Archive | Packaging RSS feed for this section

Thrift Store Finds: So Cute It’s Freaking Me Out

19 Nov

Sometimes there are things (living and inanimate) that are cute,  preternaturally so, but which also have some aspect that is perturbing, or to use the popular vernacular,  an aspect that will cause you to, like, freak  out.

One good example of this phenomenon is a little episode which occurred recently, where an initially adorable scene was, upon closer inspection, revealed to be horrifying, in a kind of “Twilight Zone” -esque twist.  I was in my backyard around dusk when I heard the cry of a baby animal.  I knew that it must have been coming from the attic of a small shed that sits in a neighbour’s yard, which backs up right against our fence.  The attic area has a large hole in the back wall that various animals have chewed away, so that the inside of the shed, between a platform and the roof,  is visible, giving us a view into what has become a favored living quarters for different species of  mamas and their new litters.  The heartbreaking cry turned my attention towards the shed where I noticed there was a cute little baby raccoon, probably crying out for its absent mother, dusk being a natural time for raccoons to seek food.  I walked over to the shed to get a closer look at the little guy when the horror suddenly dawned on me; the baby raccoon had no eyes!  Nothing, not even closed eyelids or injured eyes.   Blindy, (as I dubbed him) just had smooth, unblemished fur across his face, with not even a hint of of a mark or indent where the eyes should have been.  The title of the post should give you a good idea what happened next; I kind of freaked out.  I felt so helpless and sad for Blindy.  Fortunately, its mother soon returned and they cooed and chattered happily upon their reunion. I never saw Blindy again.  But I’m still kind of freaked, though.

And so it is with that in mind that I present to you, my dear reader, a few things Ive purchased recently, that have had the same sort of effect.  These darling little objects reveal, upon closer examination, an aspect that is somehow off , like a sweet candy with an aftertaste of..the flavor is…it tastes like freaking out.

The first object is another cute animal that is freaky because of its eyes.  Only in this case, the odd part is not that the eyes are missing, but rather what their presence tells us.  It is a small vintage, ceramic figure of a dog, a dog that takes the expression “puppy eyes” to an  almost uncomfortable level:

What’s behind these puppy eyes?

Its cute, adorable even, but why is this dog so sad?  The look in its eyes is so heartbreaking as to suggest something  terribly wrong, am I right here?  Is this some sort of  a tchotchke of  an abused dog?  What kind of a person would want a figurine around that is this depressing?  Is it cold?  Hungry?  Scared?  Neglected?  Is this pitiful and pathetic expression just a cheap excuse for sentiment, the kind of pull at the old heartstrings, “Precious Memories” , “Hang in there Baby” ploy that guilts you into buying some trifle?  Because if it is,  it worked on me, and this little guy sits joylessly on my shelf, making me sad, every time I look at it.

Keeping with the theme of  freaky eyes, we will turn to another “cutesy” image with a dark side, only this time it involves that other category of little critters that will pee on your rug: children!  This is a sweet little set of  pencil leads I purchased at Value Village:

These pencil leads are freaking me out!

I picked these up because of the great graphics and colours on the package;  I love the peach background bordered by white dots, and the rosy-cheeked children holding a banner that says “pencil leads” is, to me, a marvel of graphic design.  But, look closer at the kids faces.  Was the artist that created these trying to make a comment on the dangers of lead exposure to young children?  Or am I grasping at straws here to try to create some esoteric connection between a bunch of crazy crap I bought?  Only time will tell.  In the meanwhile, lets take a closer look at what I’m blathering on about here:

They’re kind of funny lookin’.

They are pretty sweet, with their little bows at hat, but why are their eyes going lizard-like in two directions? According to the internet, mental retardation is one of the effects of lead poisoning in children.   This package seems to be covertly disseminating anti lead messages.  But this is one piece of propaganda those fat cats over at ” Big Lead” wont be able to suppress…because I’m hanging this little graphic masterpiece on my wall.

That last paragraph is a perfect segue into another item containing a cute representation of a deformed child.  The girl on the package for this  “Bath Glove” seems a rather cruel choice of subject, considering her anatomy would preclude her from even using this particular product.  In fact, the girl illustrated seems to be wearing a modified version of the product in question.  Also, although she is illustrated in a demure pose with her hands across her chest, she still somehow fails to preserve her modesty.  The sophisticated colour scheme and cute illustration will distract you at first from what I’m talking about:

Masterful colour choices!

But, wait for it…

Now really, what the heck is that supposed to be?

The rest of the drawing was going so good, but it seems like whoever made this just gave up when it came time to do the hands, and just put a blob of a mitt on the end of one arm (remember, this is supposed to be a bath glove) and some weird flipper thing on the other.  Now, I don’t mean to be pedantic, and granted, there are five appendages there, but just scribbling them all in there does not make a hand.  But I guess the makers of this cheap “Bath Glove” did something right, considering I bought it, wrote about it, and will probably keep it for the rest of my life.

And so, to bring this post full circle, back to where we started, on the topic of raccoons, I present this last item, a photograph from a Snow White on ice performance, circa 1950s.  This was part of a set of  publicity photos depicting a revue containing a medley of popular stories, performed on ice.  This particular photo shows Snow White, surrounded by some performers in animal costumes, including a raccoon.

Snow White and her animal friends

And perhaps this is just some sort of psychological projection that reveals more about my paranoia than anything, but if you ask me, those animals look pretty sinister:

AHHH!

AHHH!

AHHHHHH!

AHHH! The eyes, they’re so cold, and dead.

It’s no wonder that children are often seen crying in pictures next to costumed characters like this.  And for us adults, I think the movie  Donny Darko has probably ruined us for ever again seeing people dressed in giant animal costumes as cute , especially rabbits.

Well I hope you have enjoyed another episode of picking apart commercial products and old ephemera down to the minutest of detail, Miss Lady Heart style.  Next time you see something cute, take a closer look, and if you think about it too much,  you can probably freak yourself out with it too!

Dog Figurine, Pencil Leads and Bath Glove purchased at Value Village, 6415 Victoria Dr, Vancouver, BC

Convenience Store Treasures: Suburban Edition

3 Jul

The key hitting the old toy conienience store goldmine is to find a store that has been open for a long time, and which has not been renovated or sold between too many different owners, as these provide opportunities to rid the shelves of old, dusty merchandise.  Usually these types of stores are to be found in the city, where the neighbourhoods and commercial areas have been established much earlier than in the suburbs.  But sometimes, the suburban convenience store should not be discounted, as its presence in cultural hell can virtually guarantee that anything cool that they may have put on their shelves will still be there when you happen upon the store.  And with that in mind, I ventured into a Mississauga (a suburb of Toronto, Ontario) variety store looking for treasures, and I was not disappointed.  Here’s what I found:

Show Off Barrettes

There were a few different kinds of these” Show Offs” barrettes, each of which I purchased.  I love the ‘funky’ early 90s font used for the brand name.  This was the only type of barrette that was packaged in a way where you could see both the girls printed on the cardboard, showing off their barrette overkill hairdos.  In all the other packages, the white girl gets the shaft, her face obscured by the moulded plastic.  These were awesome barrettes too, they are like baby barrettes, but they have metal backings which make them much easier to use than the more common, all plastic baby barrettes, which only hold, like 5 hairs.  All the riot grrls out there know what I’m talking about.  But alas, despite the awesomeness of all of the Show Offs barrettes I bought, I cannot bring myself to open any of the packages, and ruin what I see as installative, readymade pieces of art.  And, due to the short-sighted thoughtlessness of the designers, the moulded plastic tray that holds the barrettes to the cardboard is glued across the innocent face of the little blond girl on the other packages, making the opening of the package fraught with anxiety and guilt, as the barrettes can only be accessed by tearing through her tiny, barrette decorated head.  But seriously though, it would toatally ruin the package.

Are you insane enough to rip the cardboard right through this girl’s face?

These are the other packages, where the blond girl has plastic glued to her face.  The barrettes are pretty sweet though.  Good colours.

Little plastic “‘jaw” clips with heart shaped grips.  And see?  Little blond girl: denied.

More heart gripped jaw clips. Note how the glue is so old it’s turned yellow.  This hasn’t happened on the above package, where both girls’ faces are visible.  Isn’t that facinating?  It could be…I guess if you…are a boring person or something.

There was also a couple of other sets of barrettes that I thought were cool, but lacked the flair and dramatic tension of the Show Offs.

Red and white bows

Colourful Flowers

I guess these are actually hair elastics with little plastic things glued to them.  The one on the left has the same jazzy-party-confetti early 90s look of the Show Offs barrettes, while the flowered elastics try for a more refined, fancy script logo look, an aspiration further hinted at, yet also confused by its brand name “Choice & Toy” a pairing of words that both fail to describe the quality and category of item contained within.  So close though.

And speaking of hair, they also had a number of hair nets, all of which I bought, which came in these great envelopes.  I loved the bold colours and the image of the woman, but the shape of the envelope, including the familiar back flaps, and the clear window in the front which could reveal an address, make them totally usable as mailing envelopes, plus they give the sender the added option to include the two old, totally useless hair nets already enclosed within!

Mirage Stretch Fashioned Hair Nets. You can see the hair net through the window in the centre.  Pretty gross eh?

The back of the hair net envelopes; just like a regular mailing envelope.

Despite the wonderful aesthetic of these hair net envelopes, I must say they are a tad misleading.  The woman on the package is meant to represent the invisible control of the hair net, and the confidence and poise that come with it, but there’s no way she’s wearing one of these hair nets over that hairdo.  When I tried one on all it did was flatten whatever volume I had while leaving the elastic fully visible around the hairline.  Plus, the hairnets are not even big enough to be lightly fitting around hair as long as hers, nor would they allow her hair retain that volume or shape.  This is what would really happen if she wore one of the hairnets:

I also picked out these things, which are apparently called “Balloon Squawkers”.  I’m not really sure what that means, but they appear to be plastic straws with feathers at one end.  I mostly just got them because I’m a sucker for things that are installed/packaged under clear plastic, not to mention easily pleased by pretty colours.

The pretty pretty colours of the Balloon Squawkers

Plus, I was also into this little guy, who appears on top of the “Fun Fair” logo:

Seems like a pretty chill guy overall.

The store had a few cute little pins.  The yellow rabbit kind of reminded me of the above balloon.  The stick pins were really tiny, like an inch long with animals on them not much larger than an apple seed.

The super tiny stick pins; from left: a butterfly, a seagull and two bunnies

And lastly, I found these awesome puffy glitter stickers that were very much like the “Happy Sticker” robot sets that I wrote about in my post “Convenience Store Treasures: Stickers”.  But these sets were even better, not just because they were glittery and had a better cardboard package tops, but also because the robots were even cooler!

I love the cardboard tops; the black background with the word “Glitter” in rainbow letters is just so great.

These sets had a mix of some of the same stickers as in the “Happy Sticker” sets, and some different ones.

Here’s the glitter version of an odd pink jester-like robot face, which I highlighted in my previous post:

Pictured here is the glitter pink jester-bot. He is next to his best friend.

This was my favorite from the set; its a big flying, pink and purple dragon kazoo. With a sparkly yellow belly.

The colours and geometric shapes of these robots make them very enjoyable. I like that this one has a green sword and a bent pipe or hockey stick or something.

I feel this spaceship is pretty cool.

I was pretty happy with my haul.  It was a good, colourful assortment of things, and I’m satisfied I got everything cool they had.  Yes, it was a good day in suburbia.  So be on the lookout for convenience store treasures when you are out in the middle of nowhere, it might be the only thing to do out there anyways.

All items purchased at Southdown Convenience, 1375 Southdown Road, Suite 7. Mississauga, Ontario

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

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.

Fun-n-Games

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

Convenience Store Treasures: Barbie Party!

26 Apr

Here’s a couple of awesome party related items I found at a local variety store, Jusil Convenience.  The first is an old package of Barbie party invitations:

Barbie party invitations

Look at all that hair!  I love the colours, and the white halo around her.  I’m a bit confused as to what the blue thing on the right is in between the strands of her hair; it’s clear she has a blue shirt on, but does it have a giant puff at the front that protrudes all the way up to her chin?  Or is that supposed to be her shoulder?  Either way, it looks a tad akward.  Anyways, I love Barbie stuff from the 80s and early 90s.  Her hair and clothes were the best then, and also the font of the Barbie logo was much nicer than some modern versions I have seen.

Isn’t that preferable?  I love this these invitations, the bold, graphic illustration, free of text cluttering up the image, and the lavender barbie logo on the pink grid background.  I bought a couple of these, and I believe there are still more available, but if you want them, you’ll have to hurry before I go back and snatch them up!  Can you imagine the awesome little girl parties that must have been thrown and been well attended thanks to these enticing invitations?

Next on my imaginary-nostalgic-little-girl-birthday-party supply list  are these great clown loot-bags  Remember loot bags?  You would get like some little trinkets like sparkly pencils and penny candies, little reminders of the fun day.  Why don’t you get stuff like that at adult parties?  That’s what I’d like to know.

The clown loot bags. There’s even a space to write the recipient’s name!

I don’t really collect a lot of clown stuff because most of it is bad but not bad enough to be good, but I really liked this clown.  But as you can see from these pictures, these poor bags are not long for this world, as the plastic is so old it has dried out and is disintegrating into tiny pieces.  Kind of a sweet metaphor for fading recollections of childhood, all the super -girly-sparkle-sleep-over-pink party-penny-candy memories scattering, swirling behind us in the winds of time, like so many bits of plastic loot-bag.

Don’t these flaky bits of plastic make you feel all sad and nostalgic inside?

Both items purchaised at Jusil Convenience, 2305 Yonge St., Toronto

Random Collections: Pantyhose!

8 Apr

I have many random collections of things, as I mentioned in my introduction.  I like to save things like plastic rosaries, Whitman books ( a series of cheap, cardboard books, published in the 1960s), old clothing tags, baby-doll nightgowns, vintage crackerjack prizes and much more.  It is my desire to share these collections with you, dear reader, in the hopes that we can bond over what might be a shared passion for the mundane.

In this post, I would like to present for your approval a new collection I began recently, a collection of pantyhose packages.  (Three items is a collection, right?)  What links these particular pantyhose packages is that they all have a cut out in the shape of a woman’s leg in the cardboard that allows the pantyhose inside to be seen, giving the customer an idea of just what these hose will look like on themselves, an amazing marketing innovation that elevated these pantyhose from merely an item in a store to item in my heart!

The first pack is of a pantyhose style that every woman covets for it’s chic style and youth bestowing properties: The knee high, semi-opaque beige stocking!

I love the suggestion of pairing these with a short (or no) skirt and black high-heels.  Thanks, Watson”s.

As surprising as it is that someone donated these to charity, I actually found these at  Value Village.

Value Village, 1319 Bloor St. W. Toronto, and others

The next set has a name I find particularly attractive: Lady Rose.   The “Sheer Elegance” of these “One Size Fits All”  pantyhose are also best paired with black heels, according to the package:

This pair I found at my favorite convenient store, Sherwood Variety.  Along with an awesome selection of old stickers and toys, I’ve purchased a few old household and beauty products that, like a fine wine, have become more beautiful and valuable with time (in my opinion).  The actual pantyhose have been lost to time, leaving only the cardboard cover and opened plastic wrapping to carry on the hose’s legacy, a fact that didn’t stop the good people at Sherwood Variety from displaying the item for sale, or selling it to me for $4.99.  Money well spent, if you ask me, especially during these difficult financial times.

Sherwood Variety, 2547 Yonge St., Toronto

And finally, The last item in this small collection is this lovely, pink “Beauty Sheer” pantyhose “The Hosiery of Quality”, if you must know.  The typography and the sensual curve of the legs really caught my fancy when I saw these at Gadabout, a wonderful vintage store on Queen St. East.  This pair was what started my interest in collecting more pantyhose packaging.  Like the others, this company also feesl that their hose should be worn with black heels.  The artistry of this package is not lost on the designer, as they also saw fit to use the colour of the hose, a hue they dubbed “Sundown”, to render a small artist’s pallet in the top right corner:

Perhaps, with the support of this blog, and you, dear reader, collecting pantyhose packages may one day become a popular and legitimate hobby, with conventions, price guides and mounting albums to follow!  Let’s start rallying around this cause today!

Gadabout, 1300 Queen St. E., Toronto