January 9, 2016

Arranging the Lives of the Sonic Hedgehogs

For most of 2015, I traded art work for skills.  The most valuable of these was the editing and formatting of my illustrated manuscripts.  2015 saw the completion of four illustrated books, one for a client’s sonnets, and three of my own.  These are now at the ready for submitting to potential publishers. 
All this while, I did double duty; polishing and revising the text and illustrations while creating art work to pay for the graphic design and PDF formatting.  Payment began with paintings and collages but ended at the brink of entering 2016 with a series of small sculptural rattles that I had named “sonic hedgehogs.”  My graphic designer became quite enamored with them - in particular as a grouping.  She made the salient observation that I should consider always exhibiting them as a group, as they made more of an impact that way.  So we agreed that my final payment for her services would be a group of these zoomorphic rattles. 
I had fun with the project, making creatures with overly large gaping mouths so that the clicking sound of the bead placed inside would be clear.  I placed them in a variety of positions so that they would make a dynamic group.
When I finally made the trip up north to see family, friends, relatives and colleagues, I had a substantial group of sonic hedgehogs in tow.   My friend and graphic design specialist had a tough time choosing just 15 of them (my rough calculation of a trade) so we agreed that she would take some extras and we would work out the difference later.  After her picks, her husband started playing with the rattles like little toy soldiers.  Each compilation told a different story.  I discovered the same story telling potential when I had earlier played with different configurations of the statues myself earlier - usually in a parade arrangement and always with the standing cat at the head of the parade.   My friend began to arrange them almost as chess pieces.   But my friend’s husband was particularly creative with arrangements.  The final arrangement was a choral group with a standing cat as a conductor, a small frog in a lily pad like bowl as a counter tenor, hippo-like creatures as bases and baritones.  The extra cats became an audience.  My friend and her husband were right.  These things made much more sense as an interactive group than stand alone miniature sculptures. 
Perhaps I am reading too much in to how different people arranged these little sculptures.  But I do wonder what our preference for arrangements reveals about the way our minds work.  My parades with a lead animal might be a clue to my plodding way of doing things and a linear way of thinking.  I’m not very good at multi-tasking.  Am I boring?  My friend’s chess piece approach with symmetrical arrangements might be a clue to her mathematical approach to thinking through designs - which is why she is so good at graphic design, editing, quilting and generally  getting things done in an organized manner.   I am not sure what to conclude about arranging the animals in sections by tribal anatomy but I could certainly see the logic of it.  The way different people chose to make arrangements almost inspires me to make a few more sets of these things just to do more experiments.
What was particularly impressive, however, about the creative use my friend had for my sculptures, was a series of children’s stories that they engendered.  My friend surprised me with a complete manuscript of nicely written stories about just about every rattle - making each one come alive with a distinct personality.  Impressive that the sculptures of an artist with a rather dull-witted approach to their use could inspire such creativity in others...the ex-teacher lives on.

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