Robert (gurdonark) wrote,

Whittlin' Gurdonark

Today I went to the dollar stores and picked up some cheap soap, as well as a fifty cent paring knife. I had read in the "Meaning in Crafts" childrens' crafts book about how even older elementary school children can do soap carving. Of course, I believe, bounded as ever by my ignorance of such matters, that this 1960something book might not be followed today, as I suspect that the thought of thirty two sixth graders turned loose with paring knives might not meet universal acclaim. Last year, I had read of a mail art call in what is now oddly called "old Europe" seeking chess pieces. I resolved to make an entire chess set. The call is almost "over", so it's time to put up or shut up. I bought one package of orange soap and one package of green soap,in order to provide contrast between the "white" pieces and the "black" pieces. I took out a chess piece, used it as a rough guide to making an outline of a king on the first bar of soap, and began whittling away.

I am pleased to report that I was able to slice the soap rather effectively, if by effectively we mean "it cut, but it ain't cut straight". I must admit, though, that the carving qua carving does not look so much like a chess piece. Accordingly, I used a white pipe cleaner atop the "king's" head to make it clear that this was a chess king. Through assiduous working, I had soon created a queen, two bishops, two knights, two rooks, and eight pawns. I wish I had a picture website,a digicam, and a gift for photography, but the reality is that although in the most literal sense I have the first two of those things, in fact I can actually do none of those things after nearly a year on LiveJournal. I must therefore rely on words alone, until I remedy this situation. The chess set is only half finished, of course, as I must make a "white soap with black pipe cleaners" set of pieces to function as the "black pieces" in contrast to the completed "orange with white pipe cleaner" white pieces. But although the level of craftsmanship is closer to second grade rather than fifth grade, I'm very pleased with the results thus far. If I can just finish the rest of the pieces, I can get this mailed off so that it will get there in March. I am using a remaindered Smithsonian Folk Art book for a base board for carving (over a trash can, for easy whittle disposal), which should mean something, though I don't know what.

I went on ebay today and bid on some of those little metal looms. I remember making potholders with those things when I was a kid, and I have a hankering to do more crafts. I finally got on the internet to look up what it is that I am supposed to call a quilt that is not properly sewn or hand-embroidered, but merely held together with tied-up yarn. I learned today that "tied quilt" or "tacked quilt" is the right term. I could do one of those, which I remembered reading about earlier in a junior high level "how to" book. This seems much more my speed than really learning how to quilt. I think once this chess set is done, it might be fun to get a lot of thrift store pot-holders, some sturdy yarn, and one of those huge needles, and see if I can't string something together. Maybe I can use teddy bear stuffing in lieu of batting. I know nothing about what I'm doing, but sometimes that has advantages as well as disadvantages. I have this vision of giving both of my wife's sisters hand-made tie quilts for the holidays late this year, made with unlikely materials. I doubt it will come true, but it is fun to daydream.

I began to read a book of interviews with documentary film-makers. I love documentary films, when they feature slices of life and offbeat history, and not merely how many bombs were dropped in this newsreel or that. But documentary film-makers seem to me to have a lot of real challenges--it costs so much to make a film, and they are so hard to sell. The fellow who did "Gimme Shelter", whose name escapes me though he's the pioneer of "real cinema" in this country, talked about how he still has not sold some of his favorite work thus far. He said something to the effect that digital video has really helped things by making things less
expensive. I'd imagine that in the long run, marketing of documentary DVDs over the 'net will help the perrenial distribution problem.

I thank everyone who participated in my "guilty pleasures" poll, despite its various flaws in question phrasing and misguided assumptions of "shared" viewpoint. I can say without reservation that I would open a lending library based on the guilty pleasures books the participants listed, and that I can see that this is a crowd of folks who know how to "get the party started" when it comes to guilty pleasure dance music. I like that people have such diverse answers to the questions. I read the answers, and feel that I live in a very varied world indeed.

I was looking at kiyotei's website today, where many more mail art calls were listed. I feel an urge to create more mail art postcards. I picked up 100 4 x 6 index cards for a dollar to use as postcards, and I have Cary Grant and holiday snowman stamps at the ready (although, now that I think of it, they are all more expensive stamps than required--but isn't Cary worth enough to spend a bit extra?). I do not live under any illusion that I am an artist. I just like to have fun. Speaking of fun, I'm so impressed by the spyrograph fans in the poll response audience. They were so cool, even if I did always break the pencil lead while I was making the ellipses.

The snow all melted here, but it was quite chilly when my wife and I went on our walk today. My family was very kind during our recent trip about claiming to see progress since I've begun eating healthy, which was gratifying, whether or not it is true. It makes it easier to walk in the cold, and abstain from all things worthy.
Speaking of kindness, I received some charming valentines from LJ folks, for which I am grateful. Circumstances got me behind on valentine cards (and on burninggirl's twenty second birthday), but I plan to remedy that. A belated valentine seems a bit misplaced, so I plan to find another upcoming holiday, and honor it appropriately. I'll put out a call for anyone who wants to receive a card, once I figure out the theme, as well as reciprocating the kindness of the folks who sent me one.

But now I have soap to whittle.
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