28 July 2013

Pocket Picasso - more Tammis Keefe

Handkerchiefs designed by Tammis Keefe.

After a flutter of photography by me, and several hours of patient website editing by my DH, we've added more than seventy recently-acquired handkerchiefs to the more than four hundred already on view at www.tammiskeefe.com, our website featuring the artist, Tammis Keefe (1913 - 1960.) 

Article by NEA journalist Gaile [sic] Dugas, 1956.

Tammis Keefe employed New York fashion publicist Rea Lubar (1920 - 2004) to promote her work, and Ms. Lubar created and sent press releases to such outlets such as the National Editorial Association (now the National Newspaper Association), an organization which provided features for community newspapers. NEA writers prepared articles such as the one in the above image, which would be published in multiple community newspapers in the US and Canada.

Text of the article:

Open up your handbag right now and take out your handkerchief.  If it's a print linen, the chances are very good that is bears the signature "Tammis Keefe" in one corner. 

For what bone is to china, Tammis Keefe is to handkerchiefs.  She's been at handkerchief design only nine years, but those years have seen a revolution in handkerchief styles.

From bunches of roses (or violets) coyly tied with ribbon, we've graduated to subtle (or bold) color and striking design.  All in good taste.

Women collect her handkerchiefs, which probably accounts for a high percentage of their phenomenal sales.  For one can, after all, blow one's nose on a paper tissue. But it isn't half so much fun as a satisfying honk into a Tammis Keefe design.
From the drawing board of her East 61st Street studio, Tammis Keefe readily admits that the role of the handkerchief has shifted in the last few years.

"More and more, they're becoming fashion accessories," she explains. "Women like to use them as a flash of color in a belt, at the neck of a shirt or tied through French cuffs in place of link."

In designing, she has many things to consider. The special holidays: Christmas, birthdays, Mother's Day, Valentine's Day and such things as bon voyage and get-well-quick.

She does about 50 handkerchiefs designs a year.  Then, she must consider color.  Not only must it be in good taste and original in use, it must also follow the current fashion trends.

"I can't use a lot of brown if everything's pink," she says.  "Then, too, I must watch seasonal color.  The handkerchiefs I've just completed for spring are creamy, pastel and delicate. For fall, I use color boldly, vividly."

American good taste, she thinks, is at the highest level ever. It's been improving steadily in the last decade.  Never before were there so many things in such good design for so little money.

"When I first started designing, it was because I was literally driven to it," she says.  "My mother loved pretty handkerchiefs and I found it nearly impossible to get her something really lovely at the price I could pay. That was how I started."

Tammis Keefe now also designs glasses. shower curtains, drapery and upholstery fabrics, table linens  and towels, dress fabrics and scarves.

Practically everything finds its way to a Tammis Keefe handkerchief sooner or later: watches, antiques, hitching posts and weather vanes, Persian people and animals, Christmas angels and ornaments. But no more nosegays and ribbons. 
Keefe's point about American taste is more than just a note of patriotism. After the war, the European fashion industry, led by Paris, sought to resume exports of its products to the American market. At the same time leaders in American retailing, such as Dorothy Shaver, president of Lord & Taylor, strove to promote American design and production. 

Also interesting is Keefe's ability to "cross over" from fashion accessories into home furnishings. Although this is now common - think Ralph Lauren for the home, not to mention Calvin Klein - I think this was unusual for the late 1950's.  The research continues...