Everyone in my town knows the Auto Show is in progress downtown in Detroit. Not as many people know that the automobile companies have for years sponsored the NAIAS Charity Preview event in tandem with the show-which has raised over 81 million dollars since 1989 to benefit a number of children’s charities in southeastern Michigan. I had occasion a few years ago to be involved in an event to benefit The Children’s Center, which they call Autoglow. A party, complete with dinner, dancing and decor, would raise money to help pay for their programs for all manner of disadvantaged kids. My idea was to keep the focus on the kids-the party would be all about them.
The idea was to construct a series of over life size doll figures that would be dancing, climbing, and whooping it up-in the airspace. Kids whose needs are properly attended to shine, do they not? I started by constructing stick figures like a kid would draw, from small gauge big diameter aluminum wire. I posed all of the 25 figures differently, and covered the wire with long runs of ting ting fiber. Ting, the flexible and wiry midrib of the leaf of the coconut palm, would give each figure a little volume.
The ting ting was tightly zip tied to the flexible wire-but I was still able to pull individual ting pieces away from the wire-giving this figure a curvy shape. She had a curly ting head, hairdo, hands and feet. The legs were wrapped in ribbon, and studded with small cream colored paper roses. Her outfit-a tee shirt covered in paper hydrangea petals. The velvet ribbon at the neck and wrists-can you tell I was having a good time?
I use dried and preserved natural materials for lots of projects-bringing the garden indoors is an activity I like. Invariably there are bits and pieces left over-I keep them. Who knows what might come up where a couple of green rope balls, or a few bunches of preserved grass might come in handy? The idea that this might help someone felt great.
I wanted all the kids to have a sense of lively animation-just like any real kid. As each one got finished, I hung them from a bar on giant S hooks in the greenhouse. Each one had a different set of materials, and a different personality.
This figure made a lot of some green floral foam cones I had left over from a party for a client. A spool of metallic peach wired ribbon made fast work of a hairdo, a necklace and some bracelets. Though it took the better part of 5 days to make them all, the time flew by. In retrospect, the occasion to design and play with materials, shapes, volumes and colors was the gift of this project to me. Should I ever decide to give up gardening, I might consider making hats. Outlandish hats.
I was able to hang my figures on a convenient fence at Mocad-the venue for the event. Mocad, or the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, had graciously donated its gallery space for the fundraiser. These dolls looked right at home in this gritty downtown warehouse space that houses Detroit’s first museum devoted to contemporary art.
This ting man got his whirling dervish look from multiple strands of curved aluminum wire. The wire is very light, making it possible to make the wire appear as though it were floating. One pierced aluminum hanging votive made a great starting point for a head.
A few bead garlands, a few red faux ivy picks, three bunches of preserved heather, and some gold ribbon made for a good looking party outfit.
I was so pleased to see that a lot of my leftovers did not go to waste-they did in fact have a contribution to make. Only good can come of an event like this. The people that made it their business to contribute to agencies like the Children’s Center, all of them dedicated to the well being of the community-I hope they had a great time.
This landscape project of a different sort was surely great fun for me.