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Rich Kimura  ​
Fireworks Art Studio
Apple of His Eye #5    
ABOUT THE ART:  These  handcrafted paper designs draw from cubist and futurist influences as well as modular origami and other home-grown folding techniques.  The impressionistic design intent is to create bold fireworks, fractal, and kaleidoscope-like action and motion that are simultaneously calm and balanced.  The larger works almost seem to be healed as image fragments try to align  and organize through radial and reflective symmetry, and repetition.   

The differing viewpoints offered by these fractured images include slices of farming landscapes, fruits, trees, leaves, orchards, and other items.  About 2% of the labels I collect are suitable for this style of the art. 

 Hand cropped and folded vintage Washington labels are used 'extravagantly', in that hundreds of them are consumed in making the larger works.  No color copies are used in the construction of these handmade works, only vintage lithographs that are 75-100 years old.

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There is a lot to do in Eastern WA.   I hunt for vintage WA apple and pear box labels, and have been doing so for over 20 years.  Have you ever attended the annual "Apple/Pear Box Label Shows" in Wenatchee and Yakima?  They are wonderful events.  You can meet nice people who just collect them.  People buy labels from other collectors, or sometimes they come in to sell labels, even entire label collections.  Antique shops, yard sales, and old-timer fruit farmers, are some other sentimental folk may share some of their labels with you.  They can be found in Eastern Washington, if you look carefully.  
This is how I get labels.  I also sell wholesale to shops, country stores, and other re-sellers and collectors.

These vintage apple and pear box labels are the raw material used for this art (some box end examples shown below). They are old 'limited edition prints' from old obsolete stone and screen lithographic processes that gave warm and unique hues and patterns, and they have been ‘aged’ for 75-100 years to sometimes give even warmer hues.  The old prints are fascinating because the beautiful colors and graphics very important to early fruit farmers in eastern  WA.  Their livelihoods depended on getting bids at auction in the cities from buyers who recognized the label, and therefore the farmer,  as a producer of quality fruit.
​  The label brand was very important for brand recognition and to grow market share.  
Shown Above: Apple box ends on display at the Wenatchee Valley Museum.  The Yakima Valley Museum also has a very nice display.​

HISTORY      Around 1955, cardboard boxes started being used instead of wooden boxes.  This changed the industry almost overnight.  Suddenly cheaper cardboard, with labels printed on the cardboard, caused the more expensive wooden boxes  to become obsolete - as well as the labels that went with them!  Family farms, packing houses, cooperatives, and marketers no longer needed the labels and so they stopped being made.   The supply of apple box labels in existence was essentially frozen in time at that moment.  There was no need to make more.  

In the 1960s, collectors began contacting the people who had labels and bought them.  Many labels were just being used as scratch paper, or were just taken to the dump.  Sometimes a sentimental worker, fruit inspector, printer, or owner would keep a few to remind themselves of the good old days where they used to work,  or it was a part of their family history.  Some labels only survived if examples were kept at the print shops like Simpson-Doeller, Stecher, Traung, Schmidt Litho, Roesch, Spokane Litho, Los Angeles Litho, and many others.   Shown below are vintage pictures circa 1920s showing apple picking in Yakima, and the American Fruit Growers Packing House in Wenatchee, WA. (Ref: Pat Jacobsens Millenium Guide to Fruit Crate Labels, 2000) and another packing house.

Some labels are extremely rare (1-5 known) and some labels have many bundles that exist (~800 labels in a bundle).   Prices for the common labels range from about $5-10 each, while extremely rare labels may fetch $300-1000 each.  That any of these labels survive is quite amazing.  

Here are some random common labels and prices.  The book values, which tend to be full retail prices, are per Robert Mannheim's Apple and Pear Label price guide (2002) or Pat Jacobsen's Millenium Guide to Fruit Crate Labels (2000).  

 Aurora                         $8
Lake Chelan              $12
Mountain Goat        $8
Washington              $14


Most of the labels below are unlisted in price guides due to their rarity.  Prices are therefore  based on recent purchase prices at label shows during the past 20 years. The Yakima Valley Museum, as a tribute to Mr. Del Bice and others, has an outstanding collection that includes other such rare labels.

Shields Fruit Co. (Unlisted)      $300
Pelican (Unlisted)                          $600
Wenatchee Belle                           $300
Yakima Savage                                $500

In general, the highest retail price goes to those labels that are in mint condition, which are those that never made it onto boxes and are perfect condition.  Labels on box ends can be soaked off but the damage usually devalues them, unless they're rare. 

In addition to art, feel free to contact me if you are interested in collecting common or rare or labels. Areas I focus on are  Yakima area, Wenatchee area, north to Oroville and Tonasket, south to the Walla Walla area, and south through the Hood River area  (Columbia River gorge).   Collecting is fun, and fortunately these old collectibles are still available.
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