will trick your eyes).  The panoramic format fits these examples extremely well.

     It fits Frank Lloyd Wright’s window designs for the Avery Coonley Playhouse very well, too.  Wright’s highly recognizable works use geometric shapes quite differently from the way Escher’s works do.  For the Coonley playhouse in Riverside, Illinois, Wright worked from 1911 to 1912 creating both vertical and horizontal patterns with a subtle-yet-clear patriotic theme.  The dominant color of the gorgeous Wright panoramic cards is white, but there is plenty of red and blue as well – plus green and orange and black.  There are two vertical designs and two horizontals in Pomegranate’s gift box, making it easy for a recipient to express himself or herself either up and down or side to side.

     The colorful Wright designs also work exceptionally well as holiday cards.  Pomegranate offers boxes of individual Coonley window details or – an especially nice touch – an assortment of 20 cards, five each of four designs (two vertical and two horizontal).  Thanks to the stylized American flag in three of the designs, these well-made cards can be an excellent way to communicate a sense of patriotism in the midst of holiday happiness and traditions.  This makes the holiday box either a wonderful gift or a great item to buy and use yourself.

     This is not to say that all special Pomegranate gift items are cards – or even that most of them are.  The company’s product variety is very wide.  For example, if you need a gift for someone who simply doesn’t write many notes by hand, you might consider a journal.  Pomegranate’s journals do not have cute licensed characters or trendy covers – they use the company’s typical high production quality and artistically interesting designs.  There are many choices here, including some for people for whom it can be very hard to buy gifts.  What does one get for a classical musician, for instance?  Pomegranate’s answer is a journal sprinkled with fascinating illustrations from the Library of Congress, with a handsome violin and bow on the cover, and containing brief quotations by musicians or about music on a number of its pages.  One example, from Hungarian composer Zoltán Kodály: “The laws of morals and the laws of art are the same.”  Think about it – and think about how rare it is to find holiday gifts that make you think, as these and other Pomegranate products consistently do.

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