Saturday, April 27, 2013

Fabled Labels®

c. 1890. The original was badly stained and damaged.
In another country, in another life, I was called the Louisiana Label Lady. In 1975, I discovered a huge cache of trade labels in neglected files of a New Orleans printing company that had been in continuous operation since 1882. This collection represents a fascinating period in New Orleans history when the city was a vibrant commercial center and one of the largest, most important port cities in the world. I supplied antique labels to both The Historic New Orleans Collection and the Louisiana State Museum. I displayed labels in several galleries including the O.K. Harris Gallery in New York City. Numerous newspapers and magazines ran stories about the collection.

In 1984 I founded Archives and began reproducing label designs on fine porcelain gumbo bowls and coffee mugs. Archives sold these products all over the US and in several countries, including Argentina, England, and France. The bowls and mugs were manufactured in and imported from Japan. I ran the business on a shoestring and was unable to survive the numerous beatings the dollar took against the yen. Once costs doubled, I was out of business.

Gold-trimmed mugs with antique label designs.

I've maintained this collection for almost 40 years. Most of it even managed to survive Katrina.

Suffragette Coffee & Chicory, c. 1916, Shreveport, LA.
Click to enlarge and read the historically and politically interesting copy.

There are approximately 500 different labels in the collection and I'm toying with the idea of selling high-quality prints.

Woman's Club Coffee, c. 1890

There are several reasons why this idea appeals to me more than selling original labels as I once did.
  • The original labels fade badly when exposed to light.
  • Many of the originals are in fragile condition. Some are stained and damaged. I can repair the damage in Photoshop.
  • Prints can be sized and proportioned better for framing and display.
  • Since conservation is unnecessary, framing prints is substantially less expensive than framing antiques.
  • I won't run out of inventory.
  • Prints are a lot more affordable than antiques.
I hope this will morph into something that supports my writing habit. At this point, I don't have any idea how much the prints will cost. Maybe some of you have ideas about that. I'd love to hear them.

Included here are a couple of images I recently scanned and cleaned up. These labels weren't chosen for any reason other than that they were apropos of something friends and I were discussing on Facebook.

c. 1920

Please leave comments letting me know what you think.