Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Epherm* (for Ephemera, etc.)

I like to memorize poetry and was casting about for a new poem to learn the other day when I came across an old childhood favorite entitled Forgiven, by A. A. Milne.

I found a little beetle; so that Beetle was his name,
And I called him Alexander and he answered just the same.
I put him in a match-box, and I kept him all the day...
And Nanny let my beetle out—
Yes, Nanny let my beetle out—
She went and let my beetle out—
And Beetle ran away. . . .

Today I'm cataloging some ephemera, which strikes me as the sort of word one might mis-key from time to time, so I decided to look it up in OhioLINK and, sure enough, 11 cases of Epherm* popped up, a couple of which could have been correctly spelled Greek words, but most of which were clearly typos. One in particular caught my eye: A Bibliography of Ephermal [sic] Bibelots, by Frederick W. Faxon, 1897. A bibelot is "a small object of curiosity, beauty, or rarity; akin to a bauble." All of this put me in mind of a segment I recently saw on CBS Sunday Morning about British "micro-sculptor" Willard Wigan. Wigan started fashioning vanishingly minute tableaux after a teacher once told him he was bound to be a failure, a cruel remark that made him feel "small." His mother offered some sage advice: "If you keep making small things, your name will get bigger!"

"It began when I was five years old," says Wigan. "I started making houses for ants because I thought they needed somewhere to live. Then I made them shoes and hats. It was a fantasy world I escaped to where my dyslexia didn’t hold me back and my teachers couldn’t criticise me." Wigan employs dust, eyelashes, sugar crystals, grains of sand, seeds, and so on in the making of his minuscule creations. His work is often hard to see, but having been dubbed the "Eighth Wonder of the World," it's hardly ephemeral. (Except for the time that Wigan, while working on a wee Wonderland, inhaled his tiny Alice!) If you haven't had your fill yet, take a close look at these other amazing artists as well.

(The First Family in the eye of a needle, by Willard Wigan.)

Carol Reid

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