Last week, in the course of my daily folk art search on Etsy, I stumbled upon something exciting: something better than old needlework, more interesting than your typical duck sculpture. This was a cache of the most amazing rings I’d ever laid eyes upon, and there had to be a story behind them.
I wrote to the shop owner, Constance, in the hopes of finding out more info. The story just got better. In fact, it went back over seventy years, to the days when the rings’ handy creator, Bob Dodd, was a sailor. According to Constance:
Bob said that when he started as a sailor in 1937, making rings from celluloid was a crafty thing to do, but few people made more than one or two because the process was so time consuming and labor intensive. Each of these intricate rings was made by hand — without the use of molds or melting — by cutting up raw materials such as old celluloid toothbrushes, hand mirrors, vanity trays, combs, piano keys, guitar picks, umbrella handles, pocket knife handles, accordion pieces. (Bob said he once even used a piece from the windshield of a helicopter or small plane.) These pieces are then filed, pieced together, and filed again. This process can take a master craftsman a day or more to complete.
Today Constance is selling a portion of her collection of Bob’s rings, in the hopes of funding efforts to make them herself. Bob was a true folk art hero, and I can only hope to own one of these elaborate pieces someday.