August 15th, 2017
I was fairly excited this week to complete the four Packard winged-swan hood ornaments. One is of the all-metal variety; three were just bodies designed for illuminated Lucite wings. I am fairly confident that the one all-metal and two of the illuminated ornaments are genuine Packard. One of the Lucite winged birds has a noticeable design variation that leads me to believe that it is an aftermarket knock-off, but one done very close to the genuine Packard style. I was a preschooler when Packard started putting these swan (some refer to them as cormorants) hood ornaments on their vehicles, so I do not remember them when they were relatively new on the road. Plus, we did not live in an area where Packards were common. Packard's only real competition was Cadillac - there was one of those in our neighborhood in the mid-fifties.
Above are the '48 Packard and a '48 Caddy. The vertical wings of the Packard ornament are a prominent feature and led to many aftermarket copies for those who aspired to Packard but couldn't afford them. I have seen knock-off swans mounted to a number of other hood ornaments - using the stock ornament as a base for the Packard bird. What I have not been able to confirm is whether the lighted swan-wing ornaments were available from Packard as an option or whether they were strictly aftermarket. The body shape is identical to the all-metal, factory Packard, but that would be easy to accomplish. Cadillac used the flying goddess and continued her through the early '50s. Cadillac's signature feature was the tail-fin.
Another item that I am excited about is a 1950 Chevy bird emblem. Chevy had used bird-based designs previously, but this was a new, modern design which they used in various forms through the 1956 model year. I have been looking for an affordable example for some time and I found one just last week. This one has the usual amount of corrosion/patina for its age, but the tail is broken off. This is not significant to me, because it does not detract from the bird image and I can simulate the missing tail length with the carving of the mounting.
As you can see above, the bird arrived with pretty heavy corrosion (polite word is "patina"). I cleaned the right side with a rotary brass brush in my 1/2 inch drill. I will clean the other side and the under-side, then begin to shape a block of wood to mount it on. The original ornament was 16 inches long; this one is missing the last two inches, which includes the second mounting stud. I plan to carve the shape of the tail into the block of wood and I will have to fashion a new mounting stud or socket into the remaining tail. I actually enjoy working with slightly damaged examples because it provides greater opportunity for creativity in the process of mounting. Remember, it is not my intent to restore these items, but to create art with them as they come to me.
Finally, I am in process of making new display shelves for the office. The shelves above left were in place when we bought this house. They were obviously prefabricated, not of very high quality and not suited to the room. They do not maximize use of the available space, so I have designed shelves that are deeper, wider and have four shelves in place of just three. I hope to utilize them to display ornaments from nine classic brands of automobiles: Cadillac/Oldsmobile, Buick, Pontiac, Chevrolet, Ford, Plymouth, Studebaker and Packard. Why these brands? you ask. Different reasons, but largely because they have had interesting ornaments over the decades of the early 20th century. I've never been a particular fan of Plymouth, Packard or Studebaker, but they unquestionably have produced an interesting string of hood ornaments. While Plymouth adhered closely to the ship motif, Packard designed a wide variety of shapes and sizes . . . as did Studebaker. My Dad owned two early Buicks and I learned to drive in his second: a '51 Special 2-door hardtop. There are other brands of cars that I admire, but Porsche, VW, Mercedes and Jaguar were very narrow in their ornament/emblem design - together they would hardly fill one shelf. So I have focused on these brands. I found that I need to focus, because there are an awful lot of hood ornaments out there and one person can only do so much. I would rather do a few marques well than just a haphazard smattering of everything.
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I am still trying new show venues to find those that provide the most effective exposure for my works.