I’ve got Peggy’s Gravel Art! (Well, half of it)

 Posted by on August 29, 2012 at 6:59 am  Mad Men, Retro
Aug 292012

The production designers of Mad Men have consistently and exquisitely recreated the look and feel of the 1960’s. I have always loved how everything from the ashtrays to coupons on the refrigerator were spot on.  Another aspect that MM does quite well is in the art of the period.  Now we all know Bert’s Mark Rothko and Midge’s money-for-heroin art, but, as I mentioned in a previous post, there are two pieces of art in Peggy’s apartment that intrigued me from the moment I first noticed them in Sit Down, Have a Seat.  Just behind Don as he sat on Peggy’s couch, you could see the bottom third of an image of a man sitting on the ground, playing a flute. I know I had seen it somewhere in my 60’s childhood, but unfortunately I still can’t remember where, most likely at a friend’s house.  But it had a magical quality about it and that beautiful, sleek mid-century touch.

Then when I saw the mate next to Peggy’s art this season in At The Codfish Ball, (with the two women) my curiosity was peaked. So I started to investigate this unusual art style, and discovered that it is gravel art; a common do-it-yourself kitschy craft project of the time. Gravel art was created by gluing black yarn onto wooden panels to outline the pre-printed design in the kit.  The gravel, (and sometimes beads and gold cord) were glued into the outlines, creating the final look. And within an hour, all the suburban Betty Drapers would have a sleek, contemporary piece that friends would rave about at their next cocktail party.

Gravel art kits were found in any toy or department store at the time. The Mosette kits were created by artist Jane Gaylor in 1960. The designs featured bright colorful pieces that ranged from cutesy (elves) to international (geishas). She sold her designs to Craft Master,Paint by Numbers of Toledo in 1964 and stayed on for three more kits. The styling of the pieces was contemporary chic; with lots of exotic scenes, like kabuki theater, flamenco dancers, Calypso performers and, in Peggy’s case, Moroccan style marketplace types, swathed in beige, orange, and turquoise robes. I suspect that the travel element was one of the biggest attractions to these pieces; with lots of happy, playful and highly idealized idylls of exotic lifestyles.  and just the kind of places that some mothers could only dream of to escape housekeeping blues.

Searching eBay, I found a photo of an actual Mosette catalog, and there, along with scary clowns and pink poodles, was the elusive North African set.  Unfortunately, it was too small to see its title, but it gave me something to work with, and I eventually found a more detailed catalog page (at right) of the very design I sought.  The pieces were titled Market Place and Market Place Boys. I bookmarked ‘Mosette’ and ‘Gravel Art’ into my eBay searches, and after two months or so, was thrilled to find Market Place, and  snatched it up immediately.  As I expected for a nearly half-century old piece, the actual piece isn’t perfect; the frame has a few scratches and the image itself has a brownish tinge from its previous owner’s cigarette smoke, but it still bright in its color and sleek in design and I just love it!

Glancing at the catalog page again, I realized a strange distinction between the printed design and Peggy’s pieces.   The standing man in the catalog Market Place Boys was robed in turquoise, but the one in Peggy’s is robed in white.  Peggy’s pieces are also larger than mine, (the design came in 12”x 36” as well as 8”x 24”).  Could Peggy’s be recreations of the originals, or the real thing?  Having seen the intricate period detail of MM props in the past,  I think they’re real, but now I’ll have to be sure that any companion piece I buy is the smaller size.  The dealer described the piece I bought as “on the rare side” so I’m hopeful that I will eventually unearth its perfect mate.  Of course, if you know anyone who has a spare 8”x24” copy of Market Place Boys who wants to sell it, let me know!

So now that I’ve discovered the secret of Peggy’s art, I have to ask: Does this make Peggy a secret crafter? Her sister could have made them, although I think her sister would go more for the poodles and scary clowns whereas Peggy’s taste is a bit more modern, global, and unconventional.

Want to see more gravel art? See my tumblr blog here and scroll down.

Do you have a memory of, or do you actually still own, any special 60s kitsch favorite?  Let’s hear about it!


  13 Responses to “I’ve got Peggy’s Gravel Art! (Well, half of it)”

  1. I do remember gravel art! We had them in our house when I was a kid in the 1960’s, though I can’t remember what was pictured. I don’t remember my mother making them, so she must have bought them. I’ll be visiting her in a couple of weeks for the Jewish holidays, so I’ll check and see. For all I know she may still have them stored away somewhere.

  2. I remember making gravel art as a kid, and knowing my mother, she probably still has them stored in a closet somewhere! She also STILL HAS ON THE WALL a parrot that was similar to gravel art but made with colored bits of glass.

    BTW the artist that actually painted Midge’s “heroin art” is a local woman here in Sonoma county. Her name escapes me at the moment, but we went to visit her studio earlier this year. If anyone is interested I can try to dig up the link to her site…

  3. Great post! I think Peggy would have had those pieces for a very long time, at least since secretarial school. It seems like something Katherine would have her daughters do

  4. I had the pink poodles in my bedroom during the 1960’s. My friend and I made them during a long hot summer when we were12 or so, thought we were too cool. It took forever for the glue to dry due to the high humidity and lack of a/c and my little brother messed up the eyes of one dog but they stayed on that wall until I was 50. That was when we sold the house and moved my Mom into a nursing home. Kinda sad and kinda funny

    • I think pink poodles was one of those design elements that once it was introduced, became a permanent fixture in popular design!
      Sorry about your Mom, hope she did well.

  5. Another relic from the 60s that I loved was the old style tension pole lights. They featured 3-5 lights attached to a long spring action pole that you’d mount from floor to ceiling. My two oldest sisters shared the third floor of our house as their ‘apartment’, and they had the coolest lamp. It had three globes coming off of it, in red, yellow, and aqua blue. The globes were a thick plastic (Lucite?). I seem to recall that the exteriors had matching squiggles of drizzled plastic over it, (called spun spaghetti) but I could be wrong.the interiors were lumpy and encrusted with a much rougher, geode-like texture. I love looking at them at night, like three mysterious planets bobbing in the distance.
    Here’s an example of a tension pole light.
    Man. I’d love to have than back! My kids would love it.

    • Gee do I feel old! But I had one of those in my bedroom too, the bulbs got really hot and would melt little green army men, as my brother and his friends found out. He did grow up to be a kind and responsible adult by the way.

      • lol Donna! Speaking of melting things, see if you remember this — a board game we had in the ’60’s was Green Ghost. It features a big green ghost that glowed in the dark, and little green ghosts that you had to find. There were ‘skeleton keys’ that you would open little platform doors with, and to get the ghosts to glow, we found that you could stick them to a light bulb and they’d glow quickly– of course they melted onto the bulb too! But, of course, that made them more ghostly! Did anyone here have Green Ghost?


  6. Wow— GREAT find.

    I really enjoy the way you incorporate the art into Peggy as a character. Does this mean she is a crafter–or simply has held on to these pieces of art and placed them in her adult/living-in-sin apartment to seem more sophisticated?

    And with such detail, too. I’m going to add a link to this article on my blog—-definitely look at “How to Buy Art Like Bert Cooper”–a modern day how-to, but I think in terms of historical reference, you’ve got me way beat!


  7. Update! Just came across this set on eBay! It’s the much bigger set, but it’s in a different color scheme than Peggy’s.(blander, in cream and beige). I’m not going to get this one, but wait for a mate to mine, but if any of you want some Peggy art, here you go!

    • Funny, the listing implies that it is some authentic piece of Middle Eastern art, rather than a craft kit someone bought at the 60s equivalent of Michael’s.

  8. Would be interesting to compare Peggy’s gravel art with Pete’s Witco cats in terms of cost and style. Thanks for an interesting and informative post!

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