Throughout my life I have always had a weakness for the humble handmade object.. Not that I don’t enjoy the cost and freedom that the little doohickey made in (insert developing country) affords me but there’s something indelibly precious about the hand crafted object, particularly when it starts with humble beginnings.
Generally, I have a fondness for those things that aren’t particularly useful. Things that are meant to be admired, not necessarily used, like the appliquéd kitchen towels Jim’s mother had stored away in her hope chest. I just can’t bring myself to use them as much as I would love to.
Maybe it all started in grade school with my absolute obsession with hand painted plaster of paris molds that I made every summer at my local playground. I still remember the entire process- the pouring of the creamy white plaster into the rubber mold, the warmth of the plaster as it hardened, and the agonizing wait until it was set up before you could release it from the mold. The magic moment when still slightly damp and now cool mold, a bas relief of assorted subject matter all creamy white broke loose of the mold just begging for some tempera paint. I relished this stage-carefully deciding on my color palette while all the other kids were headed to the swings.
Paint dry, I would dutifully take them home, present them to mom and never see them again. I mean what does a mother do with several dozen bas-relief plaques?
I do remember one summer my friends and I found an absolutely perfect use for said plaster plaques. If you broke them up they made excellent chalk and we proceeded to decorate all of the sidewalks around our elementary school, proud as punch, until two cops cars drove across the lawn, with stern police officers threatening to arrest us for
vandalizing the school grounds. They threatened to drive us each home to tell our parents of our offense, which made me quite nervous because that would be the end of my mold-making career.
There were many more semi-useless ob·jet d'art checkering my past. In the 80’s I designed and sold lingerie bags. Beautiful (well, beautiful by 80’s standards), satiny bags with a Color Xerox image of, yep, lingerie. I sold them (not a lot of them) at street fairs and even at Hand and Spirit Gallery for a while. Recently, I was out antiquing and actually found one of my lingerie bags in someone’s antique booth with a tag that said ”circa 1980” on the same tag I had originally put there. Hmmm, which leads me to believe that lingerie bag didn’t get a whole lot of use.
Which brings me to my most recent obsession: the petite blank book made from recycled materials. I obsessively create the structures from left over scrap materials from larger scale projects. I make them, teach other people to make them and even sell them at times for ridiculously small amounts of cash. Why? Because it gives me pleasure. I cut up old covers of old art magazines, discarded books on cats and astrology, old calendars and other forsaken ephemera and repurpose them into a small hand constructed book that, well, one could argue you could find plenty mass produced blank books that are far more useful, practical and maybe even cheaper.
So what’s the point here? Sometimes something that simply gives you pleasure can be enough of a reward.
Join me at the first annual CRAFT RAVE, December 4th, from 2pm-12am. Let’s make a book together. More info on the Craft Rave at: http://craftyphx.blogspot.com/