Archive | May, 2012

Packaging: Never Open Here

24 May

I wrote in a previous post about the artistic merits of merchandise packaged under clear moulded plastic against colourful cardboard backings, (See: Princess Lovely’s Doctor Beautiful Dream Bride Pretty Set) and this goes not only for the above mentioned girl’s accessory sets, but also for household goods.  They have an awesome installative quality, and the plastic moulding also serves as a wonderful framing device, making these objects perfect to hang on the wall.  I always keep my eyes peeled when I’m out and about for these types of items, and you never know where you might find them.  Check out these packages, the photos and saturated colour elevate them into readymade art objects, if you ask me!

The first is a package of  hair pins that I found at a convenience store that has been a veritable goldmine for the type of worthless crap that only I buy:

Check out the gross, melted, broken rubber bands around the hair pin bundles!

This model has the confident yet sensuous look that is essential for modeling on hair pin packages.

It’s all so brilliant; the pink and grey colour scheme, the gradient of light to dark pink stripes, the beautiful model wearing a hairstyle that needs no pins, plus, the gross rubber bands.  It all really came together for this piece, no?

Along a similar vein, I found this great set of metal hair curlers from Value Village;  circa 1970s, this pink and orange hued set was manufactured by Goody:

Brush Rollers

Aren’t these colours fabulous? I’ve lightened the exposure to heighten the psychedelic effect

I found this with the shrink wrap on it still intact.  I love the little yellow hook at the top.  I realize that it was probably to hang it on the rack at the store, but it’s also perfect for hanging it on the wall, which I rushed home and did.

The next item is not a beauty aid, but it would have certainly beautified one’s kitchen:

Mighty Grip!

Good name eh?   I love the geometric shapes and primary colours employed in the design.  This is a type of jar opener I have never seen.  You are supposed to mount in on the underside of a cupboard and wedge the jar top in it and twist.  If you mount it there though, you wont be able to enjoy the bright orange plactic-ness of it, and if you open the package, you won’t be able to enjoy the orange plastic-ness and yellow, red and green cardboard-ness of it either!  You know, they say that yellow, red and orange are colours that make one hungry, and it must be true, because this package sure made me hungry for some Mighty Grip jar opening!

And finally, this last item is a set of jacks packaged together to be doled out as party favors to children:

Party Favors!

I love this package!  I love the suggestive, dreamy imagery of three coloured balloons floating in a clear blue sky.  Also, here in Canada it is the law that every product have both English and French writing on the package, and often the French translation is much cooler and funner to say, such as here, where party favors become the more intriguing sounding “Babioles”  Obviously these jacks and ball sets are meant to be divided up amongst child party guests in their loot-bags, but I say, why waste these babies on kids?  Breaking open this package would be a travesty in my opinion, and children could never understand or properly appreciate the sacrifice being made on their behalf, so why bother?  I mean, children can be so selfish, especially babies, am I right?  No real sense of priorities and what matters in the real world, you know?

Hair pins purchased at Sherwood Variety, 2574 Yonge St, Toronto

Hair rollers, jar opener and Babioles found at Value Village, 1319 Bloor St. W., Toronto

Thrift Store Finds: Vintage Earrings

22 May

As I boasted in a previous column, I have an amazing talent for picking the best costume jewelry at Value Village, a local second-hand chain store.  And so, to drive this point home I would like to present to my dear readers and followers, a selection of some of the best colourful 80s earrings I have purchased in the last little while.  These are only a few of my favorites, I will have to show the best rhinestone earrings in another post.  All were found at Value Village unless otherwise noted, and some, if pictured so, do not have mates.

And now, without further ado, here are my best costume jewelry earrings, a collection that must only be rivaled by that of the Golden Girls’.

These are all plastic clip-ons, except the pink circles, which have posts, all from Value Village

A close-up of an unusual pink pair. I’ve never seen anything quite like these, which were made of two independent layers of soft plastic spiky circles, attached in the middle with a pink rhinestone. Very sea creature like

The biggies; all were clip-ons. The red and black and white striped pairs were plastic, the ones on the top right were large pinkish rhinestones bordered by small white stones, the purple ones in the bottom right were suede, and to give you an idea of the scale of all these earrings, the purple ones were about two inches in diameter! All from Value Village

This pair had a lovely pink stripe in the centre of the stone with dusty gray sides, an effect I’ve never seen in a rhinestone before

More colourful plastic: The pink and blue circular pairs on the left I found tucked away in a hard to reach box at Odds and Ends junk shop, the box also contained a few mood rings from the 1970s and some vintage band pins. The yellow pair are actually enameled metal.

This si one of my most favorite earrings ever, but alas it has no mate. I love the gradient of lavender separated by white. I use this as a tack to hang some photo-booth pictures on a lampshade.

This green flower clip-on is also missing its mate, but i feel that its climbing vine like appearance makes it more suitable to be worn as a solo accessory, higher up on the ear.

The Red pair in the back are clip-ons, as are the green daisies, the lone blue enameled circle (has a mate which is temporarily misplaced) and the black diamond shaped pair.   I love the Indian princess feel of the purple and gold pair. All purchased at Value Village

All of these earrings are from a lot of costume jewelry I purchased on eBay. I bought the lot to use for scraps to embed in acrylic bowls, but these were to good to be encased in plastic.

The details of these earrings give them that extra something.This awesome red pair is not just flat with printed stripes, the red lines are recessed areas in the surface.

Well, there you have it, proof positive that I am the best Value Village costume jewelry picker there is.  Now if only there were some way to turn this into a career…  I know, if anyone wants to hire me as a thrift store picker, contact me at, but remember, if  I find anything good, its mine.

Pink striped and blue checked circular earrings found at Odds and Ends, 703 Queen St. W., Toronto

All other earrings found at Value Village, 1319 Bloor St. W., and others, Toronto

Random Collections: The Other Vinyl

21 May

I love small items that are made out of vinyl, the kind that is soft and rubbery and heat-sealed at the edges, especially when it has something screen-printed on it.  I’ve collected a few fun retro pieces, which I would love to share with you, dear reader.

The first is this great Barbie photo album given to me by a friend.  I usually can’t stand this kind of album, with the plastic sleeves for photos, preferring the old fashioned gummed cardboard pages with plastic sheet protectors (more on those in a later post,) but I was willing to open my heart to this:

Barbie Photo album

Just stunning, in  my opinion, but it took a little effort to achieve this streamlined, uncluttered look.  For you see, when I first received this album, along with the words “Barbie” and “Photo Album” some thoughtless designer saw fit to have some awful flowers and butterflies printed randomly around the cover, marring the beautiful hot pink surface.  To get and idea of the terribleness of these images, check out the front picture in the album which is partially visible through the heart-shaped hole on the cover:

The picture of Barbie on the inside of the album

Do you see what my eyeballs had to endure?  There were flowers and butterflies of this type and other such debris cluttering up the cover.  But, fortunately for all of us, I was able to remove these abominations with some nail polish remover, thus saving the day.

The second vinyl item in my collection is a wonderful calender and address book circa 1950s that I found in the garbage outside a used book store one late night after leaving a punk show at The Opera House, a venue on Queen St. East here in Toronto:

Calender/address book from garbage

A close up of one of the inserts on the cover

The inside of the 50s address book

Close up of the Phone number side of book, I love the font and hearts printed on the page. The black and white photo is a smile flyer I made for a zine I put out several years ago.

Isn’t it cute?  I about died when I found it as I was about fourteen and just beginning to experience the possibilities of garbage picking and how it can enrich one’s life.  I loved the little clear pockets on the front, some of which had the original inserts inside, the rest I added myself from some Spice Girls postcards that could be purchased at that time in packets from convenience stores.

Next up is a diary I also found in the garbage one day.  It didn’t have any writing in it unfortunately, but I love the pop-art style candy images on the cover!

Vinyl Diary

Now that is a diary for writing about sleepovers, boys, make-up toys and kittens.  And speaking of kittens, check out this diary, which is the only non-vintage item in the collection:

Sparkle Kitten Diary

I bought this at Ardene’s, which is a store that caters to the pre-teen girl set and offers mostly cheap earrings, hair accessories and make-up.  I check out the store occasionally because sometimes there is some cheap girly plastic fun available for sale, such as the above diary.  However, much like the Barbie photo album it had some extraneous text at the top that said something like “Keep your paws off!”,  which is exactly the type of awful cutesy pun crap that I won’t stand for, and so it was up to the nail polish remover again to save my eyeballs from that hell, which it did, but with less perfect results than achieved on the Barbie album.

Next is a small vinyl purse with a little “Precious Moments” type child couple on it:

My Friend Purse

I really hate that “Precious Moments” crap they churn out, like all those cheap statues and cards with the saucer eyed children and puppies on them, but these two kids have a sort of vintage Hasbro/Japanese cartoon thing going for them that saves it.  Plus I love the detached caption at the top that simply declares “My Friend” without any specificity as to who it is attributed to or by.  I cannot remember where I picked up this purse, but it was probably either a garbage find, or a thrift store score.

And, to go with a little vinyl purse, what’s better than a little vinyl wallet, in this case, a pink Hawaiian Hula Girl wallet:

Aloha Hawaii wallet

This cute little wallet I got on eBay, and while I’m going to refrain from blogging to much about things I’ve gotten from eBay as they leave little story to tell about them, I wanted to include this in the collection because of the great multi-coloured silk-screen image on it.  I also love that this wallet came with a little removable insert inside where you can keep snapshots, something people don’t really carry in their wallets anymore because they can store pictures on their phones.  Ah the wallet photo album, a dying cultural practice due to the progress of technology.

But, what a great segue into the last piece in this random collection, a vinyl photo frame:

My little Pony Photo Frame

Isn’t this so cool?  it’s a puffed up vinyl photo frame with purple haired My Little Ponies on them, a mommy and a little baby!  It has a 1985 copyright on it, as well as years of smudged in dirt that just won’t come off!  I’ve stuck in an old photo I’ve found of a young girl.  I took this frame from the room of an ex-roommate of a girlfriend of mine while he was not home.  Don’t feel bad for him though, he turned out to be a real weirdie, and not in a good way, in fact, in a bad way, like, the worst possible way, ever, like, of all time.  Seriously.

Anyways, I hope I haven’t left too sinister a taste in your mouth for you to consider collecting fun vintage vinyl.  Every hipster doofus out there thinks their some unique rebel for collecting vinyl records, so earn yourself a few bonus hipster points by starting your own vinyl collection, an “The Other Vinyl” collection, just like your crush, Miss Lady Heart!

Sparkle Kitten Diary purchased at Ardene’s, at the Toronto Eatons Centre, 220 Yonge St., Toronto

Stickers: Famous Monsters

15 May

As I mentioned in the post “Princess Lovely’s Doctor Beautiful Dream Bride Pretty Set” there is a wonderful store on Church Street here in Toronto called Ontario Specialty Co. that has an awesome selection of vintage toys, sunglasses key-chains, purses, stickers and more, from what must be a large hoard of deadstock merchandise.  I buy many thinks from this store, and though the items are vintage, the stock changes regularly, so you must snap up the things that catch your fancy quick or you’ll be disappointed.  I got a taste of this a little while ago when I bought just one set of these amazing horror stickers, foolishly thinking that I could come back for more later.  But alas I was not the only one who fell in love with these retro monster “puff” style stickers, so they’ll be no”‘tradesies” for these awesome ghouls, not for “Mello Smello” scratch-n-sniffs or anything!

The Mummy


The Skull


I feel like there must have been a fifth sticker of Dracula, but if there was, I guess I must have lost it.

I found this great cheap paperback from the 1970s at Value Village thrift store called “Great Monsters of the Movies”.  It had cool pictures and information on many classic horror films and the monsters that were their stars.   These stickers looked a lot like some of the monsters in these films:

Cheap paperback book entitled “Great Monsters of the Movies, By Robert K. Davidson. This edition copyrighted 1977

Frankenstein’s monster, from the 1931 film Frankenstein

Compare that to the Frankenstein sticker; same scar on forehead and jawline, but sticker has poutier lips for some reason.

Mummy from “The 1942 film “The Mummy’s Tomb”

The Mummy sticker looks like the Mummy monsters from “The Mummy’s Tomb” and “The Mummy’s Hand”, which was released two years later,  in its similar wrinkled and dry appearing face.

The skull-looking monster from 1973’s “The Abominable Dr. Phibes”

There’s no movie in the book with “The Skull” in the title, but this gross thing from “The Abominable Dr. Phibes” sure looks like the sticker.

From “The Wolf Man”, 1941

I don’t know, the wolfman sticker kind of seems more like a cross between this incarnation of a canine-man monster, and the giant ape in King Kong (1933)

Is it just me, or are these old monsters way freakier than the new CGI crap they churn out now?  To punctuate this point, check out these horrifying creatures from two other classic films:

Monster from “The Phantome of the Opera”, 1925

Gah! Isn’t that way scarier than the stupid asymmetrical white mask wearing goon made famous by the Andrew Lloyd Weber musical?

And look at the weird visage of the murderous snake in “The reptile”, who, despite the obvious phallic association and symbolism, is a woman:

From “The Reptile”, 1966

Frightening, no?

Monster stickers purchased at Ontario Specialty Co., 133 Church St., Toronto

Great Monsters book purchased at Value Vullage, 1319 Bloor St. W., Toronto

Found Photographs: Off-Brand Celebrities

15 May

I used to live in a neigbourhood that was very friendly towards garbage pickers like myself.  Year round, but especially in the summer, people would put discarded things on their front lawns, encouraging passerby to find treasure in their trash, which I often did.  One day I found among such a pile a few Polaroids, each of a woman wearing very distinctive red glasses standing next to people who seemed more attractive and charismatic than the average person, but not as striking as a Hollywood star, leading me to guess that they were likely Canadian celebrities, the people equivalent of  “off-brand” products, the “Lime it Up” counterpart to “7 Up”, if you will.  See for yourself what I’m talking about, and bonus point for anyone who can tell me who these people are:

Unknown celebrity, left, patriotic Canadian fan, right.

And check out the guy’s outfit, he’s wearing a tie, and possibly suspenders with a collarless shirt.  Where’s a celebrity stylist when you need one?  Not here, evidently; no stylists please, we’re Canadian.

Look how starstruck the fan on the left is!

The woman who’s pictures these are looks so happy in all of them.  It makes you wonder why she decided to get rid of them.  Was it her waning interest in the stars she’s pictured with?  Has she grown out of her celebrity obsession? When I first got these pictures several years ago I laughed at her clothes and giant 80s glasses, but now enough time has passed that she’s back in style in an ironic hipster way, especially in this last one:

The cyclical nature of fashion

Look at her; The long hair parted in the middle, the black silk screened t-shirt, and the jean jacket she’s wearing,  all totally hip now.  Even those giant, unflattering glasses are the type of things you see on so many hipster girls today who are trying for this whole cliche  “awkward girl with huge glasses and baggy worn out guy’s clothes who’s actually gorgeous but just doesn’t know it* because she’s so busy being artistic” thing.

* she knows it and spends a lot of time cultivating this “I’m so over it” look

This type of clothing and glasses are exactly what you see at Urban Outfitters (a very trendy store) these days, all pre-ripped and faded for your convenience.

Who would have known all those years ago that the one in these discarded pictures who would have a lasting impression would be the girl with the glasses, and not the fame seeking actors and or musicians she’s standing next to?


While going through some old photos I discovered one more Polaroid from this series, the only one that shows the lady with the red glasses with a celebrity i think I recognize:

Is that who I think it is?

Now, correct me if I’m wrong here, but is that not a young Eddie Cibrian?  A man most known for inexplicably leaving the mother of his children for for stupid-face Leann Rimes?  I think it is!  This actor’s only redeeming quality is his appearance in the hilarious movie “But I’m a Cheerleader”, which starred an adorable Natasha Lyonne and featured a non drag RuPaul Charles.

Random Collections: Princess Lovely’s Doctor Beautiful Dream Bride Pretty Set

13 May

I collect little cardboard-backed dress-up sets that are aimed at little girls.  I am usually drawn towards vintage sets, but occasionally I will buy a new set if it has those elusive qualities that I’m looking for.  What makes them so appealing to me are the graphics and names, but also, as a sculpture/installation based artist, I enjoy the box-art installative aspect of the sets, with the small arrangement of plastic fun composed under molded plastic.  I usually keep the set intact, but sometimes what is featured is so enticing that I try to find a second one so that I can open one of them and wear the accessories.  Here are a few of my favorite ones.

Fashion Girl

Check her out!

This is one of the newer ones that I have, probably dating from the 90s.  I love that the sides are drawn to represent film perforations or sprocket holes, adding the dimension of “movie star” to this “fashion girl”.  The silhouetted girls to the left of the film girl have a very Bond Girl, or even Gem and the Holligrams-esque feel to them.  The jewelry is of course hideously ugly and tacky, but the overall effect is so great.  This is the type of thing that I frame, or just hang unframed, as a piece of pop culture art.  This set was purchased at Value Village, a local thrift store.


Great colours on this one, called Fun-n-Games.  It’s a little green haired girl with red bows-mirror.  And, you can look in the mirror and brush your hair with a green comb.  The little pink nail polish bottle is hollow and doesn’t open but it has a cute little sticker that says “Bright Star” on it.  This probably dates from around the 1970s.

Pretty Set

Good name, good graphics!

I love the name of this one, Pretty Set.  It’s sweet and simple, but it also sounds like a state of mind; get this toy, and you’ll be pretty set.  This dates from the same period as the Fun-n-Games set and like the Fun-n-Games set it is a mirror backed by a face, in this case a lion, for some reason.  I love the drawing of the little girl, and the giant pink barrettes in the set, but as I could not find a second Pretty set, I could not open this package and wear the barrettes, leaving me less “set” than I thought I would be, despite assurances to the contrary implied by the name. This and the above set were purchased at Ontario Specialty, a local store that specializes in dead-stock vintage toys and fun.

Dream Bride

This set, Dream Bride, I found in a sad looking grocery store in New York City, and because I loved the giant heart necklace inside I bought three sets.  This necklace is probably the best thing I’ve seen in one of these sets.  About the size of a woman’s fist, the plastic heart has a clear plastic heart shaped bubble in the middle that has a little plastic flower inside, making this an installation within an installation.  It’s installation to the power of 2 for those who prefer mathematical terms.

The giant heart necklace

Princess Lovely

I love the name and the confused ideas presented here about what a princess is.  Instead of a crown or scepter, there are heart shaped sunglasses and comb and mirror.  This type of super pink-girly-princessy fluff is like being a drag queen for little girls, in that it represents and caricature of girlhood.  It’s interesting as an object that packages tropes of modern pop girlishness.  This set I also purchised in NYC, from a street vendor.

Doctor Beautiful(!)

This is the only brand new set in my collection, which I purchased at a dollar store close to my home.  I think this one is the funniest in terms of the confusion over what it is trying to be.  It seems that it is partly an aspirational type toy for girls, in the style of Barbie’s career dolls which put Barbie in such lofty positions of astronaut and travel agent, to teach girls that they too, can be professional working women.  But much as with the real Barbie brand career dolls, the precedence of looks over brains is still painfully evident in the styling, packaging and marketing of the toy.  Taking a closer look at the image of “Doctor Beautiful” on the top right of the package, we see just how many disparate elements this figure is cobbled together from:

What is this supposed to be, really?

Basically, they’ve put a off-brand Barbie like head onto an illustration of  Disney’s Sleeping Beauty’s body, and then rudimentally added a doctor’s stethoscope onto the face.

Sleeping beauty in her pink gown, which she evidently later lent to Doctor Beautiful for her toy package photo shoot

And the final non-sequitur of this toy set comes in the form of this sticker, seen on the toy stethoscope:

The sticker on the stethiscope

Why is there a little manga/anime nurse girl sticker in this set?

Well, thanks for taking my guided tour through another of my random collections.  Hopefully, my enthusiasm has rubbed off on you, dear reader, and you will be convinced to start yet another Lady Heart approved, random collection!

Fashion Girl set purchaised at Value Village, 1319 Bloor St. W., Toronto

Fun-n-Games and Pretty Set purchaised at Ontario Specialty, 133 Curch St., Toronto

Doctor Beautiful Puchaised at Dollar Wise, 1901 Yonge St., Toronto