Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Schmristmas part two

It's that time of year again, when I get my existential crisis on.... don't know why December keeps dogging me. Ain't this the time of year when you're supposed to NOT be existential crisis-ing? Oh wait, you are... as so many Christmas movies have retold the Dickens story and the like over and over in different versions... but mine doesn't seem to end with little mice with red-and-white striped scarves tap-dancing on the fireplace, or if it does I'm still waiting....

I am really looking forward to 1) emerging from the murk of my spitirual quagmire and 2) a chill post-holidays week with Matt around just cleaning, making things, reading, playing, stuff like that. Regular life with an extra parent around.... just nice. And I'm sure I will reap the benefit of sifting through the mud and sticks and rocks and boots, tires etc. at the bottom of my own personal river bed.... cleaning it up a bit. Can't say I won't be happy when the water returns and I don't have to see it all quite so clearly, but it's good to do.

Here's one project I worked on yesterday that I was so happy about. I got this bed frame at a thrift shop and have been planning for many months to trick it out. Finally did it all yesterday. I cut a piece of plywood to fit it and made this little mattress, sheet, pillow, and blanket. I listened to the Dirty Dancing soundtrack and did all this while Matt and the kids were out on an extended walkabout.... I don't think it can really get any better than that, do you?

I was mainly happy because I'm not really a whiz at the sewing machine at all and I am usually kind of loathe to take it out and set it up because the smallest project will usually turn into a minor drama of trying to get the machine to work or trying to figure out what I'm doing wrong. In making the blanket I felt I had jumped a significant hurdle... the project proceeded smoothly and came together easily, with no agonizing troubleshooting. I feel like that lately with some of the carpentry and tinkering stuff that I'm doing... as some of you may know, I'm not at all a whiz with that stuff either, but am simply learning as I go along, figuring stuff out so that I can do it with kids or for myself. Lately I feel I have more of a grasp on certain tools and materials and the things I want to make come together more easily. It feels very good to have a sense of mastery, however basic, after much floundering. My mom was really good at math and she always pushed us into advanced math classes. We hated math and she later said she realized that she had trouble helping us with it because it came so easily to her. I often think of that story and about how, though sometimes I kick myself for my ill-spent youth and how I could have spent the last 10 years if not more studying tinkering-related things so that I could be coming to this all with such a wealth of experience and knowledge, maybe I am better suited to it all precisely because I am so freshly aware of what it is like to learn all this for the first time.

Anyway, the bed:

And you do know the trouble with nice hand-made stuff you make your kids, right? My God, I know, again with the Soulemama, but how can she make all that sweet stuff for her kids (socks? I would die! They take forever to knit, and then they are lost, sweated-upon, ruined!) and oh, they just love it all so much? I make stuff for my kids sometimes and then they just fight over the happy meal toy I bought to placate them at Savers. Henny has played with this bed for all of about 2 seconds. When I try to tempt her over to play with it more she puts her baby to bed and that's the end. Methinks she needs some little girls to come over and play babies with her.

Before the boys tear it apart for kindling or decimate it with one well-placed leap, which is what I'm pretty sure is going to happen to it. Oh well, I had fun making it, and it was a sweet 2 seconds.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A visit to a guitar maker!

So incredibly cool to be welcomed into the workspace at Little Guitar Works. Jerome actually has developed this special design... the Torzal Natural Twist. It's for bass guitars.... more often than not the bass player has to play continuously their longer, heavier instrument through the whole set and there is a high incidence of carpal tunnel syndrome amongst bass players. Jerome designed this bass that is twisted so that you don't have to reach around the neck quite so much.... it's really amazing. It is tricky geometry too... somehow he manages to get the neck twisted but the strings remain straight.... boggles the mind, it really does.
Anyway, Jerome is a real true tinkerer, the real deal. Since this is a totally new design a machine didn't exist that could assist him in building it, so he had to build a machine that would. He also had several different machines around the shop that he had built himself just out of odds and ends he had laying around.... this is a picture of a buffing machine he built:

A really nice guy and so welcoming.... THANK you so much, Jerome!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Tinkerer's toolbox (the tame version)

Gever Tulley recently created this fabulous resource: The Tinkerer's Toolbox , a list on Amazon that has all the "basic tools are selected for their compatibility with children's hands, their general durability, and successful history of use at Tinkering School." Of course I think it's a brilliant list, but it also made me want to offer up this gift suggestion for parents/friends/relations that might want to encourage a child's inner tinkerer, but aren't quite ready to let them have at it with the hammers and saws. I think they could get quite a lot of tinkering done with this: This is all, of course, just a very loose suggestion. I think you could just wander the aisles of your local hardware store and see what things might tickle your child's fancy. The general idea is just that they'll be able to get their hands on some stuff that usually resides securely in the province of adults and that there will be enough interesting stuff that will just excite their imaginations AND that they can use without adult supervision. Because adult supervision can really be a buzzkill. Trying to create with an anxious adult hovering around wondering when it's all gonna get cleaned up.... not that fun.

And that said, if you do decide to give this gift that keeps on giving, try to give them some space to go along with it. Even if it is just a temporary space.... "you can do whatever you want on the table in the garage for three days, but then I'm going to need you to clean it up"... I think most people need to be able to stretch out, think, consider, and yes, make a mess... without worrying that Mom is going to barge in and make them clean it all up before they're done. And yes, walking away from it all for a whole day or more might actually be an important part of the process.... a long pause before inspiration strikes. A pause we don't often give enough respect.

This is just some stuff that I grabbed at the dollar store, Hobby Lobby, Harbor Freight, and Home Depot. It's not at all hard and fast, though I do think lots and lots of tape and string and cord are indispensable (and are an awesome present all on their own.... consider giving a roll of duct tape and package of cord at the next kid birthday party you're invited to and watch their face light up....). Since it might be a bit hard to see, I'll write it all out for you:

Glue gun and glue sticks (if you're worried your kid will burn themselves, I LOVE this post by Teacher Tom with some thoughts on the matter)
Scissors (good ones)
Safety goggles (more for feeling cool and important than any dangers posed to the eyes with these tools and materials... save them for when you bust out the hammers, saws, and drills, though)
Cable ties
Gorilla Glue (it's non-toxic, and dries super strong) (and kids love gorillas)
Duct tape, painter's tape, scotch tape
Measuring tape
Popsicle sticks (obviously optional, but are a great little building unit that I have seen used in a multitude of creative ways)
Drinking straws (same thing)
Rubber bands
A variety of pulleys (endless fun)
Alligator clips
Letter and number stickers
Twine, string, jute, and rope.... lots of it

I got kind of a lightweight plastic toolbox/storage box with handle to hold all this good stuff because I'm planning on sending it to my nephews (my own children have easy access to all this and more, the lucky so-and-so's) but you could pick up a pretty cool toolbox that would lend even more dignity and glory to this already glorious gift.

And of course on the side they're gonna need some goods to work with.... pieces of wood, bits and bobs from the recycling, old cds, rocks.... I don't know, just whatever you have lying around, look at it with fresh eyes and..... give it to your kid for christmas! Now I don't know your kid, but I have a feeling they would love it.....

Friday, December 10, 2010

A visit to Ramonster World Headquarters!

.... where Kathie Sever stitches up all these unbelievably awesome clothes.... and where she and Bernadette do their Future Craft Collective doings, making wonderful and surprising and useful things from the cast-off materials of this disposable society we live in.... shifting consciousness through craft and all that, you know, v. v. cool.....

Kathie had a great project for us, all set up, though I'm a little sad that I got so caught up in it all I didn't manage to get a photo of any finished products. We had all this neat fabric available, home made stamps and ink, and then some paper board (cereal and cracker boxes). We got to just fiddle around and have fun and make whatever appealed to us.... a card, gift tag, or decoration.... and Kathie was at the ready to stitch the fabric to the cardboard or whatever we had in mind.

Awe. Some!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Got to get organizized....

... you know, like Travis Bickle in Taxidriver?

OK, I should not really be comparing myself to the cabbie whose moral compass has gone dreadfully askew (indeed, I think it's safe to say we're not much alike at all), but if the way I pack and store the trappings of my life is not evidence of a disturbed
mind, I don't know what is.

I try, I try, I DO
try.... always trying to get better. I'm in the midst of one of those efforts right now... trying to get my wits about me and my possessions in order right now while I have a little breathing room and before things get kind
of wild and wooly again as they might do in January and then continue on as such for a good long while. I'm also trying to step back and get a lay of the land while I'm in this sweet little bubble of free time here.... wanting to try always to move forward with right mind and right action and the most correct of intentions as I sally forth trying to build this Austin Tinkering School thingamajigamabob. Because you know I just do so want it to be something that's just uh.... part of the solution. Yes, I guess that's it in a nutshell, though if you ask me to tell you more I could rattle through a thousand nutshells with all my high falutin' dreams and visions and ideals about the place. But I shan't bore you further, at least not right now.

OK, I shall bore you further for just one more moment. I decorated these great tins that the wonderful Bernadette gave me, and am now using them for little rattly bits like sequins and clothespins and balloons and marbles and all the fun accoutrements of my job. Very reuse-y of me, eh? And I doubt ol' Travis did much work with mod-podge, though it'd probably have been a nice outlet for him if he had.