“I know what I’m going to make…” I said to myself. Actually I probably said it several times; probably I muttered it while rushing to finish my work so I could just get on with it. I was all excited. Inside me was the joy of a child — one of those really irritating ones who keeps poking you in the arm until you turn around and shout in his or her face all un-adult-like.
Then I announced, still only to myself, but still, it had to be announced and not just said.”…I’m going to make myself a Great White Shark out of clay!”
My oh my, it was a fine day (and that ends my bi-yearly attempt at poetry, don’t worry. How can someone spend so much time writing yet be such an abominable poet? I don’t know, but somehow I manage it easily).
I have always loved Great White Sharks. I mean, ask anyone, I’ve always loved all sharks — Tiger Shark comes a close second, followed by the Hammerhead — but the Great White Shark…this shark is different…to my mind, this animal holds a special sacred beauty which no other shark (or creature, with or without legs, for that matter) can touch. Millions of years old and sensational at all things killing-wise, it isn’t the violent misguided stereotype of the Great White which makes me love it so…no, it’s so much more than that. I love Great White’s so much I even bought the Jaws DVD box-set at full price (£9.99), even though it didn’t actually contain the original movie (just the slightly less legendary Jaws 2, 3 and 4). I know! There is a price to be paid for committment, what can I say…
Back to the day I decided to make the shark. It had been on my mind a while. Now it had to get done.
My plan seemed flawless. Using the clay-making skills I had been carefully honing since my sixth-form days — my last big clay model before I left college was a four-foot tall bizarre building where rent would have been very cheap, seeing as nobody had any floors or ceilings, although they did have gigantic windows to make up for it — I would construct an anatomically correct miniature Great White Shark to end ALL SHARK MODELS. Once the clay had dried and fully hardened, I would then paint it with painstaking precision, carefully taking the time to not insult the animal’s evolution.
But the very act of doing so panicked me immensely. There were so many things to remember…to remember to remember…among many, many things which had to be right or else internet shark experts would come down on me like a ton of bricks, I had to 1) remember to get the shape of the head just right and 2) get the length of the fins right, too. I also had to make sure that 3) the shark was not too thin or too fat, and that 4) he looked supremely ferocious, but not so ferocious that my model only added yet more weight to the compelling yet inaccurate argument that Great White Shark’s are good for nothing but shredding human beings into tiny pieces for no good reason (they’re good for much more, and actually inhabit a unique role in the watery eco-system as a whole, don’t you know. And no, I didn’t rip that straight from Wikipedia. I adore my sharks, so I just knew it).
I began by ordering my clay — it was all very well talking about creating a Great White Shark model, but until I had clay in my possession it would be easy to wimp out and do a zebra, or a measly elephant (though the trunk would be a tricky conundrum, there is no doubt). There were two options: the big bag of brown clay stuff like what we’d used in sixth-form, which I actually preferred, or the more expensive individual packets of clay which you can easily order online. Both have their good and bad points. Although the big bag of brown clay would have been a better self-black-mailing device sometime in the near future, if I did go and wimp out — it cost more and would look very imposing, staring at me from the corner of the room, mocking me for not daring to open it like a man — I quickly decided that the small packet of clay would be better suited. It’d dry a hell of a lot quicker, which could be bad news all round, but I always find there’s something great about pressure and lack of time when working with clay. It forces you to focus more, and from that focus comes a conclusion of wild thoughts and imagination which you just don’t get when you spend hours and hours procrastinating about what to do and how to do it. The panic brings the best out of you.
Opening the packet, I was actually quite nervous. That may sound quite utterly stupid — I was on my own, and if it went wrong nobody but me and the mangled attempt of shark would know about it — but I can’t stand throwing things away. I’m bad enough with old T-shirts from years ago that hold some nostalgic significance which I can’t actually remember. With stuff I have made, if I throw it away, it doesn’t just feel like I wasted my time, it feels like I wasted a part of my soul as well.
I know, us bloody creative types…
Ah, I didn’t say about the model yet. I wasn’t going to make my shark just from a picture, oh know. You think I’m stupid? Not me. I mean, I would have done if I’d had to, but seeing as I had a small rubber shark (given to me by a then-girlfriend from years ago when she sponsored Derek the Great White Shark for me, swimming somewhere in South Africa, who knows where Derek is now…I just hope he is happy… ) to give me some semblance of help, I decided to model my shark roughly on that. There would have to be adjustments in form, of course — the rubber shark had a very dodgy bent tail and wasn’t a Great White or any other shark I recognised, but more a hybrid of every shark that had ever existed — but the essence of the idea was there, at least. All I had to do was craft a beautiful model out of clay based on that.
Immediately upon beginning, I was besieged by a feeling that may be familiar to you…one of Oh no, this is horrifically difficult…more so than I could have ever anticipated! Actually it was probably the culmination of many feelings — dread, excitement, fear and loathing of my own stupid obsession with sharks that has always got me into model-making trouble — and for a few minutes it had me eating out of the palm of its decrepit paralysing hand. There I sat, rolling clay into more or less pointless sausage-like shapes, hoping that if I rolled it just right, the shape of the Great White would magically materialise out of nowhere.
Which it didn’t. Many other shapes materialised — the shape of a Giraffe’s foot, for instance, and what looked like a Mountain Gorilla’s giant nipple ,maybe — but the Great White, as in nature, eluded me.