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Friday, October 7, 2011


“Necessity is the mother of invention.” I suspect that you have to be poor at some point in your life to become a true inventor, but some people are just born with an inventive spirit. I went to lunch with Mom today and told her I was having trouble writing this post. It seems like this ought to be a really easy word for me. I make stuff all the time. I just can’t think of anything interesting that I’ve made lately.

Mom says a “contraption” should include moving parts. Ooookay…? I suppose that rules out the brass eagle I turned into a lamp finial or my bookcase – though I did put sliding doors on the bookcase. I told Mom that I’ve made whirligigs, with pantomimed arm movements while I was driving. She told me “pin wheel and put-your-hands-back-on-the-steering-wheel”. Good point. This moved into a wistful memory of Grandpa’s weather vane that we should’ve taken when we moved him from his house and the supposition that Great Grandpa Winter must've invented a lot of contraptions because he was a contraption kind of guy. Uncle John was working on a perpetual motion machine before he died. Maybe this kind of thing runs in families?

People with money just buy the parts they need or hire someone with the right parts and actual knowledge of what to do with them. Poor people come up with different answers. For example, there was a time when I wanted my brothers to fix a lawn tractor. Brother #1 admitted that work was at a stoppage until Brother #2 arrived, took apart a ball point pen, inserted the little spring, waved his magic wand, and the motor began to purr again. I’m pretty sure that taking apart a pen wasn’t written into the owner’s manual.

I admire this kind of cleverness, and I might even have influenced my brother’s alternative solutions to mechanical issues. I had a house with problems when brothers #1 and #2 were little. We spent a lot of happy weekends over projects. Since we didn’t have brawn, I said we needed to think smarter. Pipes won’t come apart? Let’s discuss levers. Let’s discuss fulcrums too or the advantages of a longer lever. Maybe we needed to discuss a &*#*^$% sledge hammer too, but more often we opted for persistence (stubbornness) and teamwork. Our planning sessions were fun and intense. We gained an appreciation for proper tools, which often led to networking and finding someone who would lend them to us – and of course, tools are always a good excuse for garage sales.

These ads have been sitting in a box for a long time without any real reason for their existence any more, and the sewer rings were cleverness along the lines of ballpoint pen springs. Prior to this innovation, the ring that held sewer lids in the street were a set made of solid cast iron. There wasn’t a standard size for sewer lids, so if you needed to replace the ring, you had to custom cast it, which was expensive and difficult. Making an adjustable ring meant easier and less expensive road repairs. Sewer lid technology may have grown by leaps and bounds since I did these, but at the time, I was pleased to get the chance to do illustrations for a big art studio. Cleveland is an industrial kind of town, so I didn’t get to paint cute little bunnies very often – though I can show you endless how-to illustrations of hands holding wrenches, paint brushes, paint rollers, utility knives… Hey, if nothing else, ya gotta admit that’s a great tire!


  1. Interesting post! And I ♥ your choice of a pinwheel for your illustration.

  2. I like your pinwheel contraption Linda. And the way you think. And you got great tires. That's about all I can say that is half intelligent tonight. Still down with a fall flu. Talk soon!

  3. Hi Linda- Wow! You probably didn't have to dig too far for a contraption to post, with your product illustration background... I do love the pinwheel, though. Such beauty and simplicity, so much fun for all ages.
    Didn't realize I missed so many posts here, and you've been a busy lady! Hope you have a chance to enjoy the rest of your garden as autumn settles in! :o)

  4. Your pinwheel is the perfect contraption. You are so clever! :)

  5. Thanks everybody! I'm fighting my urge to make actual pinwheels since I have spectacular weather for once today :)

    I hope you feel better soon Rand! Fall flu is never fun.

  6. Pinwheels are great gadgets, whirly gigs, toys and contraptions. I'm not sure if i have done anything clever today. But there is always tomorrow...

  7. Great pinwheel there Linda and I really enjoyed seeing your "industry" illustrations and reading about the sewer rings...it's often the simplest inventions which are the most ingenious isn't it! Enjoy your Sunday,
    Jane x

  8. I doubt I've done anything clever either, simple or otherwise. Thanks for the comments! I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend :)

  9. love the pinwheel and the clever post Linda. You always post interesting stories and great artwork. I also had no idea about the sewer rings. That is a really great tire!

  10. This post is full contraptions and you have a kind mom helping you with ideas. Bravo for your supporting mom and bravo for your smart brother and that big wheel. How did you do that? With graphite pencils?

  11. Thanks! I used a Prismacolor pencil for the tire. My boss didn't like that drawing. He said he might as well have taken a photo. Oh well, he was a finance guy, not an art guy :)

  12. You are such a wealth of information and stories to go along with it Linda...that must run in the family too! :-) Your post took me back to being a little kid, listening to my Missouri relatives' conversations 'round the kitchen table on sultry summer nights, sweaty-cold soft drinks in everyone's hands...

  13. Heisann!

    This word "Contraption" was unfamiliar to me, so I tried the google translate, but it didn't work.
    "a mechanical contrivance; gadget; device" on http://dictionary.reference.com meant nothing to me.
    I'm not yet, after reading you post, sure what it precisely means. It must be innovative and have moving parts... for sure, I now know, but I gave up!

    I love your 'vindeleke'. It's wonderful. And I'm not kidding! Please, verify:
    http://viltogvakkert.blogspot.com/2010/08/vindeleke.html and

    So thank you Linda, may be i one day have one like the one you have designed ;:OD)

  14. My dad was a storyteller, so if I inherited any of that, it came from him. I like it when something I've said reminds people of their own lives and happy memories. It's like we can all share memories together :)

    I put this explanation of contraption on Vilt og vakkert's site where she has a very cool pin wheel illustration, but maybe this will help others who don't get the spirit of the word from the dictionary...

    "Contraption" is usually some kind of home made mechanical thing that's kind of stuck together in an odd kind of way. It's often used to kind of poke fun of something in a good natured way.

    I hope that helps and thanks for the comments!

  15. Another great story and what a fab tire!

  16. That really is a great looking tire!!! Nice post :)

  17. Thanks ladies! I was pretty proud of myself for the tire :)

  18. Necessity may be the mother of invention, but I think laziness was the father:o) Just think about the guy who invented the remote control or the garage door opener. :o) Great post Linda! Your pinwheel rocks and I like your “industrial” style. Your words and your illos are a perfect marriage.
    You rock! Tires are hard!

  19. Well you had me when I started reading and then you had me twice at the sentence "Maybe we needed to discuss a &*#*^$% sledge hammer too,"

    Hehe, well so they are called pinwheels? What a beautiful one. If I ever come back as a pinwheel I'm heading straight to your blog.

    It's sad about your grandad's whirlygig. I have a book at home that tells you how to make all sorts. I like reading about them and imagione what they would be like if I actually made them! Now if it was your book then you would have them all up and running in 36 variations!

    :0 I'll post a link to the book if I can remember what it's called.

    my magic words is 'kefut' just thought I'd tell you that!

    cheers from 'ere.

  20. You've got a point Jack. I complained to a friend once about someone calling me lazy when I was a kid when the person calling me that was having me do all her work. My friend said of course he's lazy. Who wants to work? My friend spends his free time inventing things.

    My picture is a pin wheel. A whirligig is usually a figure with arms that go around. My grandpa's weathervane was a horse that swiveled around a post at the bottom showing which direction the wind was blowing. All cool things. I may have to make some this winter :)

    I wonder if "kefut" works on plumbing or car repairs?

    Thanks for the comments guys!

  21. Love the pin wheel. Simple yet colorful and graphic, Great idea, nice post

  22. Very clever...this one stumped me. I love pinwheels.Good work!