November 04, 2010


Holiday Cards: Frank Lloyd Wright; Inuit Art—Birds from Cape Dorset. Pomegranate. $15 each.

Panoramic Notecards: Exquisite Creatures—The Insect Art of Christopher Marley; Gene Davis. Pomegranate. $15.95 each.

Magnetic Notepad: Frank Lloyd Wright “Waterlilies.” Pomegranate. $7.95.

Thank You Notes: Gustav Klimt. Pomegranate. $8.95.

     The winter-holiday season is almost in full swing, and all the traditional tackiness and tinsel is out in full force, or soon will be. And there is nothing wrong with that – but there is also nothing wrong with giving a more artistic turn to this time of year. Cuteness is fine, and certainly has its place; but for those looking for holiday greetings and gifts that go beyond the cute, there is one consistently excellent place to go: the offerings of Pomegranate, which (in addition to some cute products of its own) brings fine art to a very wide variety of holiday cards and stocking stuffers. Frank Lloyd Wright, for example, is scarcely a name associated with seasonal greeting cards, but Wright’s gorgeous work in art glass adapts beautifully to a box of “Season’s Greetings” cards – 20 in all, five each dominated by the colors red, purple, yellow and green. The designs themselves are taken from four-inch-square glass prism plates that Wright (1867-1959) created in his 30s to refract daylight farther into the rooms of homes. Designed in the days before neon and fluorescent lighting, the multicolor, symmetrical plates were placed in the upper registers of windows. Now, diaplayed on the fronts of handsomely designed cards, they reflect beauty, attention to detail, and a sense of style that is in keeping with the spirit of the season but is more elevated than most seasonal offerings.

     The Birds from Cape Dorset cards are art of a different sort. Created by artists from an Inuit community 1,200 miles north of Toronto, the cards – again, five each of four designs – are dominated by white and by folk-art impressions of owls, snow geese and snow buntings. One card shows a single bird; one shows a pair; the other two show groups. Striking in their capture of detail combined with a cartoonlike use of perspective, the cards – which, like the Wright set, say “Season’s Greetings” inside – make no overt attempt to connect with winter holidays. But their snowy whiteness (even though there is no actual depiction of snow) creates a subliminal connection that fits this time of year very well indeed.

     Families that would prefer to write their own messages in cards – or are seeking boxed cards to give as gifts that will be appreciated at any time of year – can look to Pomegranate’s extensive line of notecards, which come in many sizes, colors and designs. Among the most interesting are the panoramic notecards, which measure 4 x 9¼ inches – plenty of room for striking displays of color and design, but in a size that allows mailing without extra postage required. The cards’ size and shape admit of all sorts of artwork, whether based on elements of the natural world or simply on multicolored lines. Christopher Marley’s cards are a perfect example of natural-world art: Marley makes arrangements of brightly colored, interestingly shaped bugs, which appear to be jewels rather than insects. The colors are simply astonishing in their variety and in the way they blend and contrast in Marley’s arrangements: the artist is also an entomologist, and has a wonderful sense of placement for size, shape and color. The 16 cards in this box include four each of four designs with the pleasant titles “Dolce,” “Sagra Spectrum,” “Pulchra Glass” and “Mosaic.” Of these, “Pulchra Glass” is a study in green and blue, while “Sagra Spectrum” is a rainbow that moves from deep blue insects at the bottom to bright orange ones at the top. The other two designs are brilliant bursts of multiple colors; and since all the cards are blank inside, they can become any sort of seasonal or non-seasonal greeting that one might wish.

     The 16 cards by Gene Davis (1920-1985) are brightly and beautifully colored, too, but the Davis cards achieve their effects strictly through rhythmic stripes. One of the four designs in this box is untitled, while the other three have whimsical names: “Mostly Mozart,” “Black Grey Beat” and “Raspberry Icicle.” The designs can be readily used as mood reflections, from the generally darker colors of “Black Grey Beat” to the very summery ones of “Raspberry Icicle.” The evenness of the lines, which are absolutely straight, and the perfection of the colors, which come directly from the tube rather than being mixed, might be expected to produce rather hard-edged art, but in fact the color selection and variable line widths add character to precision and produce cards that are lovely to look at and lovely to use for writing special notes – all in all, a very special gift indeed.

     Smaller-size Pomegranate offerings make excellent stocking stuffers or gifts to oneself. For all those lists that have to be made at every time of year, there are self-adhesive magnetic pads, such as a 70-sheet one featuring a Frank Lloyd Wright floral design that is very different from the ones in the holiday-card box. Here the dominant color is lavender, with the design taken from an art-glass screen dating to early in Wright’s career. The entire design appears on the front of the pad, with part of it running down the right side of each sheet of lined note paper – providing an elegant touch for those mundane shopping lists, lists of errands, or any other to-do list. And if you want to thank people for their thoughtfulness in gift-giving or for any other reason, there is even an artistically elegant way to do that: Pomegranate thank-you cards, such as the lovely little box of 10 featuring a colorful, multiply curlicued design by Gustav Klimt. Suitable for any sort of thanks at any time of year, the Klimt cards also serve as a reminder of everything that families have to be thankful for at this time of year – a feeling that hopefully will extend well beyond the winter holidays and throughout the upcoming new year.

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