Cobalt Peacock “Diva” Little Horn Speakers

These Little Horn speakers were made for a woman who called herself the “Deco Diva”, over in Washington state. She first ordered just the basic cobalt blue exteriors with the gold bells and we shipped them out.

A few months later I got a letter asking if she could ship them back to have me decorate the inside with a pattern of peacock feathers and sent a Hallmark card with peacock feathers on it. I asked if she would be open to an interpretation of this design and she agreed. 

I busily set forth drawing and painting some watercolors of a spermatozoic interpretation of a peacock feather in several different styles, shapes and sizes. 

In the days of Leo Fender (1946-1965) guitar headstock inlays were water slide decals applied to the surface and shipped out. This was a very common way of monogramming commercial products back then. Many years before I had enquired about having some Specimen logos made at a company in Chicago that still  produced these. They were the “last of the Mohicans” and the minimum order was several thousand and cost prohibitive to me. 

A water slide decal or a Deco Flat, as it was known, is simply an inked image printed on a layer of water based gelatin on paper with a solvent or lacquer based coating on top. The image is then cut out with a little room around the edges and placed in a dish of warm water. After several minutes soaking the layer of printed gelatin releases from the paper backing, held together only by the top layer of clear lacquer and can be very delicately slipped laterally off onto the awaiting surface. It is then gently squeegeed to remove any bubbles or wrinkles so that it lays flat on the surface. Back in the old days these decals were just applied and shipped out without an overspray of lacquer. After all, the top surface was lacquer over a layer of ink. This left them vulnerable to surface damage over time. Many old Fender musical instruments have fared pretty well over the years. Others have been badly ravaged by the abuses of nightclub environments etc. At some point Fender started applying additional coats of lacquer over the decal to encapsulate it. The whole concept here is “like-dissolves like”, and opposites repel. This is the whole basis of lithographic printing. The water base gelatin substrate gives way in the water and lets the ink go. The lacquer top coat supports it as it moves toward its resting place. It is pure trickery. 

So here comes Deco Diva with her challenge to monogram the bells of her horns in present day, 2010. There is a miraculous product on the market for inkjet printers that is simply copy printer paper with a coating of gelatin on it. Who knew? The trick is that after you print your design with what just happens to be water based inkjet printer ink, it needs to be coated with solvent based lacquer, just like the old deco flat decals. This is simply done with an aerosol can or a spray gun. So I made a bunch of copies of my paintings of paisley sperm, cut them out and went to town. My horn speakers are always finished in nitrocellulose lacquer just like my musical instruments. I applied them over the gold metallic finish and top coated them. It is a great technique and I have used it many times since.