Thursday, August 6, 2015

Vintage Tattoo Designs

Way back when, my grandfather, Jim Harmon, was a tattoo artist. I'm not entirely certain of the time period, but I think it must have been during the 1930s, when he was in his 20s and living on his own in D.C. The first tattoo he ever created was on his thigh--an easy spot to work on, but he did it right-side-up when he was looking at it--which meant it was upside down for everyone else. He was so embarrassed, he never wore a swimsuit at the beach; instead, he always wore long pants so no one could see his mistake. I never saw the upside down tattoo on his leg, but it's one of the many stories I heard over the years.

One of the coolest things we found in my grandparents' things last year was a small three-ring notebook with 31 pages of tattoo designs drawn my by grandfather. My grandmother had kept it in a trunk full of family memorabilia. Some of the designs are classic naval tattoos, while others hint at my grandfather's interest in Surrealism.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

James Harmon Artwork, part one

The best part of dealing with the estate last year was finding hidden family gems. I knew there was some family material stored on the trailers, and I knew that included some paintings done by my grandfather, James Harmon. I had never seen his artwork, so it was a real treat when we found it.

This is the first of several blog posts featuring my grandfather's artwork. This batch of paintings on canvas were found removed from their stretchers and rolled up together.

Self-portrait, 1941.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Benrus '50s Bling

This is one of my favorite wristwatches, not because it's of any particular importance, but because it embodies both local history and a snazzy design that is best described as '50s bling. (Or maybe late '40s bling.) I love the retro irony--today we would consider this to be a woman's watch, but when it was new, it was decidedly masculine.

Take a look at this watch. It's got a gold-plated case (plain steel on the back), encrusted with 14 fake diamonds; the dial boasts 8 fake diamonds (two are missing) and 5 fake rubies, arranged in an unabashedly tacky design. It's so camp, you have to love it.