The Museum of Wonder and Delight at the Folsom Historical Society in Folsom, CA, is the brainchild of creative director and curator Dolph Gotelli. He started with a collection of vintage toys, international folk art, antique dolls and Christmas ephemera. The museum now contains three galleries with whimsical settings and themed exhibitions. Currently, one such exhibit is shopping bags.
As Gotelli says, “Today’s shopping bags in paper, plastic and fabric communicate a wide variety of messages around the world. Going beyond marketing and function, colorful graphic designs on bags represent a broad range of interests in popular culture—trends, lifestyles, special events, holidays and more. Those ubiquitous shopping bags speak volumes without any verbal communication.”
The first bag was invented by Walter H. Deubner, a Minnesota grocery store owner. He sold them in 1913 for 5 cents apiece. Customers bought more merchandise when he made it easier for them to carry their goods home. Swedish engineer Sten Gustaf Thulin invented a process for producing plastic bags in the early 1960s.
“Joseph Magnin, the once-famous California department store, was well known for its cleverly designed Christmas gift boxes with unique forms and graphics from the 1960s to the 1980s,” Gotelli adds. The store’s art director, Margaret Larsen, established a tradition of designing boxes with varied content each year. “Unusual categories as architecture, musical instruments and confections were subjects for some of her elaborate creations. Collecting these gift boxes motivated customers to return to the store and buy more merchandise until they collected complete sets.”
I asked Gotelli to chat a little more about the collection and its significance. (Photographs by Barry Schwartz.)
The bags and boxes make an impressive assemblage. What is the viewer’s takeaway?
The variety of the artist’s creativity in the variety of “selling” their particular subject. Bags can market businesses, lifestyles, causes, celebrities, countries, fashion, politics, luxury, etc.
How many are there in the show (and what was the criteria for selection)?
Out of my collection of over 3,000 bags, I curated it down to 800. The criteria was to present the best graphic designs that fit the subject of my categories used for the display: art, fashion, retail, attractions, celebrations, edibles, eco-green, etc.
Who were the designers associated with these works, and why is there such visual diversity?
There were famous graphic designers as Canadian Marian Bantjes, works by Toulouse Latrec, Walt Disney.
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