I’ve always enjoyed making things. When I was six, my great grandmother taught me how to sew a zig zag, wind a bobbin and gather a ruffle hem – a highly technical skill needed to make a new bonnet for my Holly Hobbie doll. I was an attentive understudy, and when my crochet apprenticeship advanced to the level of being able to make perfectly round fluffy pom poms, I mass-produced them in all different sizes and colors as fast as she could whip together the granny square ponchos from which they would dangle. Raise your hand if you know how to make a pom pom. Yep. Now raise your hand if you remember what decade it was oh-so-fashionable to wear granny square ponchos. Nevermind.
As an adult, making things hasn’t always resulted in finishing things. It’s consisted mostly of buying things and fantasizing about making things. I have two bolts of a ridiculously expensive mohair velvet that was purchased to slipcover a chair I donated to Goodwill in 1998. And five rows of a soft lambswool blanket I crocheted before we knew if my 14 year old niece was going to be a boy or a girl. When I taught her how to crochet several years ago, I suggested she go ahead and finish it herself.
Much to the chagrin of friends and family, my creative spurts have been concentrated around holidays and birthdays. Among the more unique gifts I have generously bestowed upon unsuspecting recipients was a ten pound clay rhinoceros I proudly presented to my grandpa one Christmas. I’m slightly embarrassed to admit I was in high school, rather than first grade as most readers would assume. He was a man of few words and somewhere I have a 20 minute VHS tape that he filmed to showcase the massive herbivore in all its glory, slowly rotating it in all different lighting and Panasonic zoom angles. I interpreted this to be his way of saying that he liked it better than the Pepperidge Farm cheese ball.
There were the cross stitch years, the latch-hook rug years, the clay pot years, the salt dough Christmas ornament years, and the peter-pan-collar-hand-smocked-Prince-William-frock-years (“wow, thanks Jen, he’ll wear this to his royal christening!”). I’m now in the garland years, marked by a need to compulsively gather and sew tiny scraps of fabric into miles and miles of useless garland as a distraction from more pressing matters, like oh, say, running a business. But nothing will ever compare to the Sculpey years. That was hands down the single most creatively uninhibited time in my life, as evidenced by the grotesquely oversized dolphin “brooch” that I sported to work for two years straight, along with the three-inch dangly fish earrings that are now preserved in safe-keeping until the curators of the Museum of Bad Sculpey Art come calling.
This all leads me, very indirectly, to my original purpose in writing. Someone recently introduced us to a really cool and inspiring book titled Kid Made Modern by Todd Oldham (from the old MTV House of Style show, and designer of various clothes and cool Target home goods). The book is chock full of really funky art projects kids can make out of everyday objects, sprinkled with interesting tidbits about famous modern artists. If you have kids between the ages of 7 to 14-ish who like to make things and want to try their hand at something other than a Wii remote, you should check it out and seriously consider picking up a copy before summer boredom sets in!
Reading Kid Made Modern inspired me to dig out a two book series I’ve had since I was eight, aptly titled Making Things by Ann Sayre Wiseman. As a child, I was captivated by the hippie-like hand illustrated books and spent countless hours studying all of the pictures and dreaming of carving animal sculptures from Ivory soap bars. I hope I’m not spoiling anyone’s Christmas surprise this year by secretly confessing that I’m only just now getting around to this one: