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Newtown resident Mary Wilson, co-owner of Queen Street Gifts & Treats, located at 3 Queen Street, recently celebrated the boutique’s four-year anniversary. Her store gives shoppers the experience of immersing themselves in a treasure trove of items for sale.
One of the newest items she has displayed for sale are hardcover copies of The Autobiography of a Snake, which was released last month through Thames & Hudson. The book is about a snake in the 1960s that is trying to find himself and, through a variety of transformations, becomes part of the world of high fashion. It showcases never-before-seen images by the Pop Art legend and celebrity-obsessed illustrator Andy Warhol.
The book is near and dear to Ms Wilson’s heart, because her mother and father, Teddy and Arthur Edelman, are responsible for helping bring it to life. Unfortunately, Mrs Edelman died on October 4 of this year, before the book was published.
Before Ms Wilson was born, her parents had owned a wholesale showroom to the fashion shoe trade in Pittsburgh. Her father remembers discovering Mr Warhol in the early 1960s.
“I found him selling shoe designs at the Empire State Building in a darkened hallway,” Mr Edelman said while recently visiting his daughter at Queen Street Gifts & Treats. “Andy frightened people at first when he came to New York and was looking for a job. He looked strange: he had this wild white hair, a pasty face, rumpled clothing, and his shoes were spatted with colors of paint.”
Still, he saw Mr Warhol’s artistic potential, and he decided to give him his first job in the fashion world by working for his company. Mr Warhol proceeded to work for him on and off for the next ten years.
“When Andy first worked for us one of the things he created was an adult coloring book; it was oversized,” Mr Edelman said. “We said we would do it of all the animals we made into leather. So, that book was the background [for The Autobiography of a Snake].”
Mr Edelman continued, “This [book] is a projected short movie that Andy wrote called The Autobiography of a Snake, and we never made the movie. It was created when my wife and I were given a fashion award, called the Coty Award, which was the most prestigious fashion award at the time. We were going to present this movie at the Metropolitan Museum where they were giving out the awards.”
The efforts seemed for naught, as the award ceremony wound up creating its own presentation for them instead. The designs and text were then archived in the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh.
About five years ago, Mr Edelman was approached to publish those images. He decided to take a portion of the movie and turn it into a book.
Mr and Mrs Edelman assembled and wrote the afterward section of the story, which gave insider details about Mr Warhol and their previous shop in Pittsburgh. It also features designs they used in their business that Mr Warhol helped illustrate.
Mr Edelman views the book as “the story of an ugly snake that had the soul of an artist, but was not accepted … Andy turned the snake into a beautiful thing by coloring it and embellishing it with gold or silver — which is what we did in our business. Right away [the snake] became Jacqueline Kennedy’s boots and Elizabeth Taylor’s bracelet. He was accepted.”
Not only do the story’s images have Mr Warhol’s signature flair, but so does the book’s sleeve jacket. The shiny, silver cover is reminiscent to the aluminum-lined walls of Mr Warhol’s New York art workshop, which was called The Factory.
“The book is a gem,” Mr Edelman said fondly as he placed his hand on the cover of the book.
After decades of success in the shoe fashion business, Mr and Mrs Edelman decided to adapt to the changing design market and focus on making leather for upholstery. Their clients included architects, interior designers, and even companies designing aircraft interiors.
The company evolved into Edelman Leather and moved to Hawleyville in the late 1980s. Growing up, Ms Wilson helped work in sales for her family’s business.
For the next ten years the company’s office was stationed in a big, red historic building by the railroad. The floor boards were original and hallways were narrow.
Eventually, their local family business grew so large that they needed more room than the old building could give them. Edelman Leather moved to New Milford, before the family sold the company.
Reflecting on selling her parents’ book in her store, Ms Wilson said, “It’s nice for me to have this touch here, because it shows my background and their background… I try to carry interesting books, but to bring my family here is really wonderful.”
To purchase a copy of The Autobiography of a Snake, visit Queen Street Gifts and Treats.