Are you good at crafts? It’s kind of a loaded question since there are a number of different crafts out there in the world and it could be referring to any of them. At the same time, it’s not so much a hard question since I would easily and readily answer with a resounding “no, I’m not,” without giving it much thought.
That’s not really fair though. The thing is, I really like crafts. I love the idea of making or building things myself, either from a kit or from my own designs, the problem is that I’m just not terribly skilled at anything and I don’t have the time or drive to practice and get better. Which isn’t to say I don’t want to.
When I was younger, I got really into the idea of doing special effects make-up. This was around the time of An American Werewolf in London (1981) and the rise of the Rick Baker era of monsters. So, I did what anyone would do, I found the Tom Savini book on monster make-up and taught myself. I had some slight help in the form of my friend Craig (who I’ve mentioned previously in the post about moving out) who gave me a plaster head to work on. I bought myself a lot of clay and some basic modeling tools and away I went.
I had decided I wanted to do a sort of catman since I had a fascination for were creatures and the werewolf (my favorite) had kinda been done to death. I got some books from the library for reference and spent about a week carving something which, ultimately, vaguely resembled a cat face. I was incredibly proud of that. So much so I have pictures of it in an album which is in a box in Vegas. I made a cast of it and then made a latex mask from that cast, all part of the process of doing the make-up.
But the thing is, I wasn’t very good. Many decades later, watching a show like Face Off, the thing it took me a week to do, is something these folks could do in 20 minutes. But that wasn’t the point. The point was that I did it and I learned something about it and about myself. Mostly that I wasn’t really cut out for this*.
This, though, is how I generally approached anything like crafts. I give it a shot and see how it goes. In LA, I was friends with an actor/musician named Stu. Stu would take whatever money he made from acting and invest it into woodworking materials. His garage/workspace was packed with whatever you needed to make anything, and I would spend weekends at his place, learning about wood, helping him build cabinets and dressers and whatever else he was working on, just to see how it all went together.
I would love to have a workshop like that. I have lots of ideas for things, but like anything, it’s not the ideas that count – it’s the execution. A couple years ago, my friend Simas and I tried to make wooden puzzle boxes, which never quite came together, but we gave it a good try. And again, I’d love to give it another go, but only when I have the space for it. Then we were doing it at Simas’ place and the clean-up after spending an afternoon sawing through ¼ inch plywood was extensive (there’s no way Rasa would let me do that in our house so we really need to get a place with a garage!).
I’ve used this love of designing and making stuff wherever I can, though. Several years ago, Rasa and I made ceramic coasters as holiday gifts for friends and family after I researched the process through some maker websites. I’ve also made clamshell boxes for some of my rare and collectible magazines and paperbacks by following the instructions posted by some other designer, and that felt cool to have accomplished.
These days, my crafting is confined to two different aspects… collecting books (usually through some bundling service) on various crafting skills (a number of them funneling into the idea of cosplay) and helping Monki out with her various ideas. She’s no slouch when it comes to being crafty, able to take her 5yo imagination and make garages out of cut-up Kleenex boxes and wings for her toy cars out of small post-it strips. Just the other day, she wanted to make a house out of some large paper we had, so while she was struggling with getting it to stand, I was able to step up and help her out. When she made the street for the front of the house, I was tasked with making sure the road signs would stand up, which I did.
So yeah, I still have lots of ideas, but these days, they are much more collaborative. I’m waiting for her (or Rasa) to come up with some idea and then leave it to me to figure out how to make it a reality. And even though I may not be very good at it, I’ll do my best to make it a reality for them.
*This didn’t stop me from doing a werewolf make-up for a local DJ, making vampire teeth for a number of friends, designing effects for a haunted house, and working on horror films when I first moved to LA, but still, not really my cup of tea.