Friday, January 14, 2011

I Fought Elmo and Elmo Won

Several months ago, I entered a crafty mom contest with this tissue-paper craft. There was one other window art entry in the mix: the elaborately titled "Puffy Paint Elmo." Beyond the routine existential questions the mesmerizing piece of artwork provoked me to ask, I wondered, "Really? You just drew Elmo on your window with puffy paint and that's your craft?"

Forgive me if you are the artist behind "Puffy Paint Elmo," or if your artistic sensibilities align with billowy reproductions of Sesame Street characters. We can't all be van Goghs, I know.

Nonetheless, each time I saw "Puffy Paint Elmo" in the line-up, I cringed. I know we're just talking crafts here. But some of the reasons I make crafts with my kids are to evoke their creativity, to enlighten their senses by letting them experiment with materials, to get them to see things in new ways. Perhaps it was a new way to see Elmo. But probably it was a mom just copying a picture of the puppet onto her window. With puffy paint. But I digress.

The way the contest was set up, a panel of judges would pick one grand prize winner as well as a bunch of semi-finalists. The semi-finalists' crafts would then be displayed on a website to be voted on by viewers.

The day the semi-finalists were announced, I went on the website and was a tiny bit disappointed my craft wasn't there. The rejection would not have made any lasting impression on me, except that you will never guess who was there. Or, of course, you already have guessed. "Puffy Paint Elmo" was a finalist! With all his puffiness and paintedness and third-person self-references. "Puffy Paint Elmo" out-crafted me!

Bitter? Perhaps. But I continue on. Our tissue-paper window art has evolved with the seasons. I've no doubt "Puffy Paint Elmo" has evolved as well. Perhaps he is currently wearing puffy ear muffs and a puffy scarf. In a few months he might even don puffy sunglasses.

I find some consolation in knowing "Puffy Paint Elmo" did not win the final prize, nor had it even garnered any viewer votes the last time I checked. There will be more crafts and more contests. More opportunities for me to learn to be a gracious loser and, perhaps, learn to use puffy paint.

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