I've always loved vintage papier-mâché items, like banks and other figurines you always see at antique malls and on etsy and ebay (I shared a lot here a couple years ago). There's always lots of papier-mâché to be found when looking at vintage holiday decor as well. But it's only recently that I started noticing these busts/faces more and more. I started faving them a lot on etsy and ebay and I finally noticed that there was a particular artist that created a lot of them back in the 60's, Gemma Tacogna (and then I remembered a blog post on Cathy of California's blog that I read a while back all about Gemma).
As she mentioned on her blog, Gemma's work was really popular, but manufacturers started copying her work and mass producing it, and that prompted her to stop creating them as much (really sad). A lot of them definitely look like her work - and I think the girl that I have in blue with the hat on is probably a knock-off (you can tell which ones are the originals right off by the price tag that comes with them!) I think collecting Gemma's pieces would be such a worthy investment... definitely something you'd have to collect slowly.
Thanks to saved searches on Ebay, I stumbled onto the larger bust above last week and just FELL IN LOVE with her. I haven't seen anything like her before and the artist (or manufacturer) name is "De Sela". I searched the name on Ebay and several other items came up, although not half as grand as she. I count myself very lucky that I found her.
I was quite shocked how BIG the larger bust was when I received her in the mail and once you get past her balloon-like head, you realize just how beautiful the hand-painting is, especially on the face (and I love the mod flowers painted on the base!). One of the things I love about these vintage paper-mache items is how bright and saturated the colors usually are. The nature of paper-mache is pretty fragile, so I'm always amazed at how many I see, still holding up.
I would SO love to try my hand at sixties style paper mache. I've seen lots of vintage craft books with projects ranging from super cute to quite garish (ha). Here are some lovely ones I found around the web, a couple originals by Gemma. I love the idea of making some bangle bracelets. As much as I love vintage bakelite (and other plastic) vintage bangles, I can't handle the constant clanking noise. I would think paper-mache would be a nice substitute! Not so loud. ; )
Sources (starting in the center, then top left and around clock-wise):
I literally gasped out loud when I saw that hanger #5. Just wow.