Monday, May 23, 2011

Day 36 (Really?): Make the old look new

I hope somebody's still reading this blog, but if you are I bet you thought I'd given up.
I really apologize for the big gap. Life just kind of got away from me, partly because working a lot of odd jobs under the table can devour your time the way no normal job could. Part of that is they are multiple, and that means dashing from one place to another. Also a major portion of my time got eaten up painting a giant signboard menu. It's awesome to get a job like that everyone will see, it feels professional, but it took a lot more time than I'd anticipated. Anyway, I hope this one was worth waiting for, because I did put a lot of work into it.
With the assignment to make something old look new, I scrambled around looking for ideas until my brain fell on the metaphor of Neil Gaiman's 'American Gods'. The plot is a convoluted one, but at its core is the idea that the old gods of ancient mythologies do not die when we stop looking for them, but they are forced to either adapt or fade away. Some gods find it harder than others to make a place for themselves in the modern world, but the author makes some very plausible transitions. Some deities, in a very essential way, are still up to their old tricks even if they've learned to put a new face on them.
There are several gods portrayed in the story from various diverse cultures (including one whose legacy is the subject of another Neil Gaiman novel), but one I noticed missing was Ganesha.
I'm not a Hindu, I'm not really anything that's easy to define by the terms of organized religion (although I was attending a Unitarian Universalist church for a while, and have only stopped due to a hectic schedule), but Ganesha holds a special place in my mind. Back when I was in High School, or maybe college, I had an incredible and apocalyptic dream that involved the repercussions loss of religious faith the world over, and in it the only deity I actually came close to was Ganesha. It was in the form of a white stone statue, and at the time I couldn't even name what deity it was beyond 'that elephant-headed one from India', but the image was one brief pause in the chaos of the dream. It was a moment of resounding calm while the world was crumbling, and I stood before the statue and touched it, and it started to cry.
I don't see the dream itself as prophetic in any literal way, although there was some important symbolism in it, but an image like that really sticks with you. 
I have since learned a lot more about Ganesha, and collected a few little figures and a pendant. Of all the deities of the Hindu culture, Ganesha is without dispute the most widely revered. The myths around him and his status vary from one sect to another, but he crosses boundaries other deities apparently don't.
What it is about him that makes him so popular, I'm not sure, but even to other cultures he's probably the most easily recognizable. It's not just his cuddly, elephant-headed appearance that makes him endearing, but he's also usually represented as being fairly humble and easy-going.
He is known chiefly as the Remover of Obstacles, the guy that helps deal with roadblocks in your path. Depictions vary, but some of the more common things he's shown carrying are an axe and a rope, both useful for differing approaches to practical obstacles. I guess the ability to chop things down aggressively or work more subtly pulling something aside or someone through makes him a pretty versatile problem-solver. This version is also giving a sign of blessing, which can't hurt along the way, and carrying a lotus blossom to remind us to pause sometimes in all that work and enjoy where we are. He's also dancing... because it has to do with balance and moving through the world, or maybe just because he's that kind of a guy.
If you look at my previous progress posts, you might get an inkling of what kinds of old materials I used to make him. Nothing was purchased for this project, and most of it was old stuff that we had around and really didn't know what to do with.

His body itself is made from an old plush shirt that fit me in Middle School. I hung onto it because the material itself was so awesome. I want to add that my girlfriend gave me a lot of help on sewing the body, because our sewing machine has been busted and yes this thing is every single stitch sewn by hand. Only one material in the house struck my mind as right for his pants, and apparently it struck hers too, because the yellow fabric was actually a mostly-finished skirt my girlfriend had made for a doll. It was long since abandoned for reasons I can't fathom, and she let me cut it up. What he's wearing is actually called dhoti and it's one very long rectangle. I wrapped and tucked it just like the real ones, although I had to tack it down with stitches.
Beads are something we seem to have no end of, and yes I used lots. His rope is just some neat yarn, and his axe is actually a plastic one stolen from my pirate collection (remember those?), prettied up with some paint and beads and glue.
Lastly came the lotus flower, which is made with a technique a close friend of mine invented. It's colored tissue paper, a couple layers cut into circles with petals coming off them and strung onto the end of a piece of wire. Then you paint and shape them into place with clear nail polish and it magically makes it all translucent yet flexible and durable.
I leave you with that reminder to stop and enjoy life's moments, and I'll try to do more of that in the future by resuming this blog.


  1. Looks great -- welcome back! I need a Ganesha in my life. Removing obstacles...that's a great idea. Or maybe my kids could just put away all of their toys??

  2. Welcome back! What a beautiful piece. Looking forward to seeing your continued progress on this project.

  3. Oh wow! I really love how plushie Ganesha turned out! It's clear that you put a lot of work into all the detail...well worth the wait :) Welcome back!

  4. You guys have been so patient, that's awesome, thank you! I guess I needed Ganesha to help me plow through all the distractions and get back to this project. I think everybody could use a little of that in their lives...