It has long been a family joke that I have only one skill – verbal reasoning – and that’s it. I am distinctly not an all-rounder. But my friend, Ms Thrifty, started it, being a very capable and artistic sort of person. She found a link to these incredible artworks made out of pages of books by Su Blackwell and sent it to me and to the manager of our book store. Once we had exclaimed excitedly about the installations – and they are extraordinarily exquisite and gorgeous – she began to tempt us with weasel words about having a go at making something similar. Oh I remembered how it all went back in childhood, watching the presenters of Blue Peter making some amazing model of Tracy’s Island out of egg boxes and cereal packets that you believed you could reproduce perfectly, only to find your sagging, shedding model, bound up like an S & M victim with desperate quantities of sticky tape, bore no ressemblance to anything other than the sum of its diminished parts. But I am older now, with better motor skills, even if no wiser. And so it was with some excitement that I arrived at Ms Thrifty’s house one evening last week, with a copy of Colette’s Gigi that I had saved from the recycling bin, ready to craft an artwork.
I’m sure an art therapist would have had a field day with the different approaches that we took to the task. Ms Thrifty started snipping up a cereal box to make a basic framework, our adorable manager let rip with a Stanley knife on the pages of a hardback book, and I started fiddling around with a quantity of wire. In the meantime, in the way of women through the ages, we found it very easy to talk about all the things that were bothering us, while our hands were creatively engaged. Ms Thrifty had a friend staying over who is going through a difficult divorce. Our manager had had to undergo a formal interview to secure funding for another year of PhD research. Ms Thrifty is very busy at the moment with a geological museum project. And you know all about me already. It struck me how very 21st century were our concerns, all mostly career-related. Wouldn’t our mothers or our grandmothers have had a very different kind of conversation over their tapestries and their crochet?
In the end, we were pretty pleased with the results. Ms Thrifty made a dinky little cottage with a tiled roof and a collage of windows and doors (see it here). Our manager made a pop-up style scene with pine trees and ghosts and directional arrows that rose from the open pages of a book. And I made a tree:
Considering that my husband and son had been convinced I would return home with my fingers glued to my head or the seat of my jeans, this counted as a roaring success on my un-dextrous terms. Afterwards, Ms Thrifty and I got a bit over-excited and imagined a whole scene for the windows of the bookstore at Christmas, with a Santa sleigh and a little hamlet of houses. I think this was wishful thinking, but we’ve said we’ll have another art evening soon and try again.
While we’re on the subject of making things, you may remember my son’s extended project at school, which was to bake a series of fancy cakes. Well, on the weekend he produced the cake that started him off on all this, a rainbow cake:
Pretty neat, eh?