Rarely do I stumble across a vintage textile so hauntingly wrong that it begs to be shared. There are plenty of hideous prints out there - meh, glimpsed for a moment, easily forgotten. But, dear children, I have discovered the tea-towel which haunted your dreams, excused your terror of marching bands and explained your dread of clogs.
I can take or leave clowns, myself. I've been privileged to see some wonderful, genuinely hilarious clowns. But these . . . I think these are clowns. They have painted mouths, silly hair and oversized red noses. They have slipped into innocuous smocks and journeyed into a country far beyond sociopathia - they are bizarre, horrifying, inhuman, the toothy smiles pasted on to their faces are the smile the bully gives even as he snatches the beloved toy away.
Their nostrils are rimmed with the red of rage, their noses too frightening to bear deep contemplation. Their eyes look up to nowhere, listening to the voices. The front figure taps on a levitating marching drum, the straps of which dangle uselessly below it. The second figure is about to pipe others of their ilk out of their hiding places to join in some unthinkable clown junta.
And this is a tea towel! If I hung this in my kitchen overnight the milk would curdle, houseplants wither, the crystals along the window sill would shatter and my children would thrash and shriek in the grip of night terrors. Any dishes coming into contact with this textile of terror would slowly craze, and food served on them would leave an aftertaste of gall. Cutlery polished by this would curl slowly into supplicatory shapes. Yet someone at the Lehner company, back in the 70s or so, cast about in their repository of mental anguish and came up with this design as being suitable to drape over domestic rails - a dagger through the heart of the home.
And if the clowns themselves weren't quite unsettling enough, the spectral old lady in the background suggests a whole other dimension of sinister creepiness, unusual even for clown-related merchandise.