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Art? Craft? or Whimsy?

By Lisa Wersal
ART TIMES Jan/ Feb 2010

Last summer’s intriguing and enlightening Speak Out columns by Ginger Lee Hendler and Donald A. Windsor on the differences between “art” and “craft” prompted my own musings on the subject. I offer the possibility of a third category…whimsy.

Recently I went shopping for shampoo. I wanted something natural, so I breezed by all the name brands with their polysyllabic ingredients, finally landing on a product that boasted carrots on the label.

Upon closer inspection, I found that along with sweet almond and jojoba oils and aloe leaf extract, this shampoo contained carrot and pumpkin juices, and sweet potato, melon, and orange extracts. That's a lot of garden produce to massage onto my hair and scalp!

What enticed me to buy was this direction for use: Shampoo daily on wet hair while singing. (Emphasis added.) Now that's a marketing ploy I can appreciate -- a product that gets me singing. Every life needs a little whimsy now and again, and we get precious little of it these days, what with global warming, economic duress, and all the bickering over health care.

That's why, when I get a spare moment, I head out my door and down the path to our community sculpture. It's a work in progress; people add a little something to it every so often.

I've pieced together the history of this work of whimsy by talking with passersby on the trail. It seems to have begun as a hollowed out old stump. Someone decided to stick a few dead branches in the stump and adorn them with sparkly doo-dads and what-nots. In time, more people added branches, loading them with small treasures and mementoes. Now the limbs hold a variety of items: strings of feathers and beads, Chinese New Year dragons and Day of the Dead skeletons, toys and trinkets, ribbons and wedding bells, flags and ornaments, all sorts of things glistening and imaginative.

It's enchanting and ever-changing. Some days it's perfectly still; other days it's a dance of shapes and textures fluttering in the breeze. Storms knock some objects off; additional pieces are added on, some of them lost and found items from the trail (a mitten, a stocking cap, a baby's teething ring). It’s charming and functional, our community project. But mainly, it's fun. It buoys the spirit and lightens the heart. I always pause at the stump to admire the creativity and playfulness bound up in the personal treasures people were willing to part with, in order to contribute to a communal experience.

I've added several items myself: a Christmas angel; shiny metallic ribbons of ruby, sapphire, and gold; a tiny polar bear figurine; a dream catcher. And when I finish with my shampoo in its carrot orange bottle, I'll add a Kelly green ribbon around its neck, and tie it to one of the branches…while singing.

(Mistress of Whimsy Lisa Wersal resides in Vadnais Heights, Minnesota).