1960 to 1969 linoleum block Christmas cards — an artist’s special gift to her daughter

midcentury linoleum block printOh my, this story is over-the-moon wonderful. June is a regular reader and contributor to the blog. Over on the Merry Kitschmas Facebook group, Pam saw her mention that her mother had made linoleum-block Christmas cards featuring June as a child during the 1960s. Would June send us photos to consider for the blog, we asked? Yes, June would. And here we have them: 10 years of linoblock plates made by June’s mother, artist Gertie Albert. This series of annual family Christmas cards captures sweetheart moments of June’s childhood — through the eyes of a mother clearly intent on savoring these precious years.

mom and daughter

June with her mother, 1960.

June writes:

After 23 years of marriage and no children, my parents finally decided to adopt. An only child, I was born in June, ’59. Starting in 1960, my artist mom (an avid Christmas card sender) decided to get creative and make Christmas-theme linoleum block prints — using me as the ‘main character.’  Starting in the fall of 1960, she made a new linoleum block each year, for the next 10. She left me much of her artwork, and these linoleum blocks are some of my very favorite.

midcentury linoleum block print

1960 – “First Xmas.” June says she had this very first block I had printed off for Christmas the year her mom (at age 93) passed away.  She waited too long to remove the ink – and now can’t remove it….

Here’s the background story of the lino blocks.  It’s long — but I wanted to give the readers a bit of idea how the artwork was thought out and where it came from.

midcentury linoleum block print

1961 – “Mama’s Helper”

Born in 1917, my mom Gertie Albert lived a very long, loving and prolific life as an artist, homemaker, wife and mother.  She was an outstanding student in high school earning her entrance into the NHS, and received a scholarship to college, however, it was during those years that the depression hit, and she didn’t have the money for the ‘car fare’ to take her to and from school.  She worked as a secretary – making $7/week –  (although I’m SURE she could have run any business)  and during the WWII worked for Libby McNeil Company and Pullman trains in Chicago.

In the 50s, before I was born, she was finally able to attend the Art Institute of Chicago during the 50s, before I was born.  There she primarily studied ceramics, but also a variety of other media, which included linoleum block print-making.

midcentury linoleum block print

1962 – “Bunnies Christmas Treat”

After I came along, our family moved a total of six times (my parents moved a total of 21 times!!!) The block prints represent different times and interests – the little dog featured in several of the prints was ‘my’ toy fox terrier, Spot.

midcentury linoleum block print

1963 –  “Spot under the Mistletoe”

I was about three when I started to BEG my parents for a dog.  Spot was found in a litter on a farm in Indiana — one of the places my father travelled while working as a Territorial Sales Manager for International Harvester.

midcentury linoleum block print

1964 – “Guests for Christmas”

midcentury linoleum block print

1965 – “Christmas on the High Plains”

When I was six, we moved to Kansas, and I became ‘horse crazy.’  In second grade I became friends with my teacher, who just happened to have a couple of horses and a mule named “Ladybird” (after the First Lady).  On Saturdays, my Mom would drive me to meet my teacher at the stables… therefore the print with me on the horse, although “Ladybird” was actually my ‘ride.’

midcentury linoleum block print

1966 – “How NOT to Carol”

midcentury linoleum block print

1967 – “Learning Clarinet Noel”

Age seven was learning the clarinet – including the ‘painful’ practicing that had accompanying ‘squeakers’.  I’m certain Spot suffered almost as much as my parents with this nightly routine.

midcentury linoleum block print

1968 – “Hamster Hambone’s Xmas”

When I was eight, my parents got me a hamster, “Hambone.”  One evening Hambone escaped from his cage, managed to slip into a closet where my mom had one of her prized ‘seed’ collages.  By the time we caught up to the little devil, he’d managed to shove much of the seeds into his cheek pouches! I’m certain that event spurred that year’s lino block.

midcentury linoleum block print

1969 – “Christmas in the Desert”

In 1969, we made a move that for my parents would last the next 30 years.  After visiting friends in Scottsdale, Arizona, for many years, one Christmas my mom proclaimed ‘never to return to the mid-west.’  My parents ended up purchasing a little 3bd/2ba Hallcraft tract home – for which I recently found the original paperwork.  $24,900.  Pretty good investment I’d say!!!  And, therefore, the last lino block design was made of me sitting in the desert.

I’ve been asked whether I took after my Mom and did any art.  Although I didn’t study art formally, growing up around an artist and around art has seemed to have rubbed off. I taught elementary school for 16 years, and ALWAYS included some type of art in my daily routine with the kids. My home is filled with all types of art — a lot of it my Mothers and other work I’ve purchased, usually at antique or second-hand stores. As with many, tastes change and the feeling of nostalgia becomes strong as the years fly by.  I’m blessed to have had the childhood, the experiences and my parents years of wisdom, patience and love. I’m truly thankful to be able to ‘hold on’ to treasures made by someone who loved me so.

santa-planterJune is being humble — she is an accomplished artist, too, creating lovely vintage Christmas ornament wreaths and arrangements and selling them in her etsy shop, Retro Wreaths. Pam bought the Santa planter + bottlebrush tree that June made (shown above) as a gift for her own mother last year.

What amazing treasures your linoblock plates are, June. Thank you so much for sharing them, along with memories of your loving and talented mother. xoxo

Be-Safe-graphic2.3

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Comments

  1. Wendy M. says

    What sweet pictures your mother created and how wonderful you still have them! This is a wonderful story…thank you for sharing it with us. Merry Christmas!

  2. Jacki says

    What treasures and memories you have in your hands and how awesome that you still have these. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to print some of these and send them out one year. It would be interesting to learn more about linoleum block printing and it’s history. BTW, I also live in Scottsdale, and it is a great place to live.

    • June Cahill says

      I’ve had requests, and have considered printing these – and adding them to my Etsy shop! I’m contemplating – Thank you for your kind comments!

  3. Nate says

    What a wonderful way to remember your mother. Obviously, a very talented, loving person. I’m actually a little misty-eyed right now…missing mine.

  4. Una says

    These are GREAT! What a wonderful gift your mom gave to you. I’m a printmaker and love carving and printing with linoleum. Its a material that’s got tons of retro-liciousness: it’s environmentally friendly, inexpensive and multi-purpose! Thanks to this website, I’ll be putting in a linoleum countertop on my new bathroom vanity in a month! I’m so excited!

  5. Jamie says

    These are so much more eloquent reminders of her childhood than photographs would be. They are just beautiful (the style reminds me of German advent calendars).

    • June Cahill says

      My Mom was first generation German-American, her family immigrated here in 1912. Once in Chicago, her father was an engineer with Pullman and her mother a ‘hausfrau,’ having been educated in Germany, as many women were during that time, in domestic areas – cooking, sewing, décor. After taking a boat trip to Germany when she was 13, Gertie was also influenced greatly by her Grandfather (mother’s father) who was a principal of a HS in Nuremburg. My mother learned much from her mom – and then added an ‘American twist’ to it! It doesn’t surprise me one bit that these blocks are reminiscent of German Advent Calendars!

  6. tammyCA says

    I love this story…thank you, June for sharing it with us! Your mother sure was talented & how wonderful to have these personal art pieces.
    I remember carving (& loving) lino blocks in art class in Jr. High & haven’t thought about that for years.

  7. Pamela H. says

    June, Thank you so very much for sharing your memories and the captivating story of your parents. The artwork is THRILLING! I love the back story info, which certainly enhances viewing the block carvings. To the Editors: Thank you for your fine eyes in spotting a great blog read! Would love to see more posts like this.

  8. Scott says

    How utterly adorable. The innocent charm combined with very sophisticated compositions are just perfection. What a wonderful holiday story to share.

    I was fortunate enough to inherit the artsy gene from my Mom (and Gran’s) side of the family too.

  9. cellen says

    This is so sweet! This is better than the new Apple commerical that makes me cry. Thanks for sharing, June. Now, what’s this stuff in my eyes?

  10. Stephanie says

    What a delightful story! How wonderful that your mother was in your life for such a long time, and you have this beautiful legacy of her love for you. Her artwork is so charming, and I know how difficult linoleum block carving is, so I am in awe. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

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