Connecting the Dots: What Two Books on Design Tell Us about "Pouncing"

Monday, November 21, 2022

Imagine working as a walldog in 1940s America. You strap on a “leash,” securing yourself to the brick façade of a drugstore as you prepare to paint a large-scale beverage advertisement. What other tools are vital to your craft?

Art students at Lyon College use a modern lift to restore a 100 year-old ad painted in Batesville, Arkansas.

Recently, Hagley acquired a splendid working manual entitled, Designs for Painted Walls and Bulletins. Issued around 1950 during the height of twentieth-century advertising by the Coca-Cola Company’s Advertising Department, this oversized advertising guide contains numerous images of the trademark Coca-Cola script, iconic glass bottles, and lively characters such as the 1940s mascot Sprite Boy. More importantly, it gives directions for creating a distinct color palette by mixing paint manufactured by Sherwin-Williams, DuPont, Glidden, or Murphy. The design system requires one crucial item, however, that must be specially ordered: the facsimile trademark pounce pattern. 

This unfamiliar term, “pounce,” took me down a rabbit hole where I learned that pouncing is a technique for copying an image from paper onto another surface. A spiked wheel is used to perforate the outlines of a paper drawing so that a fine powder may be pressed through the pinholes, leaving a trail underneath. While sign painters have long used colored chalk dust as pounce to mark advertising copy on the vast canvases of Main Street, U.S.A., I began to wonder how else this method might be applied in handiwork. 

Before long, another recent acquisition brought me an answer. In his seventh edition of Ornamental Confectionery and the Art of Baking (1901), Herman Hueg imparts this advice for cake decorators: rub a little charcoal powder through a pounce, then embellish with icing. Receiving these impromptu lessons on pouncing inspired me to try my hand at home with a Rapunzel gingerbread design (see right). While I won’t be quitting my day job, the effort definitely served my book club their just desserts.

For more information on pouncing designs, follow this link. You might find yourself inspired to try a few too!

Alice Hanes is the Technical Services Librarian at Hagley Museum & Library