Monday, March 26, 2012

Did you Etch Sketches or Pop Beads or...?

HALLIE EPHRON: Apparently Etch A Sketches are flying off the shelves in the wake of an imprudent comment by one of Romney's handlers.

Now I never had an Etch A Sketch, but my daughter who's now architect could do amazing things with the one we got her at an yard sale (where else?) I tried but was hopeless without any "erase some" function. It's either erase NONE or erase ALL.

As a kid, I tinkered around with Spirograph. Too cerebral. For a while I was very big into Paint
by Numbers (Pinkie after the painting by Sir Thomas Lawrence), though mostly I did not finish them. When I got older and tried my hand atneedlepoint, same deal. I did all the middle bits with the colors I liked -- pink and red and purple -- and stopped. It still amazes me that I can finish a manuscript.

Paper dolls were just my speed. No creativity required. They don't make them like they used to with the dolls in their undies that you punched out of stiff cardboard. You could actually stand them up hang the clothing that you cut out onto them. A set kept me quiet for hours on end.

Did you etch sketches? Paint numbers? Pop beads? And what does it tell us about you??

RHYS BOWEN: My kids loved Etch A Sketch and our old battered one is still a hit with the grandchildren. Like you, Hallie, I was hopeless. Could not make it do what I wanted. I never painted by numbers either.

I have a hooked rug of a shaggy dog that I started when my oldest was 5. She now has children so you can see how long it has remained unfinished. But I can't throw it out. But I do knit, crochet and paint water colors and I love to do beading. I can't sit and watch TV without busy hands.

HALLIE: Paint! Really? Well, that explains why the settings in your books are so vivid.

JAN BROGAN: I had an Etch-a-Sketch and I loved it, but don't think I was an Etch-a-Sketch virtuoso or anything. I did paint a lovely watercolor of a young girl sitting on a fence, that I think I must have copied from a book cover. The only reason I remember it, is that when my daughter was little I had the painting framed into one of those long, lipstick mirrors for her and she loved it. It still amazes me that I painted it - probably at about 14 when one of my best friends was into art - because I'm not visually artistic. No inclinations or talent whatsoever. I
will take credit for being one hell of a good copier, though.

I used to embroider and I've knit at least two sweaters - one of them an Icelandic sweater (not the one on the right, that's just mohair). But I grew up in a rough-a-tumble household of boys, where I was every bit as rough and tumble, and every time my eldest brother, Bob, would see me knitting he would shake his head and say: say: "What are you doing? This is completely out of character." And I think he was right!

LUCY BURDETTE: Jan, that's such a funny comment! I know we had Etch a Sketches in our home, but don't remember much about using one. Obviously we're all creative in some way right, but I don't have the kind of artistic talent Rhys seems to have in spades.

I did take a Rick Worth painting class last year in Key West. He's famous for painting cars (called "conch cars") and walls as well as regular canvases, and it's all done with acrylics. There must have been about 30 of us in the room facing front. As he painted, he told us where to make lines and with what colors--not paint by number, but paint by ear and sight. And then he came around the room and fixed what we messed up. I was pretty pleased with how mine turned out, though you aren't going to see them at a gallery:).

I used to embroider little cartoon figures on clothes too--I'm sorry I haven't saved any of those. And one day, I swear I'm going to take a class on collage. That would be fun--and maybe manageable with my level of talent!

HALLIE: OK, here's two paintings - one is Lucy's and the other is Rick Worth's.... Whose is whose?? I'm impressed, Lucy!

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Etch a Sketch always bugged me, because it was so--impermanent. Which, know, was the whole deal. I am completely un-artistic, although I longed to be creative, it was always a disaster. However! I rocked, I mean, ROCKED, those potholder-making things
where you wove looped pieces of fabric on a square metal loom, and then somehow linked the edges together. Remember? I CHURNED those out.

I also had a brief flirtation with knitting--andmade a sweater that would have been perfect for someone with a body out of a carnival fun mirror. I think part of it has to do with gratification--I'm not very good at waiting.

I did design, plot out, and sew a perfect needlepoint portrait of Pogo, which I still have, but I didn't have the patience to do the whole background, so there it sits.

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Oh, I loved Etch a Sketch! Didn't know it had made a comeback. Glad, for whatever bizarre reason.

I don't know that I was particularly good at it, though. I did go through a stage of drawing in charcoal and pastels. I had all those books... How to Draw Horses. How to Draw Birds. How to Draw Trees... (My trees were definitely better than my horses.) I did pop beads. Made pot
holders in Girl Scouts, which I hated. Never learned to knit, crochet, or sew.

I was more of a Collector Girl. Was anyone else a rock hound? I had a box with little compartments for all my rocks and minerals, carefully labeled. Can you say NERD? (What I really wanted was model trains, but my brother got those.)

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Oh, Hallie that paint-by-number picture of "Pinkie" is bringing it all back to me. I can literally smell the paints that came in those little plastic containers. Mmm-mmm. Probably something toxic that was banned by the EPA in the 80s.

I liked the Etch-a-Sketch, though I was never very good at drawing actual, you know, pictures with it. Also had a Spirograph, though I wasn't as fond of it--there wasn't much room for your own creativity in there. I used to make the big loopy spirograph outlines and then color in the little slivers in all different colors. I loved drawing with a passion, so much that when I was in my early teens, my dad came home one day with a wooden box filled with colored pencils in every shade imaginable. He must have bought out the artists' supply store. One of the best gifts ever, and I still have it--my three children have all used those pencils for their own art projects.

Oh and fabric arts--I went through a stage where I made crocheted laces using a large wooden spool with nails driven into the top of it. (I realize saying this makes me sound like Laura Ingalls Wilder.) The issue of course, is: what do you do with crocheted laces made from string after you've given all your friends bracelets? I never figured that out.

ROSEMARY HARRIS: Had the Etch a Sketch but I confess I didn't see the point of it - after all, you worked so hard and then IT DISAPPEARED! Made potholders (like Hank) but my faves were the EasyBake Oven - even then I was a baker -
sketching with Venus colored pencils and making models, like the Visible Man or the Visible Horse. Had a brief flirtation with model cars and for some reason the name Ed "Big Daddy" Roth just popped into my head. Must Google him. Good name for a character.

For games - it was either Scrabble, Risk or Monopoly. Anyone remember Old Maid? What was that? Sigh..another Google.

HALLIE: Of COURSE I remember Old Maid. And Visible Man is reminded me of the chemistry sets I loved. Much more fun to concoct a potion and blow it up than to etch a sketch and shake it away.

So please, tell us about the crafts and games you craved, and if you dare, what it tells us about you.


  1. Wow, I had forgotten all about those laces with the spool and the nails. I did those,too. I feel like maybe we sewed them into a disc?

    Anyway, I grew up sewing, taught by my talented mother, got kicked out of high-school biology for knitting (snort - I am sure I deserved it! I was NOT the scientist type), and made lots of macrame string belts in college. I'm surprised nobody mentioned macrame. ;^)

    I have quilted, crocheted, and knitted as an adult. Art? Not so much. I loved drawing as a child, mostly to illustrate the stories I wrote, but also because I loved horses. I wish I had saved the pencil drawing I did of a horse. I thought it was perfect and only wished I could own one.

    Fun memories (oh yeah, of course paint by number. Also mosaic tiles by number).

  2. Oh Edith - I remember the spool with the...yarn I think. How cool was that?

    Macrame! of course. I still have a belt I macramed with hot pink satiny cord. I wore it with an apricot silk mini dress that barely covered my derriere. Hey, it was the 1970s.

    And I was desperate to draw horses, too. Forgot about that. Don't all girls go through a horsie stage??

  3. LUCY,

    I like both those paintings, I'm impressed.

    And Edith, what is it about little girls and horses?

  4. We had an Etch-A-Sketch, but it was not my forte. I was pretty much a bust at crafts, too.

    I preferred to play outside with the athletic kids, although I was hardly a natural athlete.

    After being the last kid picked for the baseball team one too many times, I marched my eight-year-old self to a nearby empty lot behind a building with a big flat wall and taught myself to throw and catch by endless repetition. Days upon days. Months upon months.

  5. I always wanted a chemistry set, that seemed like the most fabulous thing. But my parents would never get me one.

    And collecting? Baseball cards.I had billions of baseball cards. Why? NO idea. We didn't even have a baseball in Indiana. But it was the idea of collecting that was so great.

    And of course, I drew horses.IN fact, thinking of it, I had a whole collection of hoses--ceramic, and plastic, and huh. What happened to all that stuff?

    Then that changed to drawing fashion models. LOVED paper dolls. I had a Cyd Charisse one that was great. But I liked the cutting out part the best.

    Aw, Brenda. That's very sweet.

  6. Brenda, I LOVE that story -- I'm nominating you (coming attraction!) for tomorrow's blog on Uppity Women.

    I taught myself to type that way -- after getting turned down for too many jobs because I couldn't. Also endlessly practiced shooting from the free throw line, though there was no basketball for girls when I was young.

  7. I loved my Etch-a-Sketch because of the impermanence of it. Anything I wanted to last longer ended up on paper. I drew a lot as a kid, now I do more painting and collage. And I sew and knit.

    I even knit my own little Matt Lauer because I don't think I'm going to meet the real one who is my not-so-secret crush. I'm not sure what that says about me. : )

  8. Hallie, I also practiced shooting free throws. I bet I can still do it handily, too.

    Etch a Sketch is made by a company called Ohio Art. After the comments went viral their stock went up 187%!

    Edith, I did the mosaic tile art, too, and paint by number of horses (which my mother actually hung on the wall), and sewing, and potholders (which I sold door-to-door--with limited success), and we had Lincoln logs and an erector set, too. I always wanted the wood burning kit and the metal etching sets my male cousins got, but alas.

    When I was in the sixth grade my aunt taught me to knit by having me knit a sweater for Barbie and one for Ken, and a skirt for Midge, all from a kit. My mother used to have those, but I suspect she got rid of them when she remarried 13 years ago. She keeps insisting she gave them to me, and I know very well she didn't. Darn it.

    Macrame was a fun craft, but I didn't do that until adulthood. I made a door curtain, then realized I had no way to hang it in my apartment.

  9. Wait a minute, Darlene... "I even knit my own little Matt Lauer"

    I gotta see this -- Any chance you could send me this and I'll post it with tomorrow's blog? (Send it to hephron "at" gmail dot com.)

  10. Darlene OF COURSE I meant send a picture of Mattie L...

  11. Isn't that the way it is, Karen? Handy enough to macrame and entire door curtain, but not enough to figure out how to hang it. Story of my life.

  12. This week's New Yorker Magazine has a great cartoon of a woman shopping in a toy store. She's being shown an Etch-A-Sketch, and she says "Do you have anything less political?"

  13. Oh, Hallie, this brings back memories! I never had much interest in Etch a Sketch, though my own kids did, I think. I did paint-by-number and all kinds of crafts, taught them at vacation bible school when I was still a kid myself. Sewed my own clothes all through high school and my kids' when they were little.

    Until I took up writing as a profession, I would knit, spin, and weave on several different looms every week, as well as make art quilts. Now, I can't find time for all these creative pursuits which I loved so much. But I did write a shop that sells knitting, spinning and weaving fibers and tools in my book!

  14. Hallie, what a great post! And I love the picture of the rock hound box, although no one else has admitted to such an obsession. After that, mine was birding...

    Brenda, love your story.

  15. Hey Hallie,

    We're talking about uppity women tomorrow? Can't wait!


  16. I made paper dolls. I drew the doll in her underwear then drew all the clothes and cut them out. Once I made one with 365 oufits. I thought I would become a fashion designer but I turned out to be hopeless when it come to real cloth and a sewing machine.

    When I went to sleepaway camp I discovered copper enameling and convinced my mother to get me a set at home. I made little pins and earrings for myself and my friends. I remember making a pin with a dachshund on it for my friend whose parents gave me my miniature dachshund, the sister of her dog.

  17. Wow! What memories this brings back. Etch-A-Sketch (hated that it was temporary), pot holder weaving, Spirograph, latch hook--did them all. And needle point. Then I got my first microscope. LOVE. I would spend hours making slides of pollen or pond water. And my telescope was a big hit, too. I wanted to draw, but was pathetic. I can draw horses and pine trees, and that's all. Thanks for this discussion, ladies. What fun!

  18. Hallie, I sent you a picture of Mini-Matt Lauer.

  19. Hah, Deb! I forgot the collecting thing. Rocks and stamps, two kinds of wandering to faraway places in the mind. Both collections were lost in one of our moves, but I turned my eldest son on to stamp collecting, and he went into it big-time while a kid, and the rock collecting had helped me when I took geology in college.

  20. Time warp! This post made me smile. My parents were huge into gifting us arts and crafts toys when we were kids. Etch-a-Sketch and spirograph were huge. Paint-by-numbers. Also, Hank, potholders, too!

    My big thing was...ta surprise: horses. I collected Breyer horse statues like crazy. I also love stamp collecting. I was very into it. I'd spend hours arranging my stamps just so on the page.

    No one mentioned SHRINKY DINKS!! Remember those. I adored shrinky dinks.

  21. Waiting for mini-Matt Lauer..
    Shrinky Dinks? Explain.
    Edith, what were you supposed to do with the woven thing that you made with the spool and the nails? What do kids make nowadays? Films on youtube, I guess.

  22. Jayna, surely you have one of those copper enamel pins in your jewelry box.

    Take a picture and send it to me and we'll post it tomorrow along with Darlene's knitted Matt Lauer (Thanks, Darlene - LOVE IT!) Send to me at hephron "at" gmail dot com.

  23. Shrinky Dinks consisted of sheets of some type of plastic that you could draw on with pens. They were transparent to you could copy anything. And then you'd cut out whatever your drew, stick it in the oven, and it would shrink into a tiny version of itself. I don't what it was about that toy. I loved it! You could punch holes in the plastic to make pendants and charms...

  24. We need a craft toy timelines...
    Breyer Horses 1950s
    Paint by Numbers early 1950s
    Etch a Sketch 1960
    Spirograph 1966
    Shrinky dinks 1973

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  26. Hallie, I loved those punch out paperdolls who came in their underware and had outfits to "hook" on them. I didn't have an etchasketch, but tried a friends and was awful at it. Loved lincoln logs, jigsaw puzzles.

    Rhys, I love your Doggie rug, sweet face on it. I tried knitting in HS, friends Mom was teaching me, I'd knit at night, next afternoon take it to Evie. Was making a scarf for my boyfriend, I dropped a stitch one night and didn't realize it, next day Evie pulled out 12" of the scarf because I missed a stitch, that was the end of my knitting career, BF got a store bought scarf.

    Lucy, how exciting to take a painting classwith Rick Worth, love his paintings - your's is great, hard to see details, but your canoe and shading of it are really good and nice texture in your sand !!
    I took a water color painting class with Mark Polomchak few years back - fun !

    O Hank ! I love those looms, I'd forgotten about those, I made so many hotmitts, I'm sure everyone I knew was glad when I outgrew that phase!

    Debs, I collected stamps and seashells! I also had the same how to draw books, really was having fun with it, but mother was a HUGE critic and I gavve up on art - started taking lessons around'99 - decorative painting.

    Julia, I had a spirograph, it really seemed quite pointless tome and I got tired of it fast.

    Rosemary, I loved Old Maid, Go Fish, My Gram would play them with me and Scrabble

    Hallie, my Daddy gave me a chemistry set for my birthday one year, lots of fun !

    Jan, 2 sweaters, impressive, I couldnt keep the sides even on the doomed scarf I tried to knit

    I had a blonde Barbie doll and another doll used to love dressing them.

  27. I have to admit it. I was too old for etch-a-sketch. It came out when I was at university. (But I had great fun with our son's.) Spent most of my time creating: art, writing staging plays. That brought me to marionettes. I remember buying my first at Marshall Fields, Chicago, with my own money. But most of my marionettes I made myself. During the Viet Nam War (I had returned to finish my BFA), protests on campus, they shut down classes briefly. An art student friend and I discussed just how much good our degrees would be. I brought up marionettes and voila! Strawberry Marionette Company was born. (Influence: Beatles' Strawberry Fields). We had great fun making our 36" marionettes, stage, props and all promotion, and traveling in 6 Midwest states.

  28. Marionettes! You made them and toured w/them? How fabulous, Ann - Any pictures? SEND ME A PHOTO!!

  29. I am too old for Etch-a-Sketch also. But my kids had them, and those looms and the spool with the nails-it was just fun to do the bracelets and necklaces, and stuff. I painted, (not very well). My brother kept getting models of ships and airplanes, and I was the was the one who did them. Today I do handwork of all kinds, and, yes, she said, guiltily, I do finish them. BTW, in my other life, I'm a psychotherapist and worked with kids. Girls love the horses; the theory is that horses are a symbol of power which makes one wonder about socialization. I bet that changes as society changes-I hope. Another thing horses are also so beautiful!

  30. Oh yeah, I had one of those potholder things... also a bead loom, a printing press, and a chemistry set with REAL CHEMICALS!

  31. My kids had the etch a sketch, etc. Going back to the 1940's, I had my paper dolls,reading was my first love, my dress-up clothes & make-up, jacks, jump-rope and games. Oh there were dominoes, and pick up sticks.Plus played outside with my friends, tag, hop scotch, kick the can, and hide & seek.
    And I did keep my diary, had a number of them, but destroyed them when I did get married. I did learn to embroider and crochet. Did a lot of weaving squares and made an afghan.
    Now I still crochet, making friendship shawls and scarves and journal. Still love to read! And of course play on computer.

  32. Donna -- You DESTROYED your DIARY? Anathema!! I started them and did about 2 pages and then lost interest, but I do wish I had even those 2 pages. There's nothing quite like touching your former self.

  33. I've been thinking about this all day.

    I could do two thing with an Etch A Sketch. I could make a horizontal line or a vertical line.

    I did the spool and yarn thing but never more than an inch. Boring.

    I loved playing cards. Old Maid. Fifty-Two Pick up.

    I started knitting a sweater once. I set it aside for a couple of years, and when I went back to it found the moths got there first. I was relieved.

    Like Hank I was very good at those pot holder weaving things, collected baseball cards passionately, drew horses, and loved those paper dolls. There was a magazine, or was it the rotogravure section of the Boston Globe, that had a section with paper dolls and outfits to cut out. Loved those when I was little and moved up to the big girl version.

  34. I have tried most of the crafts mentioned, either as a child or an adult. I am NOT good at them. I do appreciate looking at things created by other people,though. Hard to believe that I am related to/descended from artists,sculptors,musicians, etc. (Someone has to be the appreciative audience,and I guess that would be me!)

    I cannot draw. Art class was excruciatingly painful for me as a child. I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I got to high school and found out they did not have art classes. (My eighth grade teacher took great delight in holding up one of my drawings to the class and announcing "this is perfect. For Third Grade.")

    Debs,I collected rocks as a kid and although I no longer have an "official" collection I am always on the lookout for unusual rocks when I'm out and about! I went to Israel some years ago and collected several dozen small stones from the Dead Sea. I love them,and keep some scattered amomg my houseplants and some on my desk at work. I also like to collect sea shells. The latter is a family "fixation" -I think my mom passed that gene on to all of us". (And by the way,she was a terrific artist and craftsperson.)

    A few years ago I took up beading, and I love it, probably because there aren't really any rules. I especially like making earrings. I took a couple of wire jewelry workshops,and liked that,too,because everything is so subjective. I have not done either in many months but today's blog is inspiring me to make an inventory of my supplies and see about getting back to work at beaded and wire jewelry!

    My maternal grandmother was trained as a teacher in Europe-AFTER she and my grandfather got married (I have always loved this Family Fact). However,when she and my grandfather came to this country they could not afford the money for her to go to school to have her credentials recognized in the US. But she was a "born" teacher. She did some tutoring when my mom and her siblings were growing up.When she became a grandmother,she all but turned their house into a private school. She provided us grandkids with educational toys,arts and crafts materials, books, magazines, etc.(She was the person who introduced me, my siblings, and our cousins to Mad Magazine!) Among the many items at my grandparents house were erector sets, clay, paints, building blocks,etc. My grandfather was very artistic -and very modest about it. I was playing around with clay at their house one day when I was around ten. He sat down with me, picked up a blob of clay and created a human head with intricate features in just a few minutes. I was astonished. He then rolled it into a ball, handed it to me, and said "now YOU do it."I tried, but I couldn't. His great-great grandfather (my quadruple great?) was a professional sculptor. There is a church in Italy that contains numerous sculptures that he did in the late 1700s. I've seen photos of it and would love to see it in person some day.

    Thanks for the warm memories today!

  35. Well, we shall see. I have been buying up postage stamps and saving them give to my grandson to "collect"..I fear, since they are not stamps of Transformers and Spiderman, he will not care...

    Shrinky-dinks? NO idea. Winky Dink? Oh, yes indeed.

  36. Oh my, you guys, are taking me back. Had that potholder thing when I had the chicken pox and made what seemed like millions. Even now I'm slightly queasy when I see one of those potholders. I didn't do paint by numbers because I was an 'artist'--or thought I was. You really got me thinking!