Back When Phones Were Fancy

Vintage Antique Phone Watercolor Illustration

For our prompt of “Phone” today, I opted to go back in time to when phones were more than just digital bricks. Today’s version can do so much more, but the result is an object that lacks a lot of visual interest. When I was a kid, all of our phones had rotary dials and while this is not something I miss from a usability standpoint, they did look really cool. Like most early technical wonders, phones were treated like little sculptures of art. They were, indeed, rather large so they were not easily hidden from view. But, as we enjoy the progress that comes with our ever-changing times, I miss the lack of aesthetic beauty from the past. Our phones, televisions, and even our books are now just little black boxes of varying sizes. Visually boring, to be sure, but it makes the need for handmade art even more important and necessary. So, cheers to all of the artists, crafters, and makers in the world for creating each day and making the world a much more visually interesting and exciting place to live!

There are lots of things available these days in a “vintage” or “retro” look though I’m not entirely sure what the age cutoff is for these terms. And many items that aren’t required in the age of digital, like record players, still hold a special appeal with a sound that can’t quite be replicated digitally. I can only think it’s all an answer to those little black boxes. There’s no longer a functional need to add many of the visual elements that appeared on things before. And, as the manufacturing mentality continues to drive things to be made more and more cheaply, aesthetic enhancements are always the first things to go. I used to work in product development for several years and this was always the case, and got progressively more the case as the years moved forward. But there are still lovely things that pop up from time to time where a bit more time and energy was placed in created something visually stunning. And the resulting effect is always instant. The product suddenly has more perceived value. And that always makes me happy to see.

And when it comes to a product like paper, even the super good stuff, it’s really just paper until we artists add our own unique aesthetic. Though, yeah, the good paper, will definitely help in enhancing the look of things. But, it’s still the act of the maker that transforms paper into something special. I think that’s a really wonderful thing indeed. And though the objects that surround us have become more simplified over time, the things we can create on just a single sheet of paper are often quite astounding. We can bring an object of history back to life again, relive cherished moments, capture a treasured view on a vacation, and create a unique gifts for friends. This is why I love making things so much. The possibilities are limited by only my own dreams and imagination. And, as I watch all of the wonderful things that our community makes each and every day, I’m thrilled to still be living through a very special time, like those glorious good old days, back when phones were fancy.

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 Vintage Antique Phone Watercolor Illustration Sketchbook Detail
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20 Comments
  1. Sandra Strait 2 months ago

    I totally agree about the aesthetic value of things. It used to be beautiful was often sacrificed because it didn’t put dinner on the table, and starvation was the result of that. These days, beautiful is all too often sacrificed so that someone can add to their already healthy wallets. I just got a pad of handmade papers. They’ll be challenging to work with but they just have so much beauty in them, even without anything else, that I love working on them.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 2 months ago

      Yeah, it’s a bit sad these days to see everything produced in bulk turn into something so mundane and often cheap. But yay for handmade papers and makers! We’ll turn it all around! 😃💕

  2. Lisa 2 months ago

    I always wanted a fancy phone when I was young. But that was not to be. We had one phone in the house and it was gold in color and affixed to the dining room wall. It had a super long cord on it that got tangled up in itself all the time. If we kids wanted privacy, we untangled the cord and backed up the stairs that led to the second story. We could stretch about 3/4 of the way to the top. Then we’d sit on the hard wood tread and whisper secrets that only teenagers cared about. We did this for hours until dad yelled at us to get off the phone. I’d have given anything for a fancy phone like this one in my room. Alas, now I don’t even have a smartphone because I really have no use for one. 😀

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 2 months ago

      Love that story, Lisa! 😃💕 I soooo remember stretching that cord to a limit for a bit of privacy! hehe… and my parents doing much the same thing. And rather adore that you don’t have a smartphone… I think they’ve been misnamed. 😉

  3. Sharon Nolfi 2 months ago

    Your phone reminds me of the Mickey Mouse phone we own. My husband bought one when they first came out, maybe the ’70s. Mickey stands about 18 inches tall and his hand holds the receiver – the hand moves up when you remove the receiver. The base has a touch pad for dialing. We have him on display in our family room! He makes me smile whenever I pass by.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 2 months ago

      Oh my goodness!! I totally want that phone, Sharon!! 😃💕 hehe… I’m so jealous! Sounds amazing!

  4. Karen Fortier 2 months ago

    Great phone Charlie! My earliest memories are of black ones. They got colorful as I grew up, princess style I think.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 2 months ago

      Thanks so much, Karen! 😃💕Yeah, the first phone colors I remember were avocado and harvest gold! hehe

  5. Mary Roff 2 months ago

    Beautiful phone, Charlie! I can see it in the hands of Audrey Hepburn or Grace Kelly!! Nah, definitely Audrey Hepburn 🥰

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 2 months ago

      Thanks, Mary! 😃💕 hehe… yeah, that’s just what I envisioned. Definitely before my time, but I loved all those movies!

  6. LoriCtoo 2 months ago

    Beautiful tele. I have recently seen a lot of those large Mickey Mouse phones at sales and have been so tempted. Then realize I wouldn’t be able to use it because we got rid of our landline this year. 🙁

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 2 months ago

      Thanks so much, Lori! 😃💕Hehe… I totally would love a Mickey Mouse phone, but yeah… it’s actually been over a decade now since I’ve had a land line. 😉

  7. Loan Anh Pham 2 months ago

    Very beautifully, Charlie ❤️. I’ve just seen those phones in movies. And your painting reminded me of some movies like Casablanca. Love it 😘

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 2 months ago

      Thanks so much, Loan! 😃💕hehe… you and me both… I’m not sure I’ve seen one in person, but love them in the movies so I had to sketch it!

  8. Lisa Ann Ulibarri 2 months ago

    Gorgeous phone!!!! Now why cant they make cellphones more elegant lol. I am so fascinated with a lot of the things of the past and much of it from the way way back past the amazing architecture. How things we made to last. This art is not dead but not the norm. So when it is seen it is so exciting. 🙂

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 2 months ago

      Thanks so much, Lisa! 😃💕 Glad you liked this! Yeah, things today are not made to last at all. Most of it’s to cut costs, and much of it is by design so we’ll have to buy more. But I miss the attention to detail and beautiful aesthetic of objects from the past!

  9. Robert J. Coleman 2 months ago

    Great fancy phone, a golden beauty! When I was a kid, we had the indestructible black phones, built like tanks! There have been a number of attempts at the throw back designs, like the wall-mounted crank with a handheld earpiece. Being a Mac fan, I do like the sleek designs of the iPhones and other devices, but the nostalgic look keeps us grounded.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 2 months ago

      Thanks so much, Bob! 😃💕Yeah, those black phones were awesome! Definitely built like tanks! And love the interface of Mac and the attention to design. The objects have become secondary, which is exactly what is meant to happen. But, oh, the good days! hehe

  10. smzang 2 months ago

    Charlie says, “The possibilities are limited by only my own dreams and imagination.”

    That is an exciting and challenging statement and it is true.

    As for the phone, it is elegant.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 2 months ago

      Thanks so much, Sarah! 😃💕Yay to exploring any possibility that comes to mind!

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