Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Get crafty for some left-brain relief

By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — This is a very crafty city.
If I didn’t know it already, hitting all the major arts and crafts shops within a few days would have convinced me.
It’s no accident that the Las Cruces Farmers & Crafts Market, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary in May, has been ranked No. 1 in New Mexico (no small feat in competition with arts meccas like Santa Fe and Albuquerque) and in the top ten in the nation.
Excellence in, excellence out.
We start ‘em out early, I learned in my years as a doting grandmom of Alexander the Great, who lived here from ages 3 to 10, prime time for creative arts and crafts adventures.
I still have some goodies he made in preschool and at Hillrise Elementary: a cinnamon ornament that still retains its spicy fragrance (his teachers clearly did not skimp on the high quality oil for the ornament dough), a pensive eagle pondering a storm cloud that still hold pride of place on my refrigerator art gallery.
We spent a lot of fun weekends, sampling hors d’oeuvres and chatting up artists at art openings, where the artistic atmosphere inspired some imaginative Play-Doh sculptures, crayon and fingerpainted masterpieces and creative culinary efforts back at homebase.
I’ll never forget how he moved his big dad to near-teary admiration with his own uniquely Alexian arts and crafts exhibit, complete with teensy hors d’oeuvres of his own invention: a sunflower seed sandwiched carefully between two raisins, produced in impressive quantities.
We had our faces painted and did a little face painting ourselves (Alex’s mom Shannon, an artist and former runway model, showed particular talent for ornamenting our visages). We did crafts at kids’ corners of museums and the Saturday market, at Las Cruces Mariachi Conferences and what was then known as the Renaissance CraftsFaire.
We were maestros of Play-Doh, papier-mâché, polymer clay, cookie dough and assorted pseudo ceramics arts. We poured plaster of Paris in rubber molds and painted the products in Day-Glo colors.
We drew with pastels and colored pencils and painted with whatever we could find on whatever was standing still (and occasionally, things that weren’t, like visiting cousins and the nails and tail of long-suffering granddog Benji).
Since Alex moved away, our vacation meetings have always had some intense arts and crafts components. The fishing, swimming and hiking are simply brief interludes in the daily art that is our family life: writing songs and composing guitar riffs with his dad, shopping for art supplies with his mom and me.
I remember a motel room filled with tiny polymer clay figures on motorcycles in various poses, awaiting animation with cell phone videos and stop action antics.
It’s clear that his artistic beginnings are not forgotten, though I worry that Las Cruces arts and crafts may have been a little bit too much fun ... in high school freshman art classes in less artistic Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, maestro Alex balked at plebeian assignments like repetitive sketches of a piece of plain, crumpled white paper.
I forgot to stress that in large portions of the Muggle world, success hinges on putting in a lot of time doing boring things you don’t want to do. Artistic Las Cruces is just not a great place for building up a tolerance for humdrum Sisyphean tasks, unless, maybe, you’re involved in almost endless urban renovation street projects.
Las Cruces is a nurturing and inspiring epicenter for arts and crafts adventures: left-brain fiestas and journeys into creative lands where time is transcended and you can end up with masterpieces almost as wonderful as the memories of their creation.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at (575) 541-5450

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