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Popsicle Gluttony For Fun And Profit

April 11, 2009

Our ever-changing vintage-retro aesthetic allows us to forget that not everything from the 50s and 60s was classy, cool, chic, or anything like a good idea. Drive in movies? Amazing. Testing dangerous pathogens on conscientious objectors? Not really sure how to accessorise that.

When it comes to style, some people just never got the news. We forgive a lot in retrospect, sometimes giving awful things a second chance: ponchos, slouch boots, anything with buckles, and NKOTB (sorry, fans) because their failure to survive longer than a few years has allowed them to become zeitgeisty icons. And yet, because sometimes the inside of my brain looks like a church bazaar, I’m pretty sure I must have burned that internal memo because I think I want some of the accessories from this book I dug out of that skip last weekend.

It was published in 1960 in Chicago as part of a long series on making the kinds of things that would fuel generations of bad yard-sale bric-a-brac judgment.

"Transforming wooden sticks into attractive, costly-looking projects is fun."

Not only that, the publishers must have had a premonition! Because look, the Calipso purse even has my name on it.

I'm a style icon waiting to happen. Send pudding pops.

I'm a style icon waiting to happen. Send pudding pops.

The book is the second in a series of four on crafts made from popsicle sticks (or Kap-Sticks, as they’re called), and contains instructions for six purses, four lamps, a desk set, and something called a ‘note house’.

I can’t really pick a favourite, but if forced, this Den Lamp would be it.


And this ‘Fireside Lamp’ took around 1000 sticks to construct.

Wood + Glue + Shellac + Lightbulb + Proximity to Fireplace

Wood + Glue + Shellac + Lightbulb + Proximity to Fireplace

Even more exciting, it looks like there are still a few around, and that there may be someone else out there with this book, because, as much as I’m willing to forgive an incredible amount of coincidence, I’m pretty sure that if two people independently came up with this (scroll down for the pic of the lamp) idea, it would be more than enough evidence that humanity is not stupid enough to have survived into the 21st century. But the tenacity of the popsicle stick crafters means that at least the purse design has been improved in the last 50 years.

I don’t know when popsicle-stick craft came in, but I did learn that the popsicle became a popular summertime snack in the 1930s, and probably the ‘make do and mend’ culture that had so much extra strength during wartime helped give it a boost. The surprising thing is not that people are still using them to make stuff, but that so much of the shit people make still sucks. For example, there is this shitty wishing well, which you are invited to fill with pennies, paint in that kooky font that has dots for serifs and give as an awkward holiday gift instead of something edible and therefore useful.

But this catapult is pretty cool, sure. Since sticks as a craft material didn’t take off the way some other stuff did, it was ripe for some Guinness Book fanatic to make a record out of it. So I bring you the coolest thing ever made from popsicle sticks, a replica Viking ship, dwarfed in publicity by the Sea Stallion, but at least as excellent:

Odin brought the fudgsicle to L'Anse aux Meadows (pic from the Make blog)

Odin brought the fudgsicle to L'Anse aux Meadows (pic from the Make blog)

The latest in three of his Viking ships took three years to make and was made from 15 million popsicle sticks, all ‘imperfect’ ones donated by an ice cream company. Once a ridiculous idea crosses a certain boundary, it reads like a proper ‘triumph of the human spirit’ narrative, and no longer seems like an ill-judged fire hazard. And if the guy plans to retrace a Viking voyage, at least if he fails to make it through the frozen Arctic, the boat will be a useful way to serve a light hand-held dessert as the crew waits for the rescue boats to arrive.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Cormac Brady permalink
    April 11, 2009 11:55 am

    A good and interesting article.

  2. Alison permalink
    April 14, 2009 4:43 pm

    Those ice-pop stick creations remind me of summer school circa 1983. We also painted stones and covered plastic flowerpots with putty and seashells. Ah, the forgotten crafts…

  3. Dorothy Wilkins permalink
    November 8, 2009 10:39 pm

    I remember this exact booklet and making that ugly lamp with my Grams one summer! Would you be willing to sell the booklet? If so please contact me asap….Thank you

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