I grew up in a family that included artists; artists of some renown I might add. I was exposed to fine art early on and have maintained a life-long appreciation for all things beautiful. That being said, I now confess my lifelong fascination with, what some would call, low brow kitsch. If you attended elementary school in the USA anytime in the last 60 years, I can say with certain authority that you probably contributed to this epic body of work. Have you ever made anything that included craft sticks, match sticks, empty toilet paper rolls, bottle caps, decoupage, pipe cleaners, googly eyes, cotton balls, shells or hand attached rhinestones? How about paint-by-number art, a sock monkey, anything crocheted over Styrofoam balls ( like the octopus made by the mother of a friend for bed décor; you could arrange all eight arms to cover your pillow)? I must also mention the knit and crochets toilet paper covers which were very much in vogue for awhile and, of course, let us not forget all things macramé. This is just a tip of the iceberg but you get the picture.
Well, my answer is yes to many of the above. I made them, but did not keep them, as I was always the odd duck in my personal space décor, preferring to let my boxes of found rocks and my ever-growing bug collection really shine on their own.
The summer I was twelve, my best friend and I decided that we could generate some cash by making and selling things. There was much discussion as to just what the object d’art should be and we finally settled on the following for it’s overall aesthetic appeal and selling potential; crushed eggshell pictures! The creation of these gems entailed getting old picture frames ( sans glass) then gluing down a layer of cleaned and crushed eggshells ( collected industriously at our homes) within the frame. Early on in The Project we realized that we could not eat enough eggs to get us the quantity of shells we thought we would need for mass production, so we asked our neighbors to pitch in. *Side note: later on, we would shamelessly try to resell these very same gussied up eggshells back to the kind people who had helped provide them to us. When the eggshells were dry, we spray painted the whole works with GOLD spray paint. The piece de resistance was the single plastic rose we glued down smack in the middle of each picture on top of the eggshells( this took a LOT of glue) and then sprayed gold as well. We felt this masterpiece was sure to wow prospective buyers.
A great deal of our post-art-production summer was spent trying to peddle our product. I can sum it all up in a few words by telling you it was not a rousing success. My mother bought one, my friend’s mother bought one, the eggshell donating neighbor bought one and I think I sold one to a visiting Aunt ( thanks, Donna) and that was about it. While our eggshell pictures were not the success we had hoped for, I still applaud our naïve creativity and the courage we had to create them.
Jane and Michael Stern, in their Encyclopedia of Bad Taste, quote art critic Clement Greenberg who wrote that bad taste, “has gone on a triumphal tour of the world.” One of the things that attracts me to this genre is it has an uncommon ability to reflect our times and culture. There is also the fact that it continues to pop up to astonish me in ways I would not ever have imagined; just when I think I have seen it all, along comes some amazing new décor idea or fashion trend. When I see anything that someone else has made, whether it falls into the good, the bad, or the really awful slot, I recognize that the creation was thought about and labored over and probably gave its maker some degree of joy and satisfaction in the effort. For me, at the end of the day, that is the thing that matters most.
Did I ever think my eggshell pictures were a thing of beauty? Most likely not. I do remember that I was surprised that they did not look as good as I thought they would when they were just a potential in my mind. It was probably the gold paint, as I have never been much of a gilt gal.
Waving your way with a genteel reminder that macramé is coming back and I have seen crocheted shorts on men with my own eyes this past year.