Here’s a new twist on an old Japanese folk art – painting kokeshi doll faces on matches. The original kokeshi figures, introduced a couple centuries ago, were inexpensive souvenir items that visitors to the onsen (spa) villages of northern Japan would buy to give to friends back home. (Even in California, we used to have a half dozen kokeshi, along with snow globes from New York, native American trinkets from the Grand Canyon, and seashells from Hawaii – don’t know what happened to any of them.) It’s the kind of gift that would merit a T-shirt that read: “Grandma went to the onsen and all she brought me was this wooden kokeshi.” Kokeshi dolls were distinguished by their simple rectangular torso, lacking arms and legs, and their enlarged round wooden heads, minimally painted to indicate eyes, hair and maybe a mouth or nose. (Think “Hello Kitty,” who is also missing a mouth.)
Johannesburg-based ad people Jeff Tyser and Kerryn-lee Maggs traveled through seven African countries in 150 days, covering 22,500 kms. They didn’t bore their friends and colleagues with hundreds of snapshots of themselves standing in front of scenic lookouts, etc. Instead they presented the highlights in succinct infographics. Very effective and memorable.
You don’t have to live in San Francisco to be awestruck by the cityscape built by artist Scott Weaver entirely out of toothpicks. It took him 35 years and more than 100,000 toothpicks, and he says he intends to keep on refining and adding on to his creation. Replicas of every San Francisco landmark, monument and scenic attraction, including Alcatraz Island, the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges, Palace of Fine Arts, the psychedelic Haight-Ashbury district, and even the baseball park with its iconic wire baseball mitt, are rendered in intricate detail. As if that isn’t mind-blowing enough, Weaver one-upped Rube Goldberg by using ping pong balls to turn his sculpture into a kinetic experience. On his website, Weaver explains that he used different brands of toothpicks depending on what he was building. “I also have many friends and family members that collect toothpicks in their travels for me. For example, some of the trees in Golden Gate Park are made from toothpicks from Kenya, Morocco, Spain, West Germany and Italy.” Somehow after seeing this, hearing about Lego sculptures seems like unsophisticated child’s play. Weaver is a staff artist with The Tinkering Studio at San Francisco’s renowned Exploratorium, the museum of science, art and human perception.