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Friday
Jan222010

Making Stuff: Part 2

   Photo courtesy Clemson University Flying ClubIn 1928, seven students at Clemson University, along with their faculty advisor, set out to build an airplane. Though "Little 372," as it was known, had a brief and fitful flying career, it is thought to be the first airplane built by college students in America. It now hangs in the state museum of South Carolina as an emblem of ingenuity and determination.

To the seven members of the 1928 Clemson Aero club, their advisor was a teacher and mentor. To my family, he was known simply as "Boppy."

Boppy taught at Clemson and ran the woodshop there for decades. His specialty was furniture, and pieces of his handiwork are scattered across the eastern seaboard among the members of my mother's family. And among my mother and her sisters' fondest memories is flying from the trees in airplane swings fashioned by Boppy. Though he died the year I was born, his impact even in my life has been profound in ways I am only now coming to understand.

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   Illustration © 2010 Cameron Blazer // Cottage Industrialist

When my son was born, we gave him one of Boppy's names. And I became interested again in Little 372. I did a cartoon-y little illustration of the plane and it became sort of a totem for my little boy. My father-in-law, himself a woodworker, loved the story of Little 372 and of the airplane swings.

On my son's second birthday, his grandfather unveiled what he had been working on for months.

    Photos © 2010 Cameron Blazer // Cottage IndustrialistNone of us is blessed with a great oak like the one at my great-grandfather's old house. So my father-in-law brought the swing inside, and recreated Little 372 as a glider from maple, walnut, oak, and ipe. It is truly a thing to behold. My favorite detail? Where the wing is attached to the fuselage, the bolts are covered by wooden peanuts. Wing nuts. Makes me smile every time.

 Boppy scrawled out a dedication to my mother on the back of this child's chair in 1951. My son's grandfather did the same for him on his airplane in 2008. Photos © 2010 Cameron Blazer // Cottage Industrialist

It's easy to write off craft and home cooking as mere domestic fluff. But I believe that the drive to create— whether the medium is wood, metal, beads, pastry, felt, stock, paper, or pixels—is what connects us all to our history, to what makes us human.

When I draw a little airplane cartoon, or my father-in-law builds a glider, we are both connected by the invisible thread of immortality to the makers and doers who came before us. When we meditate on how to turn an idea into reality, when we sign our work: we are connected.

And now, as I watch my little boy grow and stake a claim on his interests and passions, I finally see what has been in front of me all of my life: As he dons his yellow hard hat and builds a brick yard of Legos, as he tells his dad to pause the DVD so that he can draw a picture of the screen, he is showing me that the drive to create is in all of us; that when we are at our best, he is, I am, we all are builders, makers, and doers.

•••

Read Making Stuff: Part 1 here.

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    Making Stuff: Part 2 - BLOG :: Cottage Industrialist - Various and Sundry Things
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    Making Stuff: Part 2 - BLOG :: Cottage Industrialist - Various and Sundry Things
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    Making Stuff: Part 2 - BLOG :: Cottage Industrialist - Various and Sundry Things
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    Making Stuff: Part 2 - BLOG :: Cottage Industrialist - Various and Sundry Things
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    Making Stuff: Part 2 - BLOG :: Cottage Industrialist - Various and Sundry Things
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    Making Stuff: Part 2 - BLOG :: Cottage Industrialist - Various and Sundry Things
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    Making Stuff: Part 2 - BLOG :: Cottage Industrialist - Various and Sundry Things
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    Making Stuff: Part 2 - BLOG :: Cottage Industrialist - Various and Sundry Things
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    Making Stuff: Part 2 - BLOG :: Cottage Industrialist - Various and Sundry Things

Reader Comments (8)

What a lovely post!
I think this sense is something our culture is loosing, in the age of disposable everything. That's why we need craft bloggers, right? ;)

January 22, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteralicia

You made me cry. Beauty-ful.

January 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEmily

Beautiful. Bet you couldn't stop creating if you tried! Keep up the great work!

January 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPaca

Cam, you have hit upon something which is so true. I have always known the joy of making things: little dresses, elephants, big dinners, cream puffs and, of course, poetry. It is the thing that connected me to my mother. A poem I wrote, "Winding," depicts a child sitting in front of her mother, holding a skein of yarn as the mother winds the yarn into a ball. The final lines say,
"The yarn between us,
thread of years,
knit us together,
brought us here
and back.
It is such a joy to read your thoughts, watch you create things across these virtual miles. The real lesson for all of us is to make time for the making, the sharing, the giving....and most of all the dreaming from which our creations spring. These joys can never be replaced.

January 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRene

Wow, what a lovely story and great memories. The airplane glider is precious. Thanks for sharing.

January 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBeth M

Thanks for writing this, Cameroonie. I especially love the ending. Xoxoxoxo

January 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

Cam:
I am developing a book about Clenson's Aviation and Space Heritage and would like to correspond
with you by snail mail if you don't mind.
I was a student of Professor Marshall, Clemson Class 51. He always told us that everyone should
learn to play Golf.

November 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterOtha H Vaughan

A lovely post and a joy to read.

June 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCheoy Lee

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