Barry Smith: Irrelativity |

Barry Smith: Irrelativity

Barry Smith
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO, Colorado
Jordan Curet The Aspen Times
ALL | The Aspen Times

When my grandfather, Pawpaw, retired from his banking job, he took up painting.

Completely self-taught, he painted rural Mississippi Delta scenes on rural Mississippi Delta objects ” hand saws, farming implements, cow bells, cotton scales and so on. This genre is now known as “Outsider Art,” and some Outsider Artists are represented by big time galleries and are making loads of money.

Pawpaw was a bit ahead of his time, so he didn’t make loads of money from his art. But he did OK. He and my grandmother started getting booths at craft fairs around Mississippi and sold enough paintings to nicely supplement their meager retirement income. And all from painting pictures on rusty, discarded farming equipment!

Which brings us, believe it or not, to …

This season, you should take a tip from PawPaw and consider giving the gift of Outsider Art.

– PERSONALIZED CHRISTMAS ORNAMENTS ” Do you realize that you are one box of pinecones away from satisfying your entire shopping list? Assuming you already have a ball of twine, a black Sharpie and a roll of masking tape ” which you surely do. Tie the string around the pine cone, write the giftee’s name on a strip of masking tape (in the closest thing to calligraphy you can manage with a broad-tipped Sharpie), stick it to the cone and repeat until you’ve gone down your entire gift list. Boom! Done! Doesn’t even need wrapping. On to the next holiday.

– WIND CHIMES ” Who doesn’t love the mood created when the wind gently rustles beautiful-sounding objects together? Using your twine, tie some leftover or discarded objects ” really, anything will do ” to a small piece of wood ” a stick or something. Depending on the objects you choose, their collision may not produce a sound that one would generally consider “good.” That’s OK ” you’ll just need to sell it a bit.

When the lucky recipient reaches into their gift box and pulls out a tangle of twine, a stick, a broken light bulb, an empty refried bean can, a 300-baud modem from 1989, a three-ring binder and a Huey Lewis and the News cassette tape and holds it aloft, you need to quickly and loudly hum Beethoven’s “Fur Elise” in a way that makes it sound like this tune is being produced by these objects clanging together. Beautiful. Some prior ventriloquism training may be helpful.

– PERSONALIZED WIND CHIMES ” Write person’s name on masking tape and affix it to wind chimes (see “Personalized Christmas Ornament” for step-by-step details).

– HANDMADE CARD KIT ” People love handmade cards. It’s a gift that, more than any other, says, “Here. I made this.” But people also love to be creative, and when you make them a handmade card you rob them of this opportunity. So why not go a step further and give the gift of a bottle of white glue, a tube of glitter and a signed piece of blue construction paper? (If your friend is “creatively challenged” you can fold the paper in half for them, just so they don’t get stuck on that initial step.) Then, in the comfort of their own kitchen, they can create their own card! Make sure you tell them that you’ll need the leftover glue and glitter back when they’re done.

– GIFT CERTIFICATES ” I know what you’re thinking ” “Gift certificates? They aren’t ‘outsider!’ AND they cost money!” Look, I know you get stressed around this time of year, but try to relax and let me finish.

Using your home computer, or the one at the library, open up a text document. Type “Gift Certificate” at the top of the page, then below it write the name of the intended recipient’s favorite restaurant, clothing store, automotive dealer, cosmetic surgeon, etc. Next, type “Good for …” followed by an amount. Print it out, sign it (not with YOUR name) and deliver. They’ll be shocked at first, especially if you make it good for thousands of dollars (recommended), but soon their shock will turn to excitement, then elation, then anticipation, then confusion, then panic, then a plea of “not guilty.”

Happy holidays!

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