Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Cute alert.

Are you desperate for a hedgehog? Long to hold a prickly little being and feed it crickets? Hedgehogs are alarmingly adorable, but they are illegal in the 5 boroughs of NYC, and the entire state of California. But that probably won't stop you, will it? They are nocturnal, so you'd be tempted to stay up all night playing with your hedgie and get to your day job even more exhausted than you are now.

About 6 months ago, I got it in my fool head that I needed a hedgehog. Desperately. No matter that I share about 300 square feet of Colliers Brothers style clutter with a comedian and a pit bull. I'd seen them on cuteoverload and became obsessed. I began to strategize about names for my future hedgehog during boring meetings at work. I decided that a hedgehog should have a name that is either Britishy or Russiany. I toyed with names like Basil, Cromwell, Krushev, or Vlad (the impaler). No matter that my actual contact with hedgehogs was confined to looking at photos of other people's pets on the internet.

Reading more about their care and feeding, the Dickensian squalor of my converted tenement is entirely inappropriate for a hedgehog, even without factoring in the pit bull. Since they are insectavores, a hedgehog would be inclined to snack on the various creepy crawlies that infest the place. While it would better my ecosystem to lower the roach population, a hedgie can die from eating bugs that have been exposed to insecticide. True, a hedgehog can be confined to a cage, but it has to run around at somepoint, at least to snuggle on the sofa. They are great escape artists, and once little Cromwell darts behind the stove, I fear it would all end badly.

My hedgehog desires reached a crescendo about a month ago. Toward the tail end of almost total hedgehog fixation, I went to the Renegade Craft Fair in Brooklyn, where I met Emily Martin, an artist living in Athens, Georgia, who created the adorable hedgie in a beret. You can see more of her work here at her esty shop called The Black Apple. I indulged my hedgehog mania by buying t-shirts and prints of her hedgehog-themed artwork.

Ms. Martin was super nice and we chatted a bit about hedgehogs. She said that she did not have one as a pet, but that over the past year or so they had taken over her work. Please check out her esty shop: she's got tons of original paintings and prints featuring hedghogs (along with other cute animals, and big-eyed children in retro attire). Some wearing headphones, some taking tea. All cute yet tinged with a Buster Keaton type of melancholy and 70s retro sensibility that keeps them contemplative and never saccharine.

Ms. Martin was not the only Renegade crafter with hedgehogs on the brain. Many crafters had a headgehog or two. But I liked hers best.

At this point I imagine you goslings out there are thinking: hedgehog blah blah blah, what has this got to do with novelty prints? Well, that very day I also saw a teatowel, printed with mushrooms and hedgehogs. What's the lead time on a mass produced item from China? About 6 months, sometime less. Mark my words, goslings, hedgehogs are gonna be the new owls. Within a year or a year and a half we will reach hedgehog saturation. They will be staring at you from every portal of Urban Outfitters, on bags and shirts.

My mother believes that I am a trendsetter. This is not true. I am what marketing and advertizing folks call an early adopter. I am more susceptible to market trends, the same way I get every cold or flu that wafts through cubicle city. My hedgehog dreams began around the same time the teatowel was in the works. My desire for something usually peaks before it is actually available in stores, so I end up wearing a vintage equivalent (or some self-made simlacrum) until it hits the stores. At that point, I usually don't want it anymore. In short, my desires have been co-opted by the consumerist agenda, and I serve as a walking billboard (or a viral marketer) until the big merchandise putsch (and yes, I do mean that in a military sense).

You could say that hedgehog imagery is the logical progression from the deer and owls of contemporary novelty prints, sure. You could also say that our imaginations are in thrall to the systems that oppress us. (I am paraphrasing Kate Bornstein with that one.) Or you could look at the movement of a trend from a subculture to the mainstream.

Ms. Martin, was of course, way ahead of me (and the design team for the teatowels). She is the real trendsetter here. It is my ardent hope that all the hedgehoggery to come will be designed by her. Do you hear me out there, powers-that-be? Hire this woman. Give her a well-appointed studio, a couple of assistants and watch the magic happen.

The photo is someone's pet, named Crunchie. How could anyone resist those beady eyes?


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