Back in late last December No.1 came home from school with a bag full of space related drawings. They had been learning all about space that term, his first term of school. I couldn’t believe it when he showed me this amazing drawing of a space alien.
I loved the way the drawing filled the page, the detail and the clarity with which he spoke about it. Those two yokes are not eyes, they are antennas, definitely antennas.
That same evening as he was sitting down drawing he, all of a sudden, got himself into a complete state of upset, ripped up the drawing he was working on and was inconsolable. All because he had made a “mistake”. It escalated so quickly and so intensely it bothered me. It’s not unusual for him to get upset when he colours outside of the lines, or isn’t happy when a drawing isn’t exactly as his mind’s eye sees it. I do my best to gently encourage him and try to explain that drawing isn’t about creating something perfect, but about exploring ideas and having fun. That evening however nothing could get through to him and he was still upset going to bed, was all tense and frustrated and was telling himself he was no good.
So I decided to make something that was inspired by his Space Alien drawing with the hopes that he would see that he was wonderful at drawing, not just wonderful but that he was inspirational. Which is completely true.
However, I was a little nervous about trying to turn his drawing into a toy. Mainly, I was afraid of adding to his frustration by making something that he found intimidating, by making something that overshadowed his creation. Later I had the idea to get a frame for his own picture. A €2 purchase in Ikea (though one never leaves IKEA having only bought what you went in for) might help reinforce how wonderful I thought his picture was and ensure that this project was about his creation, not mine. But I was also a little worried that by focusing on the brilliant drawing he had done that I would be reinforcing his perfectionism, not helping him relax and enjoy the process… Who’s to know what to do?!
I also hoped that in making the toy I wouldn’t get something drastically “wrong”. No.1 had such a clear understanding of his drawing that I hoped I wouldn’t misinterpret something so drastically that he I wouldn’t like it.
Ah, I can’t predict if the maggots are going to decide not to like their favourite dinner of an evening, let alone whether or not they’ll like something I’ve spent hours working on into the wee hours of the morning…
So with my doubts all still there, but put aside, and children asleep, I rooted out some scraps of felt and fleece and got stuck in.
I traced over the drawing and cut out felt and fleece shapes. I made sure I had the right number of eyes, and the correct no of eyebrows. All important details. I had to make up the back of the Alien myself and wondered what No.1 would think of the ponytail/mullet!
I found some leather string to make the antennas and doubled up the fleece to give the three skinny legs some strength.
I filled the toy with a mix of polyester stuffing and a little bag of dried cherry stones (the stones bought online from Stoff & Stil) to give the toy a bit of weight. My favourite toy as a little girl was “Dolly Beans”, a rag doll who was full of little heavy beans of some sort. I lost her when I brought her to school one day against my mother’s advice. Since then I have always loved a toy with a bit of weight to it.
I put Space Alien away and decided that if I could get another one made before Christmas I’d give one to No.1 and one to No.2 for Christmas. No.3 was to be neglected as usual. In the end life got in the way and it was pretty clear that I wasn’t going to get another alien made.
I decided I would keep it aside and pick my moment. One evening before bed when No.1 had had another creative crisis earlier that day I produced his drawing in it’s frame, and the toy.
He was utterly delighted. Of course he counted the eyes and eye brows and wasn’t convinced about the hairdo. He noticed that I had forgotten to put the little sticky-out bits in at the bottom corners (not sure what they were meant to to be) and that the teeth were upside down in his mouth. (Jaysus he has some eye for detail. Wonder where that came from?!) He was genuinely thrilled that I had “made the Space Alien real” and very, very, thankful.