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.
How amazing is this peacock? Composed by a tinsmith around 1900, this elaborate piece of artwork was actually meant as a tenth anniversary gift — the “tin” anniversary, as it were. (Now it’s the diamond anniversary, naturally.)
Folk art appeals to me on so many levels: aesthetic, conceptual, gut. I appreciate the earnest artwork of the untrained, the insane, the imprisoned, so much more than those who learned their skills from a higher institution. I obsess over chipped, wonky pieces of yard art and untrained painters’ landscapes. There’s a lot to be said for creating work for yourself alone.
So, on that note, I hope you weren’t freaked out by the falsetto singing of a doll (you know I love that stuff). This video, narrated by one of folk artist Calvin Black’s “actresses,” shows a panoramic scene of Possum Trot and the “Bird Cage Theater.” Located in the bleak Mojave Desert, Black spent his life creating this installation, including more than 80 life-size female dolls, each with its own personality, function, and costume. Each of the dolls perform and “sing” in voices recorded by the artist. Was this carnival ever intentioned for the public? I’m not sure. I wish it still existed, nonetheless. Can you even imagine coming upon this?
Watch the short documentary on Calvin Black and Possum Trot in its entirety on Folkstreams.
Holy realism! This spectacular life mask, eyelashes and all, was created by folk artist Linwood P. Law (seriously, going in my future cat name file) of Buffalo, New York in 1935. Apparently little is known about the man behind the mask, but he did leave behind a very coveted body of sculpture. Learn more at Anonymous Works.
My name is Alison and this is where I obsess // muse // and drop all of the curious, obsolete, eccentric and otherwise noteworthy things I come across on the weird, wide expanse that is the Internet. Also, cute cat posts.