Thursday, July 8, 2010
Welcome to the final installment of 80s and 90s Kids’ Arts and Crafts. For parts I and II, check here and here. Thanks again to everyone for your understanding on the intermittent posting over the next few weeks or so during my much-dreaded moving time. A psychology class once taught me that intermittent reinforcement is the most effective variety, so maybe my readership will consequently explode. All this time, I’ve been ringing my little Pavlovian nostalgia bell and bringing you to salivate for post reinforcement daily, when apparently you could have been twice as drooly had I only fed you memories a few times a week. Who knew?
This batch of crafts was especially contingent on reader suggestions, so thank you to everyone who contributed their misty water-and/or-crayon-colored memories of complicated kits and toys our parents used to shut us up for an hour or two. We may not have been creating great masterpieces, but they were at least enough to inspire temporary pride for minimal effort--the preferred combination for children with creative energy but little hopes of a professional future in the fine arts.
I hadn’t previously considered this to be much of a craft, but after so many write-ins, it was clear it fits the bill. After all, if Magnadoodle and Etch-a-Sketch made the cut, there’s no reason to exclude the Lite-Brite on account of its transient nature. They weren’t lasting works of art, but they were sparkly ones.
The television commercials always showed children just like us creating elaborate patterns with the tiny bulbs, leading us to believe they held great artistic potential. When we got our very own Lite-Brite, however, it became clear most of them were working from the pre-made pattern punch-out sheets.
In case you haven’t yet gotten over the thrill of tediously placing tiny bulbs in pre-cut sockets, Hasbro online has a Lite Brite Simulator. Amazing, right? It’s just as painstakingly laborious as I remember, only in this version you have the option to print your works of virtual art. If you’ll please excuse me, I’m off to spend three hours clicking faux-lit dots into simulated slots.
As someone who owned this toy, allow me to attest to the fact it was exactly as fun as the commercial suggests. Using little-to-no artistic effort, you could punch out perfectly formed flowers, affix them to premade stems, and voila! Art. The paper it came with was scented, so your result were flowers that smelled like, well, scented paper. Pretty impressive nonetheless.
In retrospect, these seem like a suspiciously-motivated ploy by parents to set up little potholder sweatshop operations in their very own homes. “Oh, here you go, Susie. Just take these loops and this little loom and weave Mommy some pot-holders. Unless you want to burn your fragile little hands on the tuna casserole dish next time. I know how you hated the blistering. So, you know, it’s pretty important you craft an 8 by 10 square from these little circles."
If this was still available through a simple TV offer in three easy payments of $9.99, you can bet I’d be dialing that 800-number and reciting my check or money order information. That commercial is incredibly convincing. Blouses! Belts! Boots! Denim jackets! If only I could find that denim baseball cap I bedazzled in my youth, my life could be complete. And sparkly!
This device was relatively simple to use, meaning that in the hands of the wrong person it could lead to some very dangerous non-industry regulated rhinestoning. While a mass-producing manufacturer of clothing realizes that 200 rhinestones on a single collar is a bit much, a bedazzler-crazed regular Josephina may think it’s a grand idea. Heavy, but grand. And, you know. Sparkly.
You cut ‘em, you bake ‘em, they shrink. Exciting, no?
Any of us who ever went to summer camp are more than familiar with lanyard craftsmanship. Literally the poor man’s friendship bracelet, these useless neon-colored heaps of flexible plastic served as keychains and nametag necklace holders.
We would take great pride in crafting a lanyard for a family member and then wonder why their grateful reaction seemed so strained. As adults, it’s clear to us now that it was because they knew that had to wear around this ugly piece of junk for at least a few weeks until we forgot we’d woven the eyesore.
Stained Glass/Suncatcher Kits
These things always seemed much cooler while still in their original packaging. The sample shown on the package was impeccable: a beautiful, uniformly sun-catching colored glass with excellent use of color. Our own work, however, was usually not quite so dazzling. It may have caught the sun, sure, but it blinded us with streaky, watered-down colored patches overflowing and bleeding into other areas on the suncatcher.