The wooden robot also functioned as a steering wheel. On one side, I had drawn the robot face and buttons. On the other, the robot face had a drawing of a windshield, a field of stars, and the arms had buttons on them to control your speed, as you leaned the arms from side to side, sending your spaceship in the desired direction.
Two of those pieces of plywood were the squares my dad cut to make the doorway of a doghouse. I did what I could with what I had.
Last week I bought a hot glue gun. I thought that I was not the sort of person who had a hot glue gun. I don’t know why I thought this. I paint and draw, make fancy cards and invitations. I make costumes and alter my clothes in rather primitive ways. Still, the hot glue gun seemed so extreme. Glue, I have, and I know.
So it must have been the hotness that intimidated me.
I became obsessed with shortening all my skirts when I learned about hemming tape. Now they are almost universally right at the knee, where all skirts should be. Within a week of bringing home a hot glue gun, I’ve glued onto a headband, two masks, and a sash. I’ve recovered a tambourine and transformed a parasol and a pitchfork. (These are the kind of projects Mardi Gras inspires.)
I wanted to build my own house, as a kid. I had two good playhouses, one cardboard and one strong plastic. I wanted to build my own. My fine motor skills were never great. Hammering a nail in straight is a focused accomplishment. Because I couldn’t build well, I concentrated on the theory of things. What new club we should form. How we would keep score. Who should be Laura, and who should be Ma.
Last night I dressed another prop. Sequined fabric, ribbon. And then I found some episodes of “Project Runway All-Stars.” Boy, was that a relief. After many years of people telling me, “Oh, you’d love ‘Project Runway.’ I can’t believe you don’t watch it,” I sat down for two hours of fashion projects. My mania for making stuff could rest, channeled peacefully into people on TV.
If I could sew well, I’d never stop. Well. I would stop to shop. I’m not a generative artist with clothes. When those Project Runway people go into their trances and come up with some dress, I am amazed. I don’t think that way. I go out and see what there is to see. I try things on and give preference to what is great, or great on me. Sometimes I have a muse in mind: Patti Smith, Martha Graham, the schoolteacher lover of Don Draper’s. I look at what I have and mix it up new, cut it apart and rearrange it and hem tape it back together.
For Mardi Gras projects this year, I didn’t buy much. One thrift store dress, one feathered mask I pulled apart, some ribbon, the hot glue gun. A pair of red sequined hot pants and an old silk robe sacrificed themselves to become new beings. Ribbon I bought for a previous party found a new vocation. My impatience to get going and my dread of shopping force me to use what I have. (I know, I said I love shopping, but only if it lasts less than an hour and involves only one store.)
The glue is not really that hot. I bought the low-heat model. As I mentioned, my fine motor skills are poor. Touching the glue while it’s still hot is like getting a drip of wax on your finger. It hurts intensely for two and a half seconds, and then it molds to your fingerprint and you get to peel it off. A little heat and a smidge of pain isn’t discouraging to the creative process. Even lovelier, the leftover strings of hot glue look like gossamer. It looks like a spider’s been all over my house, not making anything in particular, just drawing her thread around.