When I was a little kid, plaster painting was THE thing in kids entertainment. Nowadays it seems it’s all ball pits and bouncy castles*, but back then sitting around painting pre-made plaster moulds was big news. I remember doing plaster painting at the shops in the school holidays, at birthday parties (including one of my own) and even at parks and other kid-friendly venues.
One of the first (maybe even the very first) plaster ornaments I painted was a cat. When I was a kid, I loved cats. I blame it on reading too many Enid Blyton stories and not actually having a cat. I painted that thing with a technique that could be best described as “splodging”, with a variety of dark colours – red, green, pink, probably some varieties of blue, and had it glittered (you always said yes to glitter!)
I’m not sure what the thought process behind that was, but I do remember an almost instant sense of regret. Why, why, why did I choose to be “artistic”, instead of painting my cat black with green eyes, like pretty much all the cats in those Enid Blyton books**? (Always with the bright green eyes! There are other colours, Enid)
The problem with all of those plaster painting events was the question of what to do with your creations afterwards. In my case, that splodgy cat lived up in the top of my wardrobe. Over time, the cat became more than a failed craft project. It became a symbol, a silent reminder of my own shortcomings.
But I left it there, because throwing it away would be admitting defeat, or something that made equally little sense. It sat there, all splodgy and glittery, judging me. Eventually it got a little banged up and lost an ear, which only made things worse. I mean, sure, I hated that thing, but it was my duty, nay, my obligation to look after it, and here I was, failing yet again.
In hindsight, it’s a wonder I wasn’t diagnosed with any kind of mental illness earlier. Are all 5-7 year olds (I really can’t remember how old I was) this hard on themselves?
Somewhere along the way I actually did paint a black cat with green eyes, and it was completely boring in both process and result. What a let-down from something I had anticipated as being the potential pinnacle of my plaster painting pursuit.
I eventually did get rid of the splodgy cat, and all my other painted plaster disasters. But I still remember what that first cat looked like, and now that I think about it… it was actually pretty cute.
*I do occasionally see plaster painting stations during the school holidays, and yes, I am tempted to join in.
**I now have a black and white cat with green eyes, and I have to say that I feel Ms Blyton overstated the benefits a tad. She’s not particularly friendly or helpful, and I have yet to be able to do even one simple piece of magic.