When I worked in New York City back in the 1980s, my favorite place to shop was the flagship Bloomingdale's department store on East 59th Street. This massive store takes up an entire city block, from Lexington to Third Avenue. Bloomies has always been know for innovation and finding ways to set their stores apart. Back in the 1960s, they made retail history by introducing the first "designer" shopping bag. For three decades, Bloomingdales produced an ever-changing series of paper bags featuring the work of famous and fledgling artists, architects, graphic designers, photographers and fashion designers. Raising the medium to the level of fine art, these bags came into their own as highly collectible design objects.
From my shopping days in the mid-80s, I saved four of these collectible bags. Stashed in a bin under a bed, my intent was to some day mount them on a wall. When I came across these relics decades later, I wrote a post about them and was surprised to receive numerous emails from people who eagerly collect them. One nice lady, a Manhattanite, was desperate to buy all four. I figured they weren't doing anyone any good under the bed, so several months ago, I took the train in to meet her at Grand Central Terminal's information booth to complete the transaction.
However, I only sold her three of them, saving my favorite one — the Statue of Liberty bag. I had a special purpose for it, and now that my daughter moved into the city, it was finally time to follow through with my plan.
Hannah and her roommates have a very nice apartment with a very bare wall above their kitchen table. So last week, I headed to the Artists' Market, a beautiful framing shop and gallery in Norwalk Connecticut, to see if they could help me turn my Bloomies bag into art.
Artists' Market owner Jeffrey Price and I discussed how best to display the bag which features a two-sided woodcut by illustrator Anthony Russo. We decided to carefully open the bag at the seam and frame it flat. For a bit of whimsy and to show that this was once a shopping bag, we left the bright yellow plastic handles at the top. I love how it turned out.
John, Jacob and I trekked into the city last night to have dinner with Hannah and present her with the finished piece as a housewarming gift. We helped hang it on the kitchen wall and I am happy to report that she and her roommates are very pleased with it. Doesn't it look nice?
To me, this framed bag stands for many things. It pays homage to Lady Liberty, shopping, New York, and a classic department store. It is also a welcome reminder of my days in the city, when in my early twenties, Manhattan was the only place I wanted to be. Now it's Hannah's place, too.