A paper tale

Polish paper sculpture of man and umbrella

I received a lovely book in the post a couple of weeks ago, from a friend who also has shelves full of stuff, both metaphorically speaking and in reality. The book The New Practical Display Instructor dates from 1954 and is full of ideas and step-by-step recipes for the window display practitioner in your life.

The Instructor was printed by the Blandford Press, printers of many similar sorts of books in the first half of the 20th Century, some of which I already had on my shelves. The Practical Display Instructor books were produced regularly and – particularly in view of their low production values – seem to have been the Dummies Guides of their day. But the photographs were usually updated with each edition, making the books great for researching changing trends in window display.

Paper cutting and paper sculpture was a skill that was peculiarly Polish, developing out of a common folk art into a fine art. It came to England and America, like so many aspects of shop window display, with the arrival of émigré artists fleeing Nazism in the 30s and 40s.

The only remaining evidence of these artists is often found in these funny window display books, which almost always have a chapter on paper sculpture. The cracker pictured here is credited to Jan J Kepinski & Associates. It was obviously chosen as an exemplary example of the genre. But who was Jan J Kepinski? Where did he work?

And through whose shop windows did this chipper gent stroll, in his jaunty checked trews, trying to keep his magnificent beard dry under his paper umbrella?

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