Things To Make & Do
Last night a friend told me that she watched in amazement as a two year-old operated an iPhone with dexterity. When I was a kid there was, of course, no internet, and I spent an insane amount of time with paper, cardboard, paints, glue, knives, gunpowder-style chemicals, thinners, balsa wood, plasticene, rubber cement, varnish and other lethal bits and bobs that parents would never give to kids now.
I’m not sure I was much of a model-maker, but there were two good side effects of endlessly constructing stuff. One was to bring in the involvement of my dad, with whom I shared little, so that we progressed from aircraft carriers to vast railway layouts together. The other was to raise the bar on my creative imagination.
The art of paper-sculpture seems to have become a big thing after the Festival of Britain. A number of popular movie posters for the Dirk Bogarde ‘Doctor’ films featured sculpted caricatures of the stars – years later I saw the original art thrown away in a skip in Wardour Street – and the backs of Cornflakes packets had wild animal heads you could sculpt.
The problem is that all of these require a sharp knife, so they’re now off the agenda. I’m sure video games are good for developing hand/eye co-ordination but they don’t allow any creative input from the player, which means that even if they’d been around when I was ten I wouldn’t have played them much.
Shows like ‘Blue Peter’ endlessly showed you how to make everything from castles to bike racks, and gave you the instructions for building Tracy Island from Thunderbirds. Meanwhile I had moved onto recreating my favourite scenes from films with cardboard scenery and eight inch high detailed Plasticene models, then photographing them. Hobby shops existed in every high street and offered young builders advice.
I watched a commercial last night that opened with the lines; ‘Does your child love action? Excitement? Comedy? Sing-a-longs? Then use Netflix, the easy way to watch movies.’ I wanted to add; ‘Or a cheaper more fun option would be to buy them some Plasticene.’ But I wonder if they’d sit and stare at it in horror now.
(The art of paper sculpture is alive and well, it seems, judging by the wonderful creations I found online.)