Saturday, July 5, 2014

Getting Crafty

Arts and crafts are inextricably intertwined with some of my best summertime experiences.
Having a mother who was an art and American history teacher was a good start, of course. All the art-supply basics were usually available for drawing and painting, but mom was also game for some of the pre-fab commercial kits, too.
One of my earliest and most vivid toddler memories involved unmolding Plaster of Paris Disney figures from unwieldy rubber molds and attempting to make them as beautiful as they were on movie screens. It was impossible, of course, but that didn’t stop me from trying again with my son Ryan and more than two decades later with grandson Alex the Great.
All three generations agreed that Plaster of Paris and unwieldy molds are still fun, as are the classics: drawing and painting.
Thanks to evolving craft technology, sculpture has gotten better. Icky elementary school clay and papier-maché, gave way in my household to air-dry paper clay or the polymers that you can bake in the oven. Almost instant gratification.
I’m also a big fan of wearable art projects. Products now on the market make it a snap to decorate clothing, some of which have remained in family wardrobes for decades. I wish I could still find that fabric paint that simulated a suede finish, for instance. I’ve experimented a lot with specialized fabric paints over the years (spray paints, paint pens, puffy paints, matte and shiny and glittery paints that come in little plastic squeeze bottles). And regular old liquid acrylics help create my fave bright turquoise boots.
Childhood arts and crafts projects could lead to careers or lifetime hobbies. And there’s something about artistic inspiration that easily transcends generations. Mom taught me how to knit, but I was the one that got her hooked on other needlework arts and crafts.
Samplers were a natural for anyone interested in history. I found examples in books (in the olden days before the internet) of samplers done by little girls in early America, when it was not uncommon for small children to master dozens of specialized stitches and demonstrate their skills in samplers that were genuine works of art.
Before long, we moved on to crewel embroidery. I clearly remember the thrill of transforming gossamer embroidery floss and later, rich, woolen yarns, into three-dimensional things of lasting beauty. It seemed like magic.
In a family of dedicated campers and wilderness aficionados, nature crafts were inevitable, too.
Seashells were a challenge, and though I’ve never come up with anything that I’ve found quite as beautiful as the original creation itself, I’ve had fun trying to use them to create interesting things. I’ve made seashell flowerpot mosaics and used them for ears and ornaments for soft-sculptures inspired by kachinas and pretty wreaths.
I was pleased to learn that wreaths are a very popular summer craft for kids this year. If you start with stuff you love, it’s almost impossible to make a bad wreath. They’re particularly nice for small collections. I’ve made wreaths with folk art dolls, pieces of broken ceramics, antique toys, dried vegetation, tiny pots, faux fruits and vegetables, little pieces of original art and found objects (the fancy fine art term for whatever you can grab that appeals to you). (Note to artistic daredevils and fashion risk-takers: A lot of the components of a spectacular wreath can also ornament a remarkable hat. Think Carmen Miranda and go for broke.)
Don’t overlook what’s growing in your garden. Is there anything more beautiful than a beautiful child in with a crown or necklace made only with a fingernail and a bunch of field daisies? (If you don’t know how, Google “how to make a daisy chain.”) It’s also great fun to press wildflowers or non-prickly desert vegetation until dry between paper towels in thick books and then use them in little pictures or on note cards.
What was your favorite childhood craft? Chances are, there’s a little person somewhere who would love to learn how to do it, too.
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at, @DerricksonMoore on Twitter or Tout, or call 575-541-54540.

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