1/15/15

Hand-made Vintage Beany & Cecil Statue! (details unknown)

We are nearing the end of my trove of Beany & Cecil collectibles, and we still haven't even covered my rarest, and most unusual, piece.  And I haven't even had it that long! Last year, I was skulking my favorite thrift store, which I try to do at least three times a week, when my eye caught something at the other end of the store.  It was green, vertical...and my brain suddenly locked onto it.  As I began to head that way, walking faster, my strangely disconnected mental inventory began to suggest to me that it was Cecil, the Sea-Sick Sea Serpent! Could it be a Soakie (bubble-bath type vintage product) bottle? The next thing I saw was a wooden base...a lamp of some kind? There were such things...and by then, I was close enough to see what was lying beside it..........in pieces! Egads, the find of the century, and I don't even know what it is, and it's broken!
I began to pick up the pieces, my poor, disjointed brain still reeling in the throes of "thrift-store discovery ecstasy," and it quit sending me suggestions as to what I was looking at.  The largest piece was definitely Beany Boy...followed by a leg...and then a foot...and then some crumbs.  Was this thing even fixable?
Stream-of-consciousness thoughts began to form, and then taper off...did some disgruntled thrift-store employee just chunk it on the shelf, haphazardly?  Why, the nerve of...but then again, maybe it was the method in which it was donated, so it wasn't even packed right...or somebody died, and it was cleaned out of their belongings....or a maniacal ex-wife threw it out.....
I snapped back to reality, and began to carefully place the existing pieces together.  The good news was that it appeared to have broken in the store, so it should all be accounted for...and it was!  The pieces pretty much fit together very well, so this treasure could be repaired....but what in the world was it?
The ending to my thrift-store adventure was that I took it to the front, showed them it was broken, and got a 50% discount (yeah, I know, but I wasn't about to argue).  The girl did say, "well, at least you can restore it, and put it back together again!"
After carefully transporting it home, I took inventory of exactly what I had.  I neglected to take photos of the wooden plaque that was used for a base, but it had an old-looking rubber stamp on the bottom from a woodworking company in Dallas.  The address included a ZIP code, which means it the oldest it can be is 1963...which is just the base, of course.  It could have been added at a different time.
And now to the materials...exactly what was this object made of? I've had some experience with different materials, and the natural choice would be Sculpy, but the problem here is that both characters are SOLID.  The assembled statue is heavy, and there's no way that Sculpy would bake thoroughly...in fact, you would build over a "filler" like balls of tin foil because of that fact.
Take a look at these pairs of photos, both with and without a flash:

You can see that the innermost core of the material is yellow, and the outside is almost pink.  The characters are held to the base by large wood screws.  Here is another view:

The yellow color reminds me of dental-stone.  This is the material that was always used by dental labs to make positive models of the impressions taken of patients' teeth.  The problem with this theory is, dental stone is mixed up as a liquid, like plaster, and then pored into a mold.  There would be no way to do any sculpting to it, and the characters have evidence of some sculpting being done, and also exhibit several fingerprints from the maker.
The material crumbled pretty easily at the break, but was otherwise very solid and dense...was there some sort of modeling material sold in vintage craft stores that would allow for this sort of method?  It's certainly not plaster; it's the wrong color and completely the wrong density.
So, maybe some "real" sculptor's clay that has to be fired in a kiln?
Luckliy, everything came back together very tightly--and, I should point out, Beany's propeller somehow avoided any damage in the handling of the piece, which is a miracle.  I will admit to one other restoration, though--Cecil had no eyelashes, only blank spots where they used to be, and it made him look just WRONG.  So, a trip to a craft store to procure some purple felt was in order.
I've unearthed a few mysteries on this blog, and I hope I have solved a few as well, but you can add this one to the pile.  Was this made by a devoted fan? Is it some sort of maquette? How old is it? I hope the photos show the level of detail involved.  It's not only expertly painted (with some high-quality paints, too, as they have stood the test of time), but the detail is admirable.  Cecil has the baggy folds that suggest he is a puppet.  Beany is squatty and proportional.  And what in the world is it made of?  Something somebody smuggled home from work, bought somewhere, or had lying around professionally??? And how in the world did it get to the American South????
I'm just cynical enough to know that I will probably never get answers to these questions, but one thing is for sure:  I will treasure this piece, which will sit at the top of my Beany & Cecil items in perpetuity.  Whoever you are, just know it has found a good home.

7 comments:

Christopher Sobieniak said...

Great collection otherwise. I would assume regular clay was used to build both characters there (unless it's not ceramic. I'm sure you could bake it in an oven to harden it, I don't recall i they had Sculpy back then). I also wondered if these could be maquettes used in animating those characters. It's a long-shot, but just thought I had in mind while seeing these. Whatever the case, the artist did a fine job getting on this effort.

Sampoerna Quatrain said...

I know! And I have this feeling that I will never get a definitive answer, unless somebody happens to see it on my obscure blog, and knows something!

Christopher Sobieniak said...

I am Facebook pals with Ruth Clampett (Bob's daughter). I could ask her if she may know.

Sampoerna Quatrain said...

Sweeeeet! That would be awesome; please pass it on!!

Christopher Sobieniak said...

I'll see.

Eric said...

I suspect your initial thought of Sculpy is correct. The color is right. I also think it's likely a piece of fan art from way back when. Today there's lots high quality pop culture figures available to collectors and fans, but back then there wasn't, had to make your own. The person who sculpted the characters probably didn't know enough to make a hollow interior. The outside would have baked solid (supported be being a different color) and the interior would have simply dried out. If it was truly made decades ago, the sculpy would have most likely continued drying out over the years. Great find.

Sampoerna Quatrain said...

Thanks, Eric! Your suspicions support my own-- I just wasn't 100% sure of how long Sculpey had been around...but according to Wikipedia, since the 1960's, becoming popular in the latter part of that decade! The mystery deepens!