The Joy of Making People Laugh: Author/Illustrator Sal (Salvatore) Barbera Three Random Questions Interview

Bonnie Ferrante: My guest today is Sal (Salvatore) Barbera, author, illustrator, and artist. Welcome Sal. Please tell us in three or four sentences a little about yourself.

Sal Barbera: I’m an “it’s never too late to start writing” writer. I wrote my first book a few years ago. I believe laughter is the best medicine, and that’s actually why I wrote my first book, to make my mother-in-law laugh. I heard that Charley Chaplin once said: “ A day without laughter is a wasted day.” Those are words I live by.

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Ferrante: Why did you choose to write picture books as opposed to any other genre?

Barbera: I’m a visual person and I love to draw. When I write, I draw the characters as I’m writing the story. It helps me to visualize it as I go along. I didn’t actually choose to write picture books, it just turns out that what I write and draw is also ideal for picture books.

Ferrante: You have written “I show kids how to deal with difficult personal and social situations using humor, diplomacy and intelligence.” What kind of situations are you talking about?

Barbera: In Mary Elizabeth The Spotless Cow, she arrives at a new farm where every single cow has spots, and she’s totally spotless. She’s instantly thrown into an adversarial situation when they immediately don’t like her and won’t have anything to do with her. It’s a situation ‘different’ kids experience when they’re at a new school or camp or even the community pool. These are stressful situations for children, and they need to figure out how to get their peers to like and accept them. There are many kids that have to deal with being somehow different from the other kids. And being ‘different’ can lead to bullying and prejudice.

In another one of my books, Ernie The Dysfunctional Frog, Ernie can’t understand why he can never seem to do what the other frogs can easily accomplish. In every situation, he seems to fail or lag behind, while the other frogs do the same thing so easily. The surprise of this story is that there’s a very good reason why this happens. And that’s what makes him different from the other frogs. The themes of love and friendship are woven through this story as well as a big dose of humor and diplomacy.

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Ferrante: Are you a full-time or part-time writer? How does that affect your writing?

Barbera: I’m a writer. But for me, it’s very much an inspiration thing. When I hear or see something that sparks an idea I go into writing mode. I don’t sit down every day at a set time and write just to write something. But I do think of something funny or interesting every day, and many times I’ll write that down as an idea for a story.

Ferrante: Mary Elizabeth The Spotless Cow is about exclusion. Why did you feel this was such an important topic? What personal and social ramifications do you think exclusion causes?

Everyone wants to fit in and be accepted. Especially by their peers. Children can be profoundly hurt by being excluded from a group. It’s a horrible feeling to be rejected or ignored by people that you want to like and accept you. The key is what you do when that happens. You can be dejected and turn against them. You can be sad, feel rage or worse, become suicidal.

It’s how you deal with exclusion that determines your character. The secret is to figure out a way to turn their cold shoulders around and be welcomed into the group for who you are.

That’s where humor, diplomacy and using your intelligence (brains) comes in. Mary Elizabeth was rejected by the entire group at first. But she figured out a way to not only overcome the rejection and make friends, but also to open their eyes to the unfairness of their prejudice. Proving, in her case, that it’s what’s inside that counts more than appearance. And, that she is a lot of fun to be around when you get to know her.
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 Click here to buy Mary Elizabeth The Spotless Cow

Ferrante: What makes your book stand out from the crowd?

Barbera: It’s not typical to find an author that’s also an artist and does their own illustrations. My unique drawing style, fun relatable characters and humor throughout the story make my book stand out. I love to draw animals, it’s a lot of fun to make them ‘human’, and this story is filled with wacky and whimsical looking cows. It is a journey of discovery for kids and their caregiver’s while reading this story. The ‘aside’ humor for adults makes reading Mary Elizabeth The Spotless Cow a welcome addition to every children’s library.

Ferrante: Why did you choose to write about a cow instead of a child or any other animal? What challenges did this race?

Barbera: I chose cows because of the spots. All ‘Prejudice’ needs to fuel it is someone or something that’s different. Spots. No spots. If all the cows couldn’t see, spots wouldn’t be an issue. If one cow couldn’t see, that cow would be different and probably treated differently. Mary Elizabeth The Spotless Cow is about social prejudice. The biggest challenge created by using cows was figuring out how to overcome the spots to become accepted. I think it’s neatly accomplished and makes for a better story.

Ferrante:  Mary Elizabeth The Spotless Cow has her own television show on the web. Tell us about this. How is it created? Who performs in it? How often is it aired?

Barbera: Thank you for asking about the upcoming web show! We are launching on YouTube mid August. (Fingers crossed). My wife, Sheri, and I came up with the concept for Sweetles® TV Show (web series) a few years ago. The first idea was to help kids learn about social skills and good behaviors in a fun and wacky way. Think Sesame Street meets Monty Python. It’s evolved into more of a comedy/variety show for the entire family to enjoy. 

The show includes nutsy goofballs (people), silly animation, assorted puppets, music, comedy and a lot of fun! All of that meant learning a whole bunch of new software programs to create and edit video. Plus making, buying or modifying and animating an assortment of puppets and other show characters. Once that was finally accomplished, then we researched how to set up a studio for filming. That took over two years. It’s truly been a labor of love.

We’re currently at the stage of writing the scripts and filming the show! So far, there are four of us writing, performing and filming. The goal is to post Sweetles® TV Show once a week, with a segment just for kids called “A Sweetles Dream®” featuring my children’s book characters including Mary Elizabeth The Spotless Cow. Even her sister, Sister Mary Catherine: The Holy Cow With a Bad Habit, makes an appearance! It should be a lot of fun.

Ferrante: What your plans for future projects include?

Barbera: I have a number of books in the works in the “A Sweetles Dream®” series. And we’d love to license my characters for products to go with the books. We already have a wonderful Mary Elizabeth puppet that’s ready to go into production. And, if Sweetles® TV Show is a hit, it would be great to bring it to television. 

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Ferrante: What type of service to others or good deed done for other people do you personally find the most rewarding?

Barbera: It’s Laughter. I try to make as many people laugh as possible. Every single day. There’s nothing more rewarding than to see someone’s face light up, smile and laugh. Especially if they’re tired, sad, lonely or seem depressed. My father-in-law is in an assisted living home, and my wife and I always make a point of getting people there to laugh every time we visit. Laughter is the best medicine.

Ferrante: What is the coldest you have ever been in your life, and what is the hottest?

Coldest?  We used to do Christmas decorating when we lived on the East Coast. Putting up Christmas lights outdoors in New Jersey when it’s 2F (-16C) degrees. “It looks beautiful”, I said, through chattering teeth.

Hottest? I live in Arizona. Even after visiting here for the first time in 1989 when there was record heat of 118 (48C) degrees! We still loved and and still moved here. But, as Frank Sinatra said, “it’s a God forsaken blast furnace!”.

Ferrante: 118F would kill me but 2F is a lovely winter day where I live.

If you could change the ending to any movie you have ever seen, what movie would it be and how would you alter the way it ends?

Barbera: That would have to be ‘Close Encounters of The Third Kind’. The movie ends with Richard Dryfuss leaving his wife and two children behind to go off in a space ship with a bunch of aliens. That’s not right. I would change his character to a bachelor.

Ferrante: I agree. It seemed as though he didn’t give leaving his children a second thought.

Thank you so much, Sal, for your interesting answers. I appreciate the time you put into them. Best of luck with your books and your upcoming web show. Send me a little note when it launches and I will alert my readers. It’s such a unique and gutsy enterprise I wouldn’t want to miss it.

Mary Elizabeth The Spotless Cow will be reviewed on this blog February 6, 2017.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Note: the three random questions are from “Chat Pack – Fun Questions to Spark Conversations”.

Adopting a Fluffy White Kitten, Maybe. Recycled Sundays.

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I have three cats but I’m still a normal person. I’m not a victim of feline reproduction since I’m adamant about neutering. I’m a victim of innocence.

My daughter, my son and I went to buy a sweet white kitten, the fluffy heart-tugging kind they show in toilet paper commercials. It was for my daughter, a cat-aholic if there ever was one. It would be a low maintenance pet and we’d feel good for having saved an animal from euthanasia. Unfortunately, all the ivory colored kiddies were gone. My daughter asked to see a gray female that was caged with the black and white male. The woman in charge met us at the counter with both kittens.

“One for me!” cheered my son.

I protested in vain. The woman promptly dumped both in my arms explaining that they were littermates who hadn’t been separated since birth. A single kitten would be lonely. The pair would play more and be physically and emotionally healthy. The kittens looked up with their huge trusting eyes. My children stared pleadingly. The woman smiled and offered two for the price of one. Ten eyes, waiting. I was a goner.

The black and white kitten we named Patch was the friendliest. He also had ear mites, which required swabbing both cats twice a day for two weeks. There aren’t enough pillows or oven mitts in the world to stave off a panic kitten. My husband and I looked like we’d wrestled with thorn bushes.

They did keep each other company, for almost a year. Then Misty developed into an aloof, “don’t bug me, that’s if you can find me” cat. Patch was constantly rebuffed. In a sickeningly weak moment, I decided to get him another playmate and take the pressure off Misty. I waited until another white kitten was up for adoption.

I made it clear to the children that this was to be my kitten. The white kitten was fluffy and plump. It had one blue eye and one pink. Pink eyed white cats are sometimes deaf. I clapped my hands and made silly noises, but the cat did not respond. It was either hearing-impaired or very dull.

“Look at this one, Mommy,” called my son as he watched the loose kittens through the viewing window.

I was doomed from the first glance. A black and white kitten, one ear up, one ear down, was bouncing sideways across the floor. He stopped to tumble with a tabby, and then tried to crawl up the wall to the window, meowing frantically for attention.

“He’d make a good playmate for Patch,” said my son.

The moment the scruffy little fellow was put in my arms, he twisted around and licked me.

“He’s rather ratty looking,” I protested. “Why is he scratching his ear so much? I hope he doesn’t have ear mites.”

“Oh, I don’t think so,” said the woman. “We put down any that have ear mites.”

My children’s eyes widened. They looked from me to the kitten in horror. It’s always the eyes that get me.

“We’ll take him,” I sighed.

He didn’t have ear mites but Virgil’s done more than his share of damage and had more than his share of trips to the vet. He gives new meaning to the word pest. He’s also funny and affectionate. Patch and the kids love him. So now, we have three cats, none of them white.

September 9, 1990

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Hilarious and Sweet – Shh! We Have a Plan by Chris Haughton. Book Review.

 Click here to buy Shh! We Have a Plan

This unusual book is surprisingly addictive. It is such a joy to come across something so unique.

The illustrations appear to be cut and paste, done mostly in blue, purple, and black. The only exceptions are the birds.

Four oddly shaped characters, three with tassels on their hats and the smallest with a pom-pom, set out to catch a wild bird. The three oldest have nets, a cage and “plans”. However, this is a clear example of the best laid plans…

The text has a clear pattern that the youngest child will easily repeat. It begins, “Look! A bird.” The littlest one says, “Hello, birdie.” The largest says, “shh.” The next says, “SHH!” The last says, “We have a plan.” This is repeated every time they spot a bird. Then they initiate their plan, which varies slightly from tiptoeing to climbing slowly to paddling slowly, all without success. Each time they count down, “Ready one. Ready too. Ready three… Go!” Whereupon, calamity falls upon the characters and the bird flies away.

After three disastrous attempts to capture a bird, the three older characters come upon the littlest one hand feeding them. They count down again only to be intimidated by the angry birds. They run away in fear. At this point, the reader thinks they’ve learned their lesson. But, the third character begins a new drama with, “Look! A squirrel.”

Children will be delighted with the building tension, the silly plans, and the escape of the birds. Parents can discuss with their child what might occur as the characters try to capture a squirrel. As well, the cruelty of caging a wild bird can be broached.

This book is hilarious. With each reading, child and adults can improve their expression and appreciation. It gets better each time. So much so that the adult doesn’t mind, “Read it again. Read it again.”

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

The Only Diet That Works. Recycled Sundays.

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Like many people, I spend much of my life concerned about dieting. Not actually dieting, mind you, just concerned about it.

The first stage is “awareness.” Or, I realized that the water in the bathtub rises to an unusually high level when I step in. I noticed that my pants are a little tighter. “Oh, these 100% cotton slacks always shrink,” I’ll rationalize. Tight polyester pants are a bit harder to excuse.

The second stage is “realizing that the weight isn’t going away on his own.” I haven’t lost as much weight as I thought suffering through camping and hiking season or starting a new exercise class. Even though I’ve substituted chocolate chip cookies for chocolate chocolate chip cookies, I’m still overweight.

The third stage is “doing a little something” such as drinking diet pop instead of regular with my family-sized pack of ripple chips or eating frozen low-fat yogurt instead of ice cream with my cheesecake.

The fourth stage is “denial.” Here I buy baggy clothes that deceive the eye, baggy sweaters, puffed blouses, and layered outfits. I compare myself, favorably of course, to heavier women even though they are becoming harder to find.

The sixth stage is “shock”. This is when something happens to bring all the other stages crashing down. It may be going up a size in clothing, weighing in at the doctor’s office, or having a child comment that I’m getting harder to hug.

The seventh stage is “actual dieting.”

I’ve tried various methods of dieting, most of which fail. The only thing that works is calorie counting combined with an increase in exercise (from none to some). Calorie counting is a lot like the old game show where people guess the price of certain items. I add, subtract, divide and estimate with the skill of an accountant in order to squeeze in one more snack.

Everything tastes great when I’m on a diet. The food has more texture and flavor then when I mindlessly stuffing myself. At least, that’s what I remind myself when I’m down to 47 cal left and it still for hours until bedtime. There have been occasions when I’m tempted to eat the calorie counting book, staples included.

One problem is that I really hate exercise, especially exercise that makes me SWEAT! Yuck!! I try to develop a few simple toning up movements to go along with my weight loss but it is difficult. You see, when I wake up, I’m too hungry to exercise. Then, I can’t do situps on a full stomach. During my busy day, I seldom have time to even think about exercising. Before I know it, it’s bedtime and I’m too exhausted to exercise.

Finally, I force myself to diet and exercise. I’m unable to decide what hurts more, my clenching, growling empty stomach or my aching, over-taxed muscles. I sleep a great deal and snap at my husband a lot, especially when he is wolfing down cheese.

Experts tell me that regular exercise will increase my energy level. I’d like to know in what decade I get the payoff.

Finally I become so worn down and frazzled that I get sick. Bingo! That’s the only time I don’t feel like eating. Before I know it, my appetite is shrinking and so is my weight. By the time I finished my second round of antibiotics, I’m thin again. It’s a tough price to pay, but it still beats dieting.

February 23, 1992

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Social Skill Wrapped in Hilarity: Bossy Flossy written and illustrated by Paulette Bogan. Book Review.

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Click here to buy Bossy Flossy

It is such a great feeling when I find a picture book that both my granddaughter and I enjoy. Bossy Flossy had turned us into Paulette Bogan fans by the third page.

Flossy butts heads with everyone, including her toys. The book begins with Flossy standing in the middle of her bedroom telling all her toys what to do. With one hand on her hip and the other pointing, she demands, “Sit up straight. Look at me. Listen to me. Pay attention. Do what I tell you.” She is bossy to her cat, her little brother, and even her mother.

Although flossy is a simple, cartoonish character, her big wild red hair, her dramatic gestures, and her expressive face make her a real person and a force to be reckoned with.

Flossy does not understand that she is being bossy. When she is sent to her room, she tells herself, “I’m not bossy. Mom is bossy. She always tells me what to do. She never listens to me. I’m just trying to tell her something.” We realize that Flossy doesn’t see herself the way others do. As well, we aren’t sure about her interpretation of her mother’s behavior. Maybe Mom is bossy. At times, it seems as though Flossie is trying to be helpful but is unaware of the effect her behavior has on others. She tells a classmate how to paint and then takes the press and draw the line on her artwork. She orders another classmate to wear a hat she has chosen to complete his dress-up costume.

When a new boy, Edward, joins her class, Flossy meets her match in the overbearing department. Frustrated, Flossie challenges Edward but he doesn’t back down. The argument escalates until they are both sent to timeout. There, they agreed to stop bossing others. They both improve and become great friends.

Although it might sound like a didactic book, it really isn’t. Bogan disarms us completely with humor and charm. Children might identify with Flossy’s problem but will find her behavior intriguing and silly. If you have an overly dominant child, I would avoid discussing bossiness immediately after reading this. It is such a delightful book, you wouldn’t want to spoil it. After reading it a couple of times, you might want to bring up the difference between being bossy and being helpful, taking turns, listening to others, and so on. In my home, “Bossy Flossy” has become a code that can make either my granddaughter or myself stop and think about how our words sound to the other person. Even if you don’t have a bossy member in your family, this book can be just pure fun to read.

The illustrations are interesting in that they appear to be drawn individually, cut out and arranged on the page. This could be a fun art activity to do with your child. You can both draw and cut out several different characters and then arrange them into different story scenes.

Highly recommended both for fun and value.

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An interview with the author, Paulette Bogan, will be posted on this blog, March 8, 2017.

A copy of this book was generously donated by the author to my Little Free Library.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

See the World From a Unique Perspective: The Moon Thieves by Sandra Horn illustrated by Esther Connon. Book Review.

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Click here to buy The Moon Thieves

What catches your attention immediately is the unusual illustration on the front cover of this book. A large moon is in the background. A woman and a boy in their nightclothes, wearing coats and long unmanageable scarves, hold hands in a line. They are followed by a cat carrying a rat on its tail. The scene is framed by two trees on each side. The entire picture is awash with chaotic watercolor. Once you start reading, you realize Esther Connon’s unusual illustrative style is eminently suitable to the text.

It begins, “Long ago in a far-off land,/ a cat, a rat, a boy and his gran/ lived in a small round house/ on the far side of the hill.”

As you scan the book, you discover many round things besides the house such as the curled up cat, the wash basin, the dish of cream, the teapot, the ends of the arms of the chair, the chickens curled in their nest, and so forth. It is unlikely that younger children will catch on to this but once you have read the book a couple of times, point it out to them. They may surprise you with answers you hadn’t considered.

Sandra Horn tells the story of a boy in his Gran working all day and asleep before the moon rises. One day they succumb to cravings. The cat wants a dish of cream. The rat wants a whole blue cheese. Gran wants a pillow for her “poor old nod”. A silver penny, to buy a big red ball, is the boy’s desire. They have a disappointing day and, on the way home from the market, spot the moon in the sky. Each believe it is what they desire. By piling one atop the other, they try to reach it but collapse in pain. Then they try to catch the moon’s reflection in the pond, but fail. When they return home, a moonbeam dances on the step and there they find a bright silver penny, a soft silken pillow, a whole blue cheese, and a big round dish of cream.

This is an imaginative, unique picture book. I love how it makes adults and children see and think in different ways. Both the words and visuals are a step off the path from typical children’s picture books. I found it intriguing, absorbing, and stimulating.

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A copy of this book was generously donated by the author to my Little Free Library.

The author will be interviewed on this blog, Wednesday December 21, 2016.

 Click here to buy Moon Light – 7 Color Settings

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Confessions of a Chocoholic (Recycled Sundays)

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One of the things I love about kids is their unabashed honesty. One December, long ago, when my son was rifling through the Christmas Wish Book for the 800th time, my daughter asked him, “Is that all you ever think about…presents?”

“No,” replied my son. “I think about candy too.”

I must admit, we share this passion. While I have risen above candy bottle caps and dinosaur eggs, chocolate still has a vicious grip on my body.

We have a love-hate relationship, chocolate and I. I love the taste, hate the calories. Love the rush, hate the caffeine. Love the texture, hate the cramps. Love the variety, hate the headaches. Love the convenience, hate the price. Except at Easter.

Come spring the store shelves are filled with tinfoil encased Super Rabbits, hollow icing-smothered giant hens, and 50-pound bags of jellied eggs, all costing the same as an RV. But somehow, the cheap solid chocolate rabbit has survived.

Now I’m not talking exotic Swiss chocolate here. This is just one step up from last season’s chunk of chocolate that sits by the cash register in convenience stores and gets handled in passing by every money-short child. It didn’t matter though, it still gave me my chocolate kick.

There are certain times in my biorhythms when I craved chocolate like Santa craves milk and cookies. If I had to, I’d meet pockmarked men named Scud or Slash under damp bridges to buy it. I’d let the electrical bill go unpaid and sell my mother’s china. Combine this physical urge with a tough day and I’m one desperate consumer.

Some people come home after a tough day, fire up the sauna and mix a martini. I rifled through the cupboards, shoving aside unsalted nuts, yogurt-covered raisins and whole grain pretzels in search of the elusive chocolate bunny. With shaking hands, I peeled back the plastic and bit off his ears. I sighed with satisfaction, then chomped down. I picked up the cleaver and hacked his body into bite-sized pieces. On a really bad Friday, I’d run a damp finger along the bottom inside of the wrapper fishing for slivers.

Suffering from chocolate shakes, I’ve been known to dump half a bag of chocolate chips into two grilling pancakes. The rest of the chips, I mixed with ice cream.

Once I satisfied the compulsion and break the chocolate cycle, I avoided the stuff like a recovering addict. Generally someone showed up about this time with a gift of high quality chocolates. I was all right as long as I didn’t break the seal. Once that gold pull string tore through the plastic wrap, I was done for. The only thing worse than a chocolate bunny frenzy was a Nutcho pig out. The combination of chocolate and nuts was like gold and diamonds. Each complemented the other.

Now that I’m retired, I set up a plan to control my addiction and improved the quality of food I ingest. I try, as much as possible, not to have chocolate in the house. This will be my first Christmas without a pile of gifts from students, half usually chocolate.

Still, I can’t give it up completely. I put my husband in charge of my chocolate fix. I bought several dark chocolate bars and handed them over to him.

“Hide them,” I begged. “When I really need a fix, give me three or four squares.”

This worked really well, until he forgot where he hid them! That’s one way to get me to clean out the closets.

Silent Comix by Robbie Charters. Book Review.

Silent Comix was a neat idea – set of stories told entirely in pictures. This concept would be useful for working with people who have English as a second language. It might also generate sequential story-telling with younger children.
Unfortunately, I found the pictures difficult to understand. After discussing them with others, all but one incident was made clear. However, we agreed that the pictures were often too rushed, even messy, and difficult to discern.

There some clever and funny moments in the story and I believe the “text” has potential but the book needs easier to understand drawings.

Perhaps a second edition?

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Is Your Crafting Out of Control? Recycled Sundays.

9lvfvrj1rgPhoto by Markus Spiske

One of the signs of Christmas is the proliferation of craft sales. I have an ongoing love/hate affair with crafts, more captivated by traditional ones than modern kit or glue gun creations. To be fair, the latter may have something to do with all my burn scars.

I started young, caught up in the tacky fabrications of my generation. My grade school suffered from spooling fever. Even a few boys were caught up in the competition. We carried empty thread spools with four nails on the top, a nail, knitting needle or crochet hook, and a wad of scrap wool. By spool knitting, we created woollen tubes the thickness of our thumbs.

Over sticky lunch tables, we compared our multicoloured cords. One student, whose work was as long as the gymnasium floor, drew gasps of envious admiration. It wasn’t because these cords could be used to make something useful, like clothing or blankets. Though, the more ambitious of us actually sewed these into potholders, tea cozies and Max. More often than not, every item turned out looking like a woollen bowl. Most of them made their way to the landfill as we moved on to bottle caps.

Photo by Francesco Gallarotti

Before the age of canned pop, everyone had a wall-mounted bottle opener. Some had a container below to catch the caps. We washed the sticky caps, checked the liners for prize-winning words, and then nailed these caps in rows onto a piece of plywood. This was to be left outside the door as a boot scraper. I wondered what people could walk in the required such drastic wiping. I preferred stringing pop caps as arms and legs for marionettes. Either way, rust soon caused the extinction of bottle Crafts. Nature does know best.

The absolute worst item to collect had to be foil wrappers from cigarette packages. The boys peeled the foil off the paper backing and pressed it into a huge ball. Rumor had it that pure foil could be sold for a bundle of money if you collected enough. Not enough, though, to pay for new lungs.

The girls, more interested in tangible results, smoothed out paper-backed foil. It was rolled over a knitting needle from the widest side to the middle. Another knitting needle was rolled from the other side to the middle. The tinfoil was crunched up the needle to form an attractive crinkle. The needles were carefully removed and the paper was then curved into a loop, looking like a “silver flower petal.” It didn’t smell like one.

These petals were sewn singly on an oval of fabric, from the outside inward, in decreasing circles. This was set in the back of the automobile as a durable doily. The stench of cigarette wrappers still brings back memories of long car drives.

As I matured, I discovered the beauty of traditional crafts. There was a time when I crocheted everything, toys, clothes, handbags, Afghans, ornaments and dolls.

Sad to say, from there, I went onto macramé. Although I made more plant hangers than I ever had plants, I finally cured myself when I finished the obligatory owl perched on Driftwood. Those dead wooden bead eyes spoke volumes.

I have tried various other crafts, but always come back to needlework. I guess I feel a special kinship with my ancestors who sowed by firelight, creating their own interpretations of still life, landscape and home. There is something intrinsically rewarding about creating a picture without mechanization, no sewing machine, glue gun, drill or staple gun. There is also a special satisfaction in deviating from the pattern, altering the colors, picture or lettering to suit oneself. Best of all, is starting from scratch, designing an original pattern, knowing nowhere else on the planet is there a similar piece of work. There is nothing more fulfilling than creation.

Those of us who can’t walk by a scrap box, be it would, wall or junk, without examining the potential within our kindred spirits. You may feel you have your own “craft compulsion” well under control, having long ago abandoned spooling and bottle caps. If so, I dare you to answer yes or no to the following checklist. Tell me what your score was in the comments.

Are You a Craft Junkie? Quiz

Craft junkies constantly guess what percentage of an item is handmade, including body casts.

Craft junkies have more than one project on the go and seldom abandon one they have started, even if the oldest dates from Trudeaumania.

Craft junkies create from scratch when it would be cheaper to buy factory-mate.

Craft junkies judge their work by sale value, by resale value, by exchange value, but mostly by REAL value.

Craft junkies have difficulty throwing anything away, including old bras, paper cups, and used tinfoil.

Craft junkies take their wool very seriously.

Craft junkies have difficulty with advanced technology.

Craft junkies overreact to changes in color numbers or labels be it wool, embroidery floss, or thread.

Craft junkies constantly seek new patterns for items they have no time to make.

Craft junkies usually feel they are different than other artists/creators.

What was your score? Share in the comments below.

December 1993.

A gazillion FREE craft ideas for toddlers to teens

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages