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My frightening brush with Lladro

I have exactly once in my life lusted after a porcelain figurine. It was a fake Lladro. In a Kmart, I think. Some upmarket joint like that.

It was a goose girl, in that horrible, shiny, willowy Lladro style. They must have cast the goose separately, then cast the girl, then finished the two together. It was supposed to be snug in her arms. The problem is, slipcast porcelain has a memory. When fired, it likes to revert to the original shape it was cast in.

So when this one was fired, the arms peeled away, leaving the goose improbably stuck to the girl’s stomach and her hands flung out in a classic Ta-Dum!! gesture. The weird thing is, that happened in the preliminary firing, and whoever it was went ahead and glazed it and finished it.

Maybe they had a “no throwaway” policy in that factory. Or maybe the Chinese think Westerners are so mind-bendingly weird that it wouldn’t matter.

Which, actually, was true. I wanted that thing badly.

But it was something like $15 at a time when I was living on Ramen noodles at five packets for a buck. Still, I stood in front of it for ages, staring at it with a terrible longing.

I was going to call it, “and now for my next trick.”

April 24, 2007 — 9:15 am
Comments: 6

Define “precious”


You know, this thing is so vomitously godawful, I feel cheap laughing at it. Lucky for you, I’m pretty comfortable feeling cheap.

Sam Butcher is an illustrator, in the venerable Big-Eyed Children school of American art. Don’t feel bad for him. He might be aesthetically retarded, but he must also be terribly fucking rich by now. Perhaps those two conditions are not entirely unrelated. His ’70s grotesques are the basis of Precious Moments figurines — one of the Holy Trinity of the Church of Knick-Knack, along with Lladro and Hummel. In gratitude for his success, Sam built for us all the Precious Moments Chapel in Carthage, Missouri.

This is not mere weaselsnark. Sam hisself claims he was inspired by the Sistine Chapel. Possibly in the same way one would be inspired by an industrial pressure cooker accident: there is shit all over the walls, the ceiling…everywhere.

On the lefthand wall, the Old Testament As Acted Out by Precious Moments Figurines. On the righthand wall, the New Testament As Acted Out by Precious Moments Figurines. The far wall, the Last Judgement, both cuter and yet somehow more horrible than I pictured it, Acted Out by Precious Moments Figurines. On the ceiling, big-eyed angels sing thee home to rest.

Since I am not only cheap, but also lazy, let me nick the description from Roadside America:

People reverently look up at magical scenes covering nearly every surface. Scenes from Genesis — two baby angels with flash lights illustrate “And God said let there be Light.” And god created Earth — several dead baby angels, including one of two black angels, play basketball with the earth.

At the back wall of the Chapel is its defining mural, Hallelujah Square. It depicts a new dead child being welcomed to heaven by Timmy Angel. Other dead children angels hold signs saying “Welcome To Your Heavenly Home.” The sign with “Welcome” written on it is held wrong side up, as cute children will sometimes do. Others in Hallelujah Square romp and frolic. In the exact center of the mural is a ministering Christ. He is the only adult depicted in the chapel.

The effect of the work (including a Michelangelo-like painted ceiling) on the assembled crowd is haunting. No babies cry (“They never do,” says our guide.) Adults looking at the cartoons are stock still.

One mixed-media mural shows “The Second Coming,” in which painted clouds part and a painted Jesus appears to a collection of Precious Moments porcelain miniatures, some driving tiny cars.

In a pew-filled back room — still part of the tour — past stained glass Precious Moments windows, is a shivering tribute to Butcher’s son, Philip, who was killed by a drunk driver. On the wall is a large painting of Philip’s bedroom when he was a child, featuring Philip surrounded by his siblings. Above them on puffy clouds, baby angels hold signs saying “Welcome Home, Philip.” Philip was 30 when he died, but nowhere in the room is he shown as an adult.

I’ve never been there. I’m not sure my kitsch gland is strong enough to take it I found this websurfing last night. I woke up this morning smelling of cotton candy and bile.

Further reading: Read the whole rest of Roadside America — it’s always fun. Peteena‘s covered it — that whole site is fun, too. This guy has a very thorough photo album of his trip to the Chapel.

— 8:36 am
Comments: 28