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Maker Mayhem #13

Nut Shell Critters: Fun with food waste.

There are some very good reasons why store-bought items are superior to the hand made. Quality, for one. Appearance, another. Because of this, sometimes creating an item by hand requires the Maker to compromise their standards of excellence in order to save themselves from crushing disillusionment and demoralizing exasperation. Often it requires the wholesale abandonment of standards altogether. This is especially true when you’re working only with nutshells, glue, and post-consumer household detritus.

Here are three excellent examples of finished products created from an assortment of materials that actually looked better when they were kitchen garbage. Another distinction almost too obvious to state: nutshells don’t really look much like feathers, but this is a detail that obviously eluded the crafter at work here, and if we’re also expected to make the leap from walnuts to alligators, clearly there is no room for splitting hairs. What might appear “cute” to one person can easily look “diseased” to another, but that’s what makes the world so interesting. Maybe a parrot feathered with split peanut shells coded crafty & creative in the late-1960s when this Family Fun How-To originally appeared, but in the 21st Century this bird—with its plumage appearing heavy, clumped, and lacquered—immediately calls to mind the varieties of waterfowl flailing helplessly along the Mexican gulf shoreline after the BP oil spill. A different, yet equally alarming, take: the shell casings seem to be alive and almost animated. Squint your eyes and does it not appear that this helpless parrot’s feathers are being stripped from scalp to tail by a swarm of turgid thumb-sized parasites feasting on a feather-and-blood meal?

Misdirected effort? A conversation starter? Deadly? Whether or not you suffer from severe nut allergies, Nut Shell Critters are an eye-of-the-beholder phenomenon for sure, but there’s still room for improvement. “Acorn Owl” may roll off the tongue better, but pistachio shells might have been a wiser choice, as the acorn caps used to feather this craptastic window sill dust catcher read like crusted brown scabs. Nevertheless, the net result more closely resembles a cloaked, nutshell Satan than it does a woodland bird of prey. And on the topic of reptiles: is an alligator more, or less threatening with its skin covered in a puffy, yeasty-looking rash?

Despite their many misfires, Nut Shell Critters have one great advantage among the world of How-To: they cost almost nothing to produce—except for the hours from your life than can never be replaced—allowing the Maker to flip a modest investment into one top-notch shit show.

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