Summer student and archivist Sarah Gibbon takes yet another trip into CCBC the archive. Sarah introduces a peculiar character that pops up repeatedly in our historical newsletters. Auntie Vice was an advice yielding conservator and an avid supporter of Warhol’s spicy Torso series. Read on to learn more about Craft Contacts and our dear Auntie Vice.
Bring yourself back to the eighties – shoulders were padded, Walkmans were blaring, and, most importantly, Craft Contacts was celebrating its 10th anniversary. To mark the special occasion, the editorial team wanted to revamp the newsletter. They decided to introduce an advice column where r could write in their craft-related questions and have them answered by a conservator.
The conservator in question was called “Auntie Vice”. She first appeared in the September 1983 issue of Craft Contacts, answering queries about fading and discoloured work. At this point, she gave fairly straightforward answers. Yet as the issues went on, Auntie Vice’s personality began to seep through the pages. For instance, in the January 1984 issue, when asked how to clean a hand-knit Christmas stocking, she recommended getting into Santa’s good graces so he wouldn’t mind the dirty stocking. She provided some questionable ways to do so, such as leaving out a bottle of Perrier instead of milk and cookies. In February 1984, a reader asked for advice preserving a vintage Andy Warhol poster. Auntie Vice spent most of her response raving about Warhol’s Torso series and showing disappointment that the reader’s poster belonged to a different collection.
The inside of Auntie Vice’s home is even more questionable than the outside. The living room’s focal point is a BlueBoy magazine centerfold mounted “to museum standards”. In the kitchen, a large stuffed alligator sits on the counter, and the whole place swells with Hawaiian music. She offers the editor some homemade wine and tells him about her craft interests. They include mosaics on shoes, pasta, and paper from porcupine quills (according to Auntie Vice, the trick is “not to trap the critters but to be the first on the highway”).
By May of 1984, readers were curious as to Auntie Vice’s true identity. Therefore, instead of publishing the usual advice column, Craft Contacts released a profile of Auntie Vice. The first thing readers likely noticed in this profile was the full page picture of a puppet with jewel studded cat eye glasses, a feather boa, and “tight bright leopard skin slacks”. This, apparently, was Auntie Vice. In the accompanying article, the editor of Craft Contacts recounts the first time he met her. He describes her flaming pink trailer home surrounded by plastic flamingos, plastic statues, and plastic daffodils.
Unaware of the editor’s discomfort, Auntie Vice goes on to talk about her “long time honey”, Envir. He teaches ballroom dancing at night, and met Auntie Vice during her Cha-cha lessons. She tells the editor that Envir will be home soon and invites him to “join us… for lunch”. Picking up the hint, the editor leaves in a hurry, but not before Auntie Vice plants a “big bright pink kiss” on his lips.
Unfortunately, this was Auntie Vice’s last appearance as Craft Contacts retired its advice column shortly after. We have no idea what’s become of her, but we hope that she and Envir are very happy together, cha-cha-ing the night away.