School artwork … too toxic for toxic waste!

11.18.14-Photo-Asbestos SculpturesWhen my brothers and I went to school years ago, we brought home our fair share of artwork. Some of these treasures were kept by our Mum in the cedar chest and recently, we saw them again…for the first time!

Clearing our parents’ house got us to thinking about school art classes. Our parents were creative – Mum could whip up a mean outfit on her sewing machine and Dad was no stranger to innovative projects made in his workroom. We were blessed with creative genes.

For some reason, four examples of our creativity remained tucked away in a shallow hall closet. Several times over the years, I suggested Mum throw them out, but she resisted. “I like them!” she would say and that was that.

These treasures were actually asbestos sculptures. Now, sculpture is a term used loosely to describe these four shapeless blobs we lovingly carried home and presented to choruses of “OOOHs and Ahhhs”. Initially, this artwork was displayed in a place of honour, but over the years, it ended up in a plastic bag in the closet.

I remember making this pencil holder – a flat green item with lots of holes and sparkles! When the asbestos dried, I was disappointed to find the holes almost disappeared. I was left with a form without a function!

That day in art class, we sat patiently at our desks, with a piece of plastic covering the work surface, as our Teacher came by and doled out a scoop of dry asbestos. We made a hole in the center of the pile and poured water in. The water and asbestos were mixed by hand until the goop was pliable enough to create a work of art. The painting and sparkles came later.

Years later, when we discovered these treasures, it dawned on us that the modeling clay was… asbestos. Unknowingly, we had forged ahead in a toxic art project without benefits of masks, filters or ventilation of any kind.

Now it was time to let the past go.

One of my brothers was in charge of taking items to the Transfer Station. But, when he arrived at the depot, the guardians of all things toxic, took one look at the four blobs and declared them…too toxic for toxic waste.

My brother was sent away, clutching the plastic bag containing sculptures that were not wanted at the Transfer Station. What happened next, we have no idea. All we know is that we did not see this artwork again. It is anyone’s guess where things go when the Toxic Waste people refuse to take it!

Here’s to the good old days and a simpler time when we played with asbestos and mercury… and lived to tell about it.