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Monday, August 18, 2008

How to complete a project that mostly annoys you

So, the mosaic. Red tiles that won't permit themselves to be trimmed to any reasonable shape. Not enough square-ish shapes, way too many Massachusetts-shapes.

Have you ever set a jigsaw puzzle out on your dining room table and just left it there for a few days? Before long, the whole family is compulsively pausing whenever they walk past, to put just one piece in and then go on about their business.

Yeah, that's what I'm doing with the mosaic, more or less. It's still in my project space rather than anywhere public enough that the Monkey might notice it, and of course progress is somewhere between "glacial" and "creeping along", but I've decided not to worry about that. Slow progress is better than none.


When I was in college, I managed to arrange things so that I was singing at least three times a week; one year, I was in five separate musical things (four choirs and a voice lesson), so I was singing daily. I loved it. Unfortunately, once you get out of college, singing opportunities are much fewer, and usually constitute one rehearsal a week if you're lucky.


Since having a child, I have begun singing again almost daily, and have discovered previously untapped depths of talent in musical composition and creation of lyrics... oh, who are we kidding. "Depths" refers to how far I will sink to create something singable for my kid, regardless of the dippiness of the words. (The "Belly Bongos" song comes immediately to mind... followed by the Sweet Potato Boogie and Sha-Poopie, which refers to exactly what you think it does.)

I am thrilled to report that my kid seems to be developing this ability as well. Every preschooler will sing anything you put in front of them, and I imagine most of them will blur the words together from various songs as long as they all sound like "Twinkle Twinkle". But MY kid has recently begun adding her own words to tunes she knows, without being taught, and I'm so excited I could just pop.


Never put me anywhere near a clearance book bin, even in the grocery store, even when I'm exchanging a thing of white sugar for a thing of brown. There was a craft book. I was good and I didn't buy it (sometimes virtue doesn't show, because it's measured by what you don't do), but of course I looked through it.

The chapter on crafting clocks and mobiles (no idea why they're the same chapter, but whatever), had a whole bunch of mobile projects that were built essentially from lots of small bent-wire sculptures hooked together. Which got me thinking yet again about this idea I've had percolating for awhile now, involving my family tree and roughly a quarter-mile or so of copper wire.

See, it's like this: My ancestry in the US goes back eight, possibly nine generations. Back in the very early 1800s, there were one or two intermarriages in different branches of the family, which makes a two-dimensional representation look really screwy - and I mean really screwy. So I had the idea a couple years back to try a three-dimensional representation instead. A mobile was my first thought, but that wouldn't quite work either, since the intermarriage links would keep some part of the mobile from being able to move freely. Also, nine generations of family means I'd about need a cathedral to hang it from.

On the other hand, a freestanding tree sculpture, limited to just my direct lineage, could actually work. The trunk would indicate the direct line of descent from the first US generation to the present. Side branches, coming off the trunk at equally-spaced intervals, represent the other offspring at each generation, ie the siblings of whoever the direct ancestor is. To keep things from getting crazy, the branches wouldn't have any "sub-branches" to represent their descendants. Instead, metal leaves would be attached to the branch, stamped with names and dates for the individuals in that generation. Small furled buds would represent the tragic number of would-be ancestors who did not survive past childhood.

Thing is, you'd need not just one leaf per person, you would need one wire as well; the idea is to have the trunk start out really thick at the base, with wires coming out of the trunk and becoming branches at each generation. That way the trunk would get more slender as you go up through the generations, just as in a real tree, and at the very top there would be only one or two branches with leaves, representing the current generation - either two leaves for my generation (me and my brother), or just one for the latest generation in the lineage, my daughter.

Either way you look at it, that's a lot of wire. How do you find something pliable tnough to shape like that, but strong enough to support the weight of all the other wires and leaves and such around it?


That's the first time I've actually set out this idea in writing, despite having doodles of it in my notebooks and the image in my head for, oh, probably two years or so now. It occurred to me recently that I could make trees for each of the original branches of the family, and the intermarriages could be covered with intertwining branches from two of the trees; but I'm not sure I'm ready to build even one tree, much less an entire grove of them. Current records from the late 18th century to the present, with all the ancestors and their spouses listed, is somewhere near a thousand people; possibly more than that.

Too bad my brain just refuses to let this one go.


  1. All right, the tree idea sounds really freaking cool.

    What if you did it so that it would "stand" in the corner of a room - so that you could use the corner as support, but have all of your various branches coming out into the room? Would that work with the idea in your head? Because I think it would be easier to use two walls to support such a sculpture, rather than just one.

    You must use copper wire. That would be indescribably beautiful. I wonder if you could find wire that was thick at one end and tapered to thinner at the top, so that you could save on weight.

    Wow, I really hope you do this.

    I never knew you sang.

  2. 1. Wall? What wall? Bend the "trunk" wires out at the bottom to make a sturdy-ish base, sort of like the above-ground visible roots.

    2. Singing was practically my first religion. It's been so long, though, I'm hesitant to even audition for any of the local choirs. I'm afraid I might be too rusty to hit notes that used to be no trouble.

  3. You know, they do sell kits to make trees with semi-precious stones as the "leaves". I have a tiny one from sodalite, but I've seen them bigger. The wire looks copper. It's more a "spreading" look than the columnar your article suggests, but just a thought.

  4. Hmm, that's a good idea, Kim - I could look into one of those as a kind of practice run.

    'Course, I'd also have to actually put it together...

    Thanks for stopping by!