Sunday, May 20, 2012

Getting Piccy Over Steiff's Playful Pelicans

Ok, Steiffgal admits it.  She sometimes gets a little "Piccy" when it comes to Steiff treasures. So it should come as no surprise that she has a special thing for one particular and unusual Steiff bird breed - their pelicans!  Let's take a look at Steiff's classic "big beaked" beauties, and see what makes them so interesting from a design perspective.

Bird's the word when it comes to these yellow fellows.  Steiff's Piccy pelicans were produced in 17 and 25 cm from 1959 through 1961 only.  Both sizes are standing and unjointed.  They are made from yellow mohair that seems to have a touch of pink airbrushed highlighting to it.  Their wings are stretched facing back, as if they are about to take off in flight.  Their oversized feet are made from yellow felt that has been detailed brown and grey stripes.  They are partially lined in metal wires and are somewhat posable.  Each also has a simple half-circle tail lined in a metal wire; it is posable as well.  And of course, their faces - which only a mama pelican or Steiff enthusiast would love.  The tops of their heads are finished in longish yellow mohair, in somewhat of a "mullet" style.  Each has black and white goofy "google" style round eyes.  Their huge, show-stopping beaks are made from yellow felt.  The insides of the beaks are lined in jagged-cut, shiny yellow patent-leather looking material, to simulate their teeth. 

Piccy is a playful and delightful example of Steiff's late 1950's - early 1960's era creativity.  It is interesting to note that there were many other somewhat "unconventional" (i.e. not usually considered cuddly creatures) yet beloved Steiff patterns launched within the same time frame, most also incorporating unusual materials, like Piccy's teeth, which are shown in extreme close up here on the left.  A few examples include:

  • Eric the Bat, produced in 10 and 17 cm from 1960 through 1962.  His tiny, mouse-like body was constructed from gray-brown mohair. His thin wings were made from plastic-like sheeting. His arms and legs were gray pipe cleaners, while his ears were felt.
  • Crabby the Lobster, produced in 10, 17, and 28 cm from 1963 through 1966. The larger size was mohair; the smaller sizes were felt.  He had black eyes, eight bright, orange bendable pipe-cleaner legs, and bright orange string antenna. 
  • Nelly the Snail, produced in 10 cm from 1961 through 1963.    Nelly had a velvet body; the bottom was tan and the top was either brown or green. She had tall, plastic antennae (which had a tendency to snap off during normal play), black bead eyes, and a large, swirled plastic shell to match her body color.  
Based on his good looks and charming personality, Piccy was one of the "Steiff Covermodels" chosen for its 1960 "Steiff Zoo Series" of commercial postcards.  These were a series of 20 full color, standard sized 3" x 5" cardboard postcards, each featuring a number of popular Steiff animals from the period, in a funny or authentic natural setting.  The postcards were made by Nyack Art, of West Nyack, New York, and published by the The Block Importing Company, Inc., Richmond, Virginia.  In his postcard - pictured above - Piccy is featured holding Steiff's 40 cm silk plush trout, a highly coveted United States exclusive from 1950.  The back of his card reads, ""Piccy" the Pelican catches a favorite appetizer."

Steiffgal hopes this discussion of Steiff's Piccy pelican design has been as delightful as a summer's day on the beach for you.  

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