Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Blue Charcoal, Brown Charcoal

I took a well-deserved day off yesterday. I puttered around the house in my PJs, baked some cookies, got caught up on my teevee watching, and even worked up the courage to restart the biggest, scariest quilt project in my craft closet. (Google "Double Wedding Ring Quilt" and you’ll see what I’m getting myself into.)

I see the Cream and Cocoa sets are starting to ship. Very pretty! The price seemed a little on the high side to me; combined with my ongoing space issues, I decided to take a pass on these two for the time being. If I see them in the NPOD next year I’ll definitely reconsider, in spite of my reservations about the whole "Gloss Smoke" thing.

Ah, such is the power of Gloss Charcoal.

Although I’m not a big fan of online polls - they’re far too easy to manipulate - whenever there have been polls about Decorator colors, Gloss Charcoal always comes out on top, or darn near it. And it’s easy to see why: black is very dramatic, and gloss black? Doubly so!

Such was the selling power of Gloss Charcoal that it continued to be produced even after the transition to Matte finishes ca. 1967. Both the Fighting Stallion and Mustang continued being produced in Gloss until they were discontinued in 1970. And one model, the Running Stallion, was actually introduced in Gloss Charcoal in 1968. (If any of these three models exist in a Matte version, it’s darn rare. Or it’s a test color.)

The color did undergo a bit of a shift, however: later Gloss Charcoals are darker, blacker, and less dramatically shaded than their earlier counterparts. No less beautiful, I would argue, just different. Sometimes I refer to the two different hues as "Chocolate" and "Blue," though the only blue tinge detectable in the later, blacker versions is in comparison to the Chocolates.

As always, I speak in generalities: there are earlier Charcoals that are profoundly black, and later Charcoals that have a definite Chocolate hue. You see that tendency more in the Matte finish Charcoals than the Gloss, and with Family Arabians more than any of the other vintage Charcoals.

There’s even a variation of the Matte Charcoal Family Arabians that are very, very brown, with shocking hot pink hooves. I suspect that they are very late variations, possibly among the last batches produced; all of the ones I’ve seen had the characteristics of models produced in the early 1970s (the mold marks, the trimming idiosyncracies, the painting style, etc.)

I’ve cut back considerably on my variation addiction, but the Matte Chocolate Charcoal Family Arabians are still on my want list. It’s just something about that color combo that tickles my fancy. (I've been watching way too many home decorating shows, I'm sure that's it.) But they've been darn hard to track down.

It’s not that they’re particularly rare, but that they’re Family Arabians. Aside from the condition issues that plague these models, most hobbyists don’t pay that much attention to Family Arabians generally, especially the matte-finished ones (except the Five-Gaiter Sorrels) and don't bother making note of their variations, outside of chalkiness or mane wisps.

The brown variation is also pretty hard to photograph accurately. Here's a Chocolate Charcoal FAS I picked up at the flea market recently; even with some extensive color correction, the brownness of coat isn't readily apparent:

Stand him next to a standard Matte Charcoal, in natural light, and you'd swear they were from completely different releases. But all the hot chocolate in the world isn't making me go outside to take that picture today, nuh-uh.

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