Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Craft show issues, Elmer's Glue and White Bread

I came across a macramé necklace for sale on Etsy last night, and it stirred up some buried memories.

In my mind, my first artwork that I produced and sold was a linoleum block print of a sailboat. There was a companion piece of a surfer on a wave. I printed them on this really rough Japanese paper (probably contributed to my love of texture). I was 11 years old, and my mother had just opened the Golden Gallery in Wilmington, NC. I had a little corner called, appropriately enough, "John's Corner", and I sold my blockprints there.

The truth is though, as my run-in with the macramé necklace forced my mind to recall, I was making and selling something else before then.

My clearest memories of that pre-block print time center around 1976. It was the Bicentennial, and we lived in Charleston, South Carolina. My mother had not yet begun to master Watercolor, and was dabbling in other arts. Or crafts, for that matter. I am unable to pinpoint when I joined her in dabbling, but her involvement in craft shows goes back as far as the early 70s in West Virginia.

She worked in the practically lost art of Breaddough, a pre-Sculpey concoction of mashed-up white bread (no crusts), Elmer's glue and a few drops of food coloring. Mostly she made flowers, which then became jewelry of some kind or another. I can vaguely remember twisting and twirling a tiny petal or two around a fake stamen.

She also worked in macramé. We made necklaces from a waxy twine with small wooden beads and clay pendants that she had fashioned out of scrap bits of clay from a Potter friend's studio. We made macramé Owls with huge wooden beads for eyes, and pothangers from a rough Mexican Jute. I vaguely remember putting some of my work out for sale and occasionally selling a piece.

The most memorable thing we did had to do with the Bicentennial though. For all of 1976, as we went to craft shows, we went in 1770's period dress. My mom and my sister had matching dresses and hats, and I had knickers and a puffy sort of shirt. Somehow I don't remember my dad ever dressing up.

My sister still has what we refer to as "Craft Show Issues" because of this. We joke about it. I have fonder memories of it, and funnily enough, my dad now makes his living dressing up in period clothes and telling stories with a historical focus to schoolkids and such.

So, I had to decide if I should update my bios to reflect my newly remembered entrance into the world of making stuff. I decided that, while my dabblings in handiwork before the blockprints was fun, and formative I'm sure, it was a different direction than I have been traveling in since I was 11.

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