Friday, January 28, 2011

The tile factory

Our house looks the same as always on the outside, but over the past couple of weeks the inside has been transformed into a modest tile factory. I have no idea what I'm doing--if you know, please contact me right away.

This all began when I decided that a recent kitchen remodel wasn't really complete until I had some fancy-dancey bit of decorative tile as a final (if expensive) touch. We're both modern shoppers, so we turned to the web and, after a lot of surfing and squinting,  we finally found something that we think will work. We bought  it and it's coming, but apparently by slow boat from a workshop in Beirut.

But all that shopping--not a normal activity for either of us--triggered a sudden, overwhelming desire in your correspondent to make tiles of my very own. For the past two weeks, once my day job is over, I have started rolling, stamping, painting, glazing, and fooling around with polymer clay while I watch the news. This stuff does not require a kiln--you stick it in the oven of 15 minutes and tiles come out almost exactly as planned.

Now I've reached a stage where the tiles have veered a long way away from the square, straightforward norm and pretty much anything goes--I've been adding little bits of costume jewelry, glass beads, and any number of small household items whose usefulness is no longer obvious. 

In case you're wondering, July 16, 2005 is the day Vince and I got married in our back yard by Barney Bloom, a local justice of the peace; Barney is an old friend with a very large beard. Our wedding cost $57, but it seems to have stuck. And maybe by July I'll be able to figure out how to use these tiles productively to celebrate a worthy anniversary.

Friday, January 14, 2011

the joy of packaging

My sister Caroline likes to preface the Christmas season with a warning against greed by saying, "We're all on a budget, so it's no good asking for a pony." Every year I ask for a pony. This is how families operate.

This year she finally came through, and my delight with this object knows almost no bounds. This is, according to the package, an official "Grow Your Own," the "sixteenth in a series."

The instructions on the back (in what looks like four-point Franklin Gothic) say that the pony will reach full size (600 percent!) if you put it in some room-temperature water and leave it there for three days.

Three days is a long time for a toy to become fully operational, and the instructions also concede that when you take the pony out of the water, "it will slowly shrink back to its original size."

But this is not a problem--it's a feature: "Your grow item can be grown again and again!!" I relish the weird sexual subtext and the sheepish guilt implicit in those two exclamation points. Bang! Bang! I have a longwinded screed about the misuse of this blob of punctuation, but we won't go there. Not today.

Still, it's partly true, as the package says in on the front, that "Your new pony is the best pet in the world. He is very easy to care for and will love you very much." The love part is silly, but he's certainly easy for me to care for, since I never intend to take him out of the bubble pack. My only challenge is figuring out where display him until regifting; my sister will appreciate her own joke just as much when it returns to haunt her.

But wait--why is the pony a "he"? Is another one of the sixteen in a series a mare or a filly, or is the Chinese manufacturer restricted to a production line of geldings? That sounds like something I didn't mean, but this creature is definitely not a stallion. No stud worth his salt would consent to living inside a drinking glass for three days.

Other features explained on the package include, "This pony can live in your house," "Grooming is unnecessary," and, somewhat redundantly, "Your growing pony never needs to be fed, only watered." 

Sometimes if you jumble up a platitude it comes out true--small things can come in good packages.