Clay is good. So is cheap gold paint. So is a tarp spread over the coffee table and some Always Sunny in Philadelphia on in the background. So is the knowledge that the crafts the two of us will make are for children. They won’t be discerning. They’ll only care that, on one of the first days of school, their teacher took them outside and let them dig “treasure” out of the ground.
So I make something I don’t know how to make. Draw something I don’t know how to draw. I don’t care that the paintbrush is already gummed up and nearly useless. Or that the Greek athlete I painted on the side of the vase looks like a smudge of peanut butter. Or that the vase is actually a flower pot.
I build a bone. I build 27 bones and call it a hand. I pretend I know cuneiform and write a tally of the day on a sloppy square of red clay. He pretends to recreate the rosetta stone on a sloppy square of black clay. We pound out game pieces, arrowheads and a small pile of gaudy gold coins.
This is a lesson I’ve learned before. Make things that don’t matter. Make things that make joy and nothing else. I’m glad I keep finding new ways to do this. And I’m glad that my friends keep giving me ideas.
This week I received an adorable booklet in the mail that was created by a fellow writer and I took note, not only of how fun it would be to make a little book, but how fun it is to mail things with stamps and send them out into the world. Another friend told me about buying a cheap kids watercolor set and using it to paint portraits. At my mother’s house the other night I opened the cupboard and sitting on the top shelf was a pastel-colored monster made of fired clay that I made in fourth grade. That thing with it’s bulging eyes and big ears has lived in four different kitchens. My mother still loves it.
Driving around today (still in the silence of last week, so I can hear my own ideas) I thought about organizing a quarterly Bad Art Night. I like the idea of my talented artsy friends being allowed to make something messy, weird and ugly. And my talented non-artsy friends having space to play and create. Plus dioramas. Who wants to come over and make dioramas with me? There will be disco music. There will be soda pop. There will be gummy worms.