Wednesday, June 06, 2012


During what history will show was "Prata's Creative Period", I spent a great deal of time in the first decade of the Millennium making things. I took bookbinding classes, I bought how-to books, I tried watercolor painting, I learned how to make paste paper. I and a friend burned out many blenders making various kinds of paper from various kinds of materials, but then went to the dump again and dump-picked another blender. I went to museums, I searched the web for tutorials. I never did master the Coptic binding, I never did learn to layer collages effectively, I poked many a finger while sewing signatures together, and none of it was especially clever or pretty, but all in all I loved making stuff.

I spent a great many years accumulating art supplies. I haunted going out of business sales, yard sales, and the town dump as sources to feed my creative addiction. (The town dump where I used to live is a fabulous place to find stuff. Ask anyone).

In my early professional life I had been a teacher. Lots of people say that teaching is in the genes, and if that's true, then there is a sub-gene that automatically accompanies the Teaching Gene, (Latin name: Educanus Cognosco) called the Scrounging Gene (Latin name Colligo Vilis).

What this gene enables the gene-bearer to do is look at anything, anywhere, and automatically envision it performing an educational function inside a classroom. Example, at a yard sale, one might see a baseball bat priced for 25 cents. No Teacher with Scrounging Gene can resist a sale, and the cheaper the better. So even though the teacher plays no sports, has no progeny who plays sports, and has invoked the Parental Control Blocker to black out every sports channel known to man, she will immediately become consumed with interest in the baseball bat.

"Hmmm, that baseball bat is only a quarter. I could turn that into a wonderful puppet holder/Christmas lantern/rattlesnake..."

To the Professional Scrounger Teacher, everything that's cheap can be turned into something else.

Though I do not have my own classroom anymore, I still have the Scrounging Gene. This came in handy when looking for art supplies, paper, paints, paper ephemera, books, cardboard, ribbon, fabric, tools, magazines, cards,  ... as you can see, anything and anything can be used for an artistic purpose. I mean, last night on Design Star Stanley even turned the couch into a lamp.

Then the Creative Period waned and turned to the Jurassic Period. The creative impulse to make things first dwindled, then fossilized. It went away as suddenly as the dinosaurs. The only creative things I did for these last five years is take photos and write, and I only needed a camera and a laptop for those. The scrounged materials languished.

I should rename the Jurassic Period the Cryogenic Period, because the creative impulse was only frozen, not dead. (:He's only mostly dead...not all dead. There's a difference!"). It has revived and now I need to go forth and scrounge again.

So if you see me poking around yard sales, eyes narrowed and looking emptily into thin air with head cocked to the side, you will know that is my baseball bat pose. I'd spotted something that I am envisioning turning into something else by sheer dint of creative will.

Art is your emotions flowing in a river of imagination. 
~Devin, Los Cerros Middle School, 1999


Never Forsaken said...

What is it about a sturdy piece of cardboard that just makes it so hard to loosen the grip of one's fingers while holding it over the garbage can? LOL
I used to make anything from everything when my girls were little, we had lots of fun making kites from old wrapping paper, lovely cannisters from empty oatmeal boxes and extra sheets of contact paper, etc...when/if technology ever crashes, and the Lord tarrys, humans will need to use their imaginations and creativity once again.

Elizabeth Prata said...

Never Forsaken, LOL!!! You captured it so well.

You're so right, I remember as a kid playing all day with two sticks and a box.

Francesca said...

you're welcome to join us corner viewers whenever you are inspired!

Beth Stone said...

haha... I can relate. I've just finished cleaning out for a yard sale, and a lot of the items in the pile were "this could be used to make _(fill in the blank)_, but sadly, never were... I'm trying to limit myself to JUST purchasing supplies now that I KNOW I will use, and keeping the "maybe one day I'll use this" stuff at bay. We'll see how that goes. Your "Jurassic" period, etc. comments cracked me up. :o)