Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Elephant No. 332: Coloured Wooden Shapes

I'm always attracted to colour, so when I saw some colourful wooden shapes in a dollar store yesterday, I thought they'd be interesting to try for today's elephant. I know from previous experience with pieces like this that it can be difficult for me to make a not-stupid shape, but I thought maybe the colour would help inspire me.

I had no idea when I started what, exactly, I was going to do to make an elephant shape. Glue them on top of a box? Glue them together to make a wooden pin? Arrange them on a piece of white cardboard and be done with it?

I started by laying out the pieces on a white surface to see if it was really possible to make an elephant with such disparate shapes. I quickly decided that the thing that would please me most was making small elephant pins.

This was actually easier said than done. None of the shapes really lent themselves to a proper elephant, so I decided they were all going to look abstract and vaguely Cubist.

I ended up making six of these before I ran out of ideas that wouldn't be repetitive. Most of the time I started with the legs, layering the body on top next, followed by head, ear, trunk, and sometimes a tail. I used a glue gun to adhere everything—not my favourite tool, but it sure saves time when making things like this.

Along the way, I discovered many other animal shapes I could make with these, including turtles, rabbits, and even a lion.

To finish these, I will need to examine them closely to remove any excess glue. I also need to get some pinbacks to glue onto the reverse of each.

It was a bit hard to figure out what shapes to put together, and I think I've more or less exhausted most of the possibilities with these six elephants. But I did enjoy making them, and can actually see making more at some point as little gifts.

Elephant Lore of the Day
Another sad little story about elephants and their often unfortunate encounters with humans.

In September 2010, a herd of Asian elephants was crossing railway tracks in a heavily forested area of West Bengal, when they were hit by a speeding freight train. An astonishing seven elephants were killed in this single incident.

What makes this story particularly poignant is the reason that so many elephants were on the tracks in the first place. Apparently two baby elephants, crossing behind the main herd, suddenly stopped in the middle of the rails. Perhaps they sensed the vibrations of the coming train through their feet and panicked, or perhaps their feet somehow became caught.

Whatever the cause, when the rest of the herd realized that the baby elephants were still on the tracks, they turned around to rescue them. And that's when the train ploughed into them. The dead included three adult females, three youngsters and an adult male.

The incident shocked wildlife activists and forest officials, who called it the worst incident of its type in the state. Wildlife activists were particularly vocal, noting that they had complained to railway authorities on numerous occasions, asking them to divert the trains, or at least avoid running them through the forest at night. Conservationists had also long been urging railroad companies to instruct their drivers to slow down when passing through forested areas.

As more rail lines and roadways cut through ever-shrinking areas of forest, elephant encounters with fast-moving vehicles are on the rise. Sadly, in most of these encounters, elephants are the losers—although, on at least one notable occasion, an enraged mother elephant head-butted a train that had injured her baby, until the train was put out of commission.

Young Asian elephant hurrying across railway tracks in India.

To Support Elephant Welfare

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