Dec 082009
 

A while back I came across a blog thread that was, more or less, about girls and boys and bookmaking (unfortunately, I lost the link). The artist had shown some pictures of a gift set she’d made for a little girl’s birthday present. It included a customized journal/book and some other customized things to go along with it. The women commenting on the site oowed and ahhed, and said what a lucky little girl the recipient was. And then someone chimed in (the way I remember it) that it was a shame that little boys only cared about things like legos and super-heroes. She’d sure like to make gifts like that too, but only had little boys in her life. They wouldn’t like gifts like that. I felt sad for the little boys in her life.

Two of the biggest artists’ books fans I know are twin 7 year old boys, the sons of a friend. They are normal, lego-loving boys. And they are completely fascinated by book structures. One year (6th birthday? I’m losing track…) I made them each a flag book with blank tabs surrounding the name of each boy, with the idea that they should decorate and customize the books themselves. To my surprise, those flag books seemed to be the hit of the party. One of the twins called it his “magic book.” Another time, I gave them personalized little pamphlet-style books, and they, apparently, are still pasting things into them and using them. At the moment, they’re waiting to hold me to a promise to come over to make books with them. When their mom had mentioned something about my studio, last time I saw them, little 7 year old D.’s eyes grew huge with excitement. “You have a studio! A real art studio!” You might as well have announced that I had my own train in the backyard. He wants to come see the studio.

I used to be afraid that they’d be disappointed if I were to give them homemade gifts, rather than some perhaps more cool or coveted thing from the toy store. It turned out that they have genuinely liked their handcrafted cards and gifts. I always let them know that they can learn to make the same kinds of things themselves, too. It had never occurred to me that because they are boys I was supposed to assume they wouldn’t be interested in handmade books and art-related activities. Boys deserve better than that.

Dec 052009
 

A beloved friend passed away last month. He’d been ill. It wasn’t a surprise. But still very sad. He’d been a BIG person…in every way. Big personality, big physical presence. Before he’d become too sick, he’d also been a gunsmith. Imagine a very large, loud-voiced (often spewing loud expletives) guy working away in the gun shop. I used to delight in sending him birthday cards each year that were childlike, such as one with a crayon stick-figure drawing of him holding a pistol and saying “Bang! Bang!” We were opposites, but we’d always had a lot of affection for each other.

One birthday, my juvenile “card” offering was a Matchbox car that I’d glued a trailing banner onto, with the words to Happy Birthday written out. The tiny banner was rolled up and tied to the roof, to be untied and unrolled for reading. I was told later that one of his young grandsons was enthralled with the car and  wanted to play with it every time he visited. The little guy was gently told it wasn’t really a toy, so he should only just look at it. (My, did I feel mean!)

Recently, I needed some kind of birthday cards for a set of twins, children of another friend, who were turning 7. I decided to make a couple of the banner cars. I found matching Matchbox cars and customized them for each boy. They were well received.

Come springtime when his own birthday rolls around, I have a suspicion that my friend’s grandson will be getting his very own happy birthday car just like the one his bampa had. And it will come with explicit instructions that he should be allowed to do whatever he darn well pleases with it (although I’m sure his bampa wouldn’t have said “darn”). This is part of my unofficial campaign to plant subliminal thoughts in my friends’ children that art can be fun. It doesn’t have to be serious. Silly is good, no matter what size you are.