We Came, We Sawed, We ‘Tasted’

“It’s this big stupid bead thing,” I frowned.

Everyone around me laughed.

“Would you like me to put it on the drawstring for you?” offered Linda Talbot, co-host of today’s workshop.

Our small group sat gathered around a large table on the front deck. Sewing needles flashed in the sunlight as busy fingers used strong cotton thread to hand stitch seams. We were making small fabric pouches, just the right size for the tangrams we had just created.

How else would a person transport their tangram home?

The scene of this hive of activity was Copper Moon Gallery, located at the end of Glacier Drive, south of town at McCrae. If you have ever visited Yukon Artists @ Work, you are already familiar with the area.

The industrious folks at Copper Moon Gallery have introduced a program they’ve dubbed Afternoon Art Taster. Although this may immediately elicit mental images of a stemmed glass of chilled chardonnay beside a chunk of Danish blue, on a designer plate, it’s really more about coffee, cookies – and a “taste of art”.

I suppose you could say today’s “taste” was cherry, insofar as the material from which our tangrams had been made was a square of cherry wood.

“We’ll begin by drawing a one-and-one-half-inch grid on the wood square,” explained Nerissa Rosati as she distributed pencils and rulers.

“Next, you’ll need to highlight the heavier lines as shown in this pattern.” Rosati placed a plastic-covered page on the centre of the table. We carried on step by step, duly highlighting.

Fine handsaws appeared next. With care, concentration and concern and “How can I make this cut without hitting my finger?”, the seven shaped pieces that make up a tangram fell onto the table one at a time.

“Place the sandpaper flat on the table. Try to make each edge smooth and just a tiny bit rounded. You still want the pieces to fit back together snugly when you are done.” Rosati dodged back and forth, keeping up with the progress of the class, the refilling of the coffee pot and the parade of gallery visitors.

And still the tangrams were not quite complete. There was one more step. A thin coat of shellac was applied to one side of each piece using a small piece of cloth – after all the sawdust had been brushed off, of course.

And so, here we were … sewing up our pouches while the first coat of shellac dried in the sun.

Talbot is a well-known local costumer and she wasn’t going to send us home with anything but the finest. The fabric she had chosen was a pale-grey brocade and all the pieces had been pre-cut.

By turning and stitching one last fold around the top and running pre-cut black cord pieces through, using a large safety-pin lead, we even had a drawstring to pull the pouches closed. Talbot had just one last finishing detail. We needed a bead pull to keep our drawstrings closed tightly.

Everyone else was putting a coat of shellac on the flip side of their wooden puzzle pieces by the time I triumphantly succeeded in getting both ends of the drawstring through my “big stupid bead thing”.

The earliest record of ancient Chinese tangrams is from a book dated 1813, though it is believed they are much older. Tangram puzzles can be used to form many picture shapes. The classic rules are you must use all seven tans, they must be flat, they must touch and none may overlap.

And certainly, with these nifty little pouches, we wouldn’t be losing any of our tans on the way home.

For further information about Afternoon Art Taster events, phone 633-6677 or visit www.coppermoongallery.com.

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