Let’s consider the humble paper clip.
I see paper clips every day. They are sent home weekly from school, holding together homework packets. I use them at home. You may have them at work. But are they exciting enough to warrant a blog post all on their own?
The idea for today’s accessories dates back to ten years ago when I noticed a container of paper clips coated in plastic of various colors. Their bright colors beckoned to me and I thought, “These could turn into an art piece.” I didn’t make them into art at the time but the idea has been on my mind ever since. Anything colorful calls to me as a potential art material. Oh, you too? See, color has power!
When you use hundreds of paper clips together you get a lot of color and texture. It’s a project best seen up close, since paper clips are small. I love making art from everyday materials that many people just see as functional. When I walk, the clips on my head gently jingle-jangle together, and they sound like wind chimes. I like that, and I like how the clips on all my accessories move as I move, like fringe.
Funny—I took the last two weeks off from making new accessories and blogging about them. In some ways it was great to have a break, but I also felt strange. Wednesday isn’t the same without at least some wackiness…
Would you like to know a little about the history of the paper clip? It’s controversial, which may surprise you. This is because there are various accounts of how and when these clips were invented. I found three different accounts online regarding their origins in various countries. But several sources cite America’s William Middlebrook as the inventor of the paper clip in 1899.
When I tried to find out when and why paper clips became available in colorful plastic coating, the best explanation I found was that the plastic prevents rips and marks on paper it is holding together. No rust stains if you use plastic. Perhaps some people use the various colors to help them organize papers (blue clip for one type of paper, red clip for another). I think the colorful plastic-coated clips are simply more fun than the metal ones. I used to work office temp jobs when I wasn’t getting enough art gigs, and I filed a lot of paper. For me, sorting papers is a task that needs all the fun it can get.
Today I am wearing 300 paper clips. Some of the clips are attached to each other, but in some places I sewed them on or used hot glue to attach them. Total cost: $3.50.
Sometimes while making costumes I have moments when I wonder if I am wasting materials. My last costume was made of gum wrappers, which would have been thrown into the trash if I hadn’t used them. But paper clips could be used for their intended purpose instead of on me. So am I wasting them? I don’t know. But I think I will focus on the happy parts of creating rather than wrestling with the pros and cons. If you had a necklace you only wore on special occasions you wouldn’t worry that you were wasting the metal when it wasn’t around your neck. So I’ll stop this “what if” stuff and just have fun with my creations.
I hope you’ve enjoyed these colorful accessories. If nothing else, maybe you’ll look at paper clips a little differently from now on. They are humble, but they hold a lot of things together and do quite a bit, given their small size. They are the hard-working ant of the office world, holding a hundred times their weight and working day and night to get the job done.