After inheriting boxes and boxes of her late father’s iconic commercial artwork, branding consultant Ellen Steinberg was challenged with the task of figuring out what to do with it. Six years after repeatedly seeing the joy and laughter Sid’s work brought to others, The Sid Show was born. Featuring the breadth of his art—including an incredible collection of cards he made for his wife over their 53 years together—Ellen’s curated show tells a story of family, love, and of course, humor. Keep reading to find out what it was like for Ellen to share her father’s legacy with the public and how Spoonflower helped along the way.
Meet the Curator
I’m the daughter of a commercial artist and the youngest of four kids who grew up just outside Philadelphia. I’m the only one that got the “art gene” in the family and followed somewhat in my father’s footsteps, spending most of my career as an art/creative director in advertising. Slightly different than his trajectory but very much in the same “commercial art” genre. Like Dad, I’ve also done my share of logos, invitations, announcements, copywriting, even stage performances, though I didn’t set out to intentionally mimic him. These days, I’m on my own in a small town in North Carolina with my muse/dog Frankly.
Meet the Artist
Sid Steinberg (1928-2009) was a commercial artist, designer, illustrator, writer, humorist, performer and general romantic. He spent most of his life working as a commercial artist in Philadelphia, where he led a successful independent career serving clients ranging from the Philadelphia Gas Works to the Ford Motor Company, to his local synagogue and tennis buddies. Sid wed his gal Marilyn in 1956 and produced four offspring with her.
The Sid Show
How would you describe Sid’s style?
Sid Steinberg, my father, was a pretty prolific guy. His style was sometimes reflective of the era––much of his illustration and design work was done in the 1950s through ’80s and could mirror the style of the times. Pretty much all of his work was hand-drawn, with a bold confident stroke. But what I love most about his work is that it often was just a strong design solution for the problem at hand and could easily have been created by twelve different artists in twelve different periods. He had so many styles and employed each as needed. Some were funny and light, some wicked smart, some just plain beautiful.
What inspired The Sid Show?
The Sid Show came about because, as the only child in the family who inherited my father’s talent, it was I who was tasked to empty his office after he passed. Years and years of flat files and bins of work ended up in my collection—oh, let’s be honest: they ended up in my closet. Unsorted and just sort of shoved into boxes in a random closet in my house. Slowly, I would end up showing something from a box when a friend would come to visit. I noticed I was pulling out more and more pieces to share, as the world simultaneously was beginning to unravel. His work often produced a smile on someone’s face, prompted someone else to take a photo, caused someone else to belly laugh or gasp with the beauty they saw. I decided now was as good a time as any to share his collection. I mean, what good is funny, touching, beautiful work if it’s not seen?
How did you use Spoonflower to help tell your father’s story?
One of the challenges of the Sid Show was that there was just a ton of work. Everything from illustrations, to logo designs, to birth announcements to hand-typed self-promotion postcards, to even doors from the house we grew up in. Nothing was off-limits for my father, and our house sported murals wherever he saw fit. One signature piece is the bathroom door (yes, the actual door to our bathroom), on which Dad painted a design that housed the words “piss” and “shit” (sorry, kids).
For the show, we had the idea to create some context for the door by building a bathroom installation. The door could logically live there—as could a couple toilets, which would allow people to have a seat and read some of his longer writings (two birds…). And, if we were going to build a bathroom, then it was obvious: there would have to be wallpaper. The Steinberg home was filled with original Sid murals and flooded with Sid-chosen, unforgettable wallpapers, mostly from the 1970s. That’s where Spoonflower came in.
What fun it was to really go for it and use his art to create a unique and conceptual complement for the bathroom. There were probably many ways to bring this room to life, but fortunately we had an arsenal of graphic illustrations to choose from, including a series of hands whose fingers counted from one to five. For the bathroom, all we needed was the one and the two. Bam. Crapper success!
What does it mean to share your dad’s story with a larger community?
Sharing the Sid Show and the work of my father has been more poignant and meaningful than I could have ever imagined. It was, of course, amazing to just give his work some airtime and a much-needed break from the inside of a closet. But more importantly, I saw people’s emotional states shift. I saw many tears, smiles and laughs. I saw curiosity and delight. I saw people connecting with the work and with their mutual show gazers. I truly heard joy in the room. At the end of the day, my father loved to bring a smile to people’s faces—that was his world, and I believe the thing that brought the most meaning to him. What an absolute privilege to help him continue doing so from beyond and in ways I’m sure he couldn’t have even imagined himself—his very own bathroom wallpaper!! He’d truly be over the moon.
About the Guest Author
Ellen Steinberg is the youngest of the Steinberg offspring and was gifted much of the same genetic code as her father. She studied Visual Communications at the University of Delaware and worked for many years as an art and creative director in advertising. These days, she is a branding consultant for small businesses in the for- and non-profit worlds. Ellen is based in the sweet small town of Hillsborough, North Carolina and lives with her dog, Frankly.