Click on photos to enlarge.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Craft Stick Art

Pixelsticks, Nathalie Chikhi
I've debated a little as to whether to call this "Craft Stick Art" or "Popsicle Stick Art." The Internet was no help, they seem evenly divided on the subject. It's pretty much irrelevant in any case except that the term "craft sticks" has been broadened to include everything from toothpicks to tongue depressors, even those little wooden paddles they used to provide for eating ice cream samples. In my years of teaching sculpture at all grade levels, I've probably utilized all of the above in sufficient quantities to have done severe damage to at least one good-sized tree.

Popsicle enticements from roughly a hundred years ago.
Popsicles are what we in the field of art education call a "happy accident." In 1905, an eleven-year-old boy named Frank Epperson, from San Francisco, invented the popular hot-weather treat as we know it today. One cold evening Frank forgot and left a mixture of powder flavored soda water with a stir stick in it on the back porch. Because of the cold weather outside, he awoke the next morning to find a frozen treat on a stick. It was, however, seventeen years later, in 1922, that Epperson first served his ice lollipops at a Fireman’s ball where they were a huge hit. It didn’t take long for him to realize the commercial possibilities of his accidental invention. A year later, in 1923, he introduced the frozen pops on a stick to the public at Neptune Beach, an amusement park in Alameda, California. Again, they were a huge hit. Epperson applied for and received a patent for a quiescently “frozen confectionery,” in 1924, which he named the “Epsicle Ice Pop”. He began producing them in different fruit flavors on birch wood sticks. The name, "Popsicle" came when Epperson’s kids began calling them "Pop’s cycles." So, on their insistence, he renamed his invention the “Popsicle,” a name which has stuck for nearly a century (above).
The Popsicle grenade (no glue needed)
As for my history with Popsicle sticks, I go waay back. I was probably little more than six or seven when my friends and siblings used to save the fruity stained Popsicle sticks left over from our indulgence in the sticky sweet treat. They were sticky and sweet for good reason--sugar--which also served to keep them from freezing into hard, solid masses of ice, making them much more easily edible...though preferably in haste. I'm not old enough to remember their ever costing only five cents, though, as the ad above proclaims. I think they were a dime during the 1950s. In any case, once we'd collected five sticks we were able to make a Popsicle grenade (above, right), sticks woven together in such a way so that when thrown and striking the victim (or anything else) they would "explode," presumably inflicting major bodily harm.

Tongue depressors seem to be the
weapon of choice with this little stunt.
Along the same line, utilizing the tensile strength of the birch wood, juvenile Popsicle demolition experts are today involved in much more sophisticated endeavors--spectacular, large-scale, chain reactions (left) that make tipping over dominoes seem like child's play. But seriously, folks, as any art teacher will tell you, the humble little sticks have within them the potential for becoming amazingly varied works of art. When combined with hot glue (I always used Elmer's with the kids), or paint, cloth, and other decorative craft items, the results can be quite impressive such as seen in Nathalie Chikhi's Pixelsticks (top). Though usually referred to as "craft" sticks, in the hands of such artists, perhaps "art sticks" might be more appropriate. Henry Toro (below) creates a similar effect using dyed (stained) tongue depressors to render his abstract images.

I could find no title for this piece by Henry Toro. Perhaps Stalactites would be appropriate.
A double helix marble racing
sculpture...I think.
Of course, the various incarnations of craft sticks have long been more of a sculptural medium than a base for paintings and other types of wall hangings. My students tended to prefer building towers, sometimes in competition with one another seeing who could build the tallest piece of "abstract" art. Over the years, I gained some insight as to how God must have felt regarding the Tower of Babel. Fortunately, none of my students' works reached the heights of the spiraling "thing" at right. I think there may have been some marbles involved, judging from the spiraling ramps (lost ones, perhaps). However, such high-rise towers need not be so enormously complex as seen in the simple spiraling twist formula of the sculpture below. Used in such a manner, carefully (and patiently) constructed, the sky, or at least the ceiling, is the limit.

Side view (left), top looking down (right). The sky's the limit.

Authenticity combined with precision.
Craft sticks are great for building models such as what I've termed the "Pop Cycle" (below). On today's market, the cost of craft sticks varies (mostly depending upon quantities purchased) from less than five cents to as high as thirteen cents each. Judging from the quantities Chip Addington must have needed in creating his wooden motorcycle, it might have been cheaper (not to mention far less work) to have bought the real thing. Insofar as models are concerned, various places of abode appear much more frequently. Some builders strive for architectural authenticity as with the modest little Tudor dwelling at left. Other model builders prefer a more free-form creation as with the example of medieval pretentions (bottom). A man's home, (even when built from Popsicle sticks), is his castle.

Chip Addington's Popsicle Stick Motorcycle

Walt Disney World has nothing to worry about.


No comments:

Post a Comment