By: Kevy Bailey
Ah, the winter holiday season. The time when those of us in the music profession find ourselves unusually employed, and when the rest of the country buys a bunch of stuff so they can throw out last year’s stuff. But unbeknownst to the rest of the world, in the mysterious underground realm of single reed players, clarinetists participate involuntarily in our own throwaway culture, in a word, REEDS. But what can we do? What good is a reed that won’t play anymore, or one that never played well in the first place?
As an environmentalist working through the guilt of playing an instrument made from a tree, I started hoarding my old reeds in a mason jar during college to spare them from the trash can. Because I was invested in clarinet playing for the long haul, I knew I was in for years and years of reed tossing. I couldn’t collect them forever; eventually I would run out of room. Once I had collected enough for my roommates to notice, I thought of turning them into art. I enlisted the help of photographer, crafting extraordinaire, and my best friend since high school, Brandi Cawood Moody. One stormy winter night three years ago, I delivered my cumulative pile to her doorstep. A few weeks later, the ‘Wreedth’ was born.
One year and several more reeds later, the more elaborate ‘Treed’.
(Did I mention that Brandi is a great photographer?)
And last Christmas, the satirical Reed Nativity…
(Jar Jar Binks not included)
Armed with a hot glue gun, a few thrift store accessories, and creative juices, Brandi creates completely unique pieces of art that are equal parts nerdy and festive!
I know what you’re thinking; how can my reed supply possibly outlast my artistic genius? I’m only one person! Fear not! My veteran students know that any reeds past their prime are to be surrendered to me. Some of them even end up lovingly labelled.
(Aww…wait, are those teeth marks?)
Additionally, when you teach 6th grade beginner clarinet classes, the place where reeds go to die, it’s like living directly at the end of a broken reed assembly line.
The originality of this type of craft surprises me. My recent Google searches lead me to believe that these sculptures are the only ones of their kind! My challenge to the clarinet world is this: let’s change that! Have you had any ideas about recycling or upcycling your reeds, either in artwork or something more functional? While reeds aren’t filling up landfills and are biodegradable, why turn down an opportunity to be inventive?
Since reeds particularly lend themselves to winter holiday themed art, why not try out your own ideas this season? It’ll be a nice escape from those 3-a-day Nutcracker gigs.