Turns Out You Can Teach An Old Dog…

Meet the next Martha Stewart: my dad.

Leaping Lizards Pottery Studio

A year ago I dragged my father (not by the hair, of course, because that would be wrong, or so I’m told – and also because he is a bit sparse on top) to a little art studio near The Villages in Florida where he lives, called Leaping Lizards Pottery.

Little did he know he was about to blossom into an artisté (had I thought ahead, I would have brought a pencil thin mustache to stick on his lip). He erroneously assumed we were on our way to yet another doctor’s appointment. Yeah, he would have preferred to be poked with needles. But it was time to include him in the tradition of making a snowman ornament to gift at Christmas. You know what they say, “The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is now.”

Our expertise working with clay almost exactly matched our expertise playing professional baseball. To say that neither of us had experience working with clay is an understatement, like saying Hollywood dabbles in sleaze. It didn’t take long, however, to get into the swing of things (the clay, not the sleaze – that took a tiny bit longer).

Jennifer Beville, the artist/proprietor of the studio, adopted the patience of a master ninja and the enthusiasm of Richard Simmons (without the leotard) and guided us through the treacherous waters that is clay making (for those of you on the edge of your seats, rest assured, no one was hurt).

Over the course of two sessions my dad’s work improved dramatically. You can see the progress below (from left to right).

Six months later, we went back for another session. Although the results weren’t quite as impressive, we shared time together and made a few memories. And that, my friends, is what life is all about (that, and sleaze, obviously).

Our experience with clay, by the way, was the catalyst for the Twelve Days of Christmas.

On the Day After Christmas…

On the day after Christmas, my true love gave to me:

Thirteen puzzle balls,
Twelve tectonic solids,
Eleven ropes a swinging,
Ten birthdays and counting,
Nine, oh so cutesy,
Eight canes, not candy,
Seven snowman monsters,
Six scrap metal remnants,
Five… snow… man… rings,
Four carved from a nut,
Three disc men,
Two simple blocks,
and a snowman family straight from the sea.


The twelve days of Christmas now comes in an economical baker’s dozen! Thirteen for the price of twelve. What a bargain!

Alright, I have to come clean. I cheated with most of the ornaments you see below, thanks to cheap child labor in China. You see, my initial thinking was to create interactive snowman ornaments that one could pull off the tree and play with, rather than simply look at (give us something to do while waiting to rip open the presents!). What could be better than puzzles? They’re fun for all ages!

It turns out that making puzzles is hard and requires better tools than I own, not to mention patience. So I bagged that idea for a while, until one day I came across this thing called Google. They had cheap puzzles galore, and I thought, “Hey! I can repurpose these into snowmen!” So I did.

I had a bit of trouble finding my local Google store, but once I did, the rest was easy (If you’re looking, it’s next to Sears).

Puzzles prior to turning them into ornaments

I crafted the first two snowmen below from scratch (both made entirely from little wood balls). The remainder mostly involved adding heads and hats to stock wood puzzles.

 

 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


Click here to see the twelfth day of Christmas.

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas…

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:

Twelve tectonic solids,
Eleven ropes a swinging,
Ten birthdays and counting,
Nine, oh so cutesy,
Eight canes, not candy,
Seven snowman monsters,
Six scrap metal remnants,
Five… snow… man… rings,
Four carved from a nut,
Three disc men,
Two simple blocks,
and a snowman family straight from the sea.

Now, this is more like it, the architect in me coming out! Snowmen with a tectonic bent. Perhaps I’ll design a snowman that looks like a house, too. Nevermind, I did that years ago. Check out the bottom of the page.












 

Click here to see the eleventh day of Christmas.

On the Eleventh Day of Christmas…

On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:

Eleven ropes a swinging,
Ten birthdays and counting,
Nine, oh so cutesy,
Eight canes, not candy,
Seven snowman monsters,
Six scrap metal remnants,
Five… snow… man… rings,
Four carved from a nut,
Three disc men,
Two simple blocks,
and a snowman family straight from the sea.

I think I went a bit off the rails with these snowmen. Maybe a bit too much Martha Stewart, not enough Corbusier.

 

Click here to see the tenth day of Christmas.

On the Tenth Day of Christmas…

On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:

Ten birthdays and counting,
Nine, oh so cutesy,
Eight canes, not candy,
Seven snowman monsters,
Six scrap metal remnants,
Five… snow… man… rings,
Four carved from a nut,
Three disc men,
Two simple blocks,
and a snowman family straight from the sea.

Here’s a simple snowman ornament to commemorate the ten years Robyn, Beck and I have been a family. Technically, if you include the nine months Robyn spent carrying Beck around before he was born and the couple of months since his 10th birthday, it’s been eleven years. But why quibble.

Click here to see the ninth day of Christmas.

On the Ninth Day of Christmas…

On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:

Nine, oh so cutesy,
Eight canes, not candy,
Seven snowman monsters,
Six scrap metal remnants,
Five… snow… man… rings,
Four carved from a nut,
Three disc men,
Two simple blocks,
and a snowman family straight from the sea.

 

If you are just tuning in to this blog, here’s a quick recap. Every year at Christmas I create a snowman ornament for my wife, Robyn. Read about it here. This year morphed into the Twelve Days of Christmas. We are on day nine.

Cute is the word of the day. Some of these snowmen began their lives as sketches, others sort of evolved in my hands (you can do that easier in clay than wood).

Concept Sketches

Below is… the Snowman Executioner. Dum dum da dummm… Sometimes designs evolve in an unintentional direction. I didn’t set out to create an executioner (springtime usually takes care of the snowman overpopulation problem on its own) and, as you can see, it didn’t look that way on the concept sketch. Oh well, another snowman gone bad.

… and finally, a couple of malnourished snowmen. Remember to feed your snowmen, kids!

Click here to see the eighth day of Christmas.

On the Eighth Day of Christmas…

On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:

Eight canes, not candy,
Seven snowman monsters,
Six scrap metal remnants,
Five… snow… man… rings,
Four carved from a nut,
Three disc men,
Two simple blocks,
and a snowman family straight from the sea.

I designed these little snowmen to look like icicles hanging on a Christmas tree. Honestly, they don’t look much like snowmen or icicles. Cigarettes, maybe? Uhhh… just say no, kids!

Click here to see the seventh day of Christmas.

On the Seventh Day of Christmas…

On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:

Seven snowman monsters,
Six scrap metal remnants,
Five… snow… man… rings,
Four carved from a nut,
Three disc men,
Two simple blocks,
and a snowman family straight from the sea.

Nothing says Christmas like snowman monsters! Some of these are bipolar (from the North Bi-pole, of course).

Glazed, but not yet fired in the kiln
Concept Sketch

 

Click here to see the sixth day of Christmas.

On the Sixth Day of Christmas…

On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:

Six scrap metal remnants,
Five… snow… man… rings,
Four carved from a nut,
Three disc men,
Two simple blocks,
and a snowman family straight from the sea.

Concept Sketch

If you have ever dallied among the tents of a craft show, you have undoubtedly seen cute, little animals crafted from junkyard scraps. I always admire the contrast created by hard mechanical objects depicting soft organic. So, I took a trip to my local hardware store. This is the result.

…and here are a few of my metal snowmen from year’s past.

Click here to see the fifth (and 1/2) day of Christmas.