A Mojo Hand is usually a bag, sometimes hand- or mitten-shaped, containing a combination of materials from the animal, vegetable, and mineral kingdoms. The materials are thought in some traditions to become a living spirit, an energetic thought-form, or a minor servitor spirit. The spirit serves a purpose, usually to achieve some magically-relevant goal, and is occasionally fed and re-fed with oils, with additional materials added to the bag (or sometimes not). It is a representation of a certain kind of power.
This morning I had a first-period class in the design lab, and I did not clean up after yesterday’s class on electricity. So I came in early, and neatened the place up — put away tools, swept up the leavings and the trash from several classes worth of debris in the corners, and otherwise made the place look presentable.
Then I did as I always do: I sorted through the garbage. And as I did so, a thought occurred to me.
If you look at the first picture, you’ll see pencils, string, paper clips, batteries, blobs of hot glue, bottle caps, a button, a magnet, popsicle sticks, stones. This was only the first photograph after the first sweep-up. There was more. The discarded materia of the creative work of the design lab is always interesting. Some of it goes directly back into the materials bins on the shelves. Some of it goes into the trash… but whenever possible I do a pre-sort before the trash can to separate the genuine waste from the overlooked treasures.
Once I did this, I found certain treasures — animal, vegetable, mineral — that met my needs for a specialty mojo hand for the makerspace at my school. A spirit of materials awareness, of creativity, of cleverness in the concepts of “reduce, reuse, recycle” and dedicated to the idea that anyone can be a more effective creator through the learning of materials and process. And so I found a spare bag, and began to select certain materials — animal, vegetable, mineral, and man-made — for my purposes:
- A drill bit, to represent the power to drive deep into problems and solve them;
- part of a broken file, to represent the power to use tools to shape solutions precisely;
- a pair of googly eyes, to see problems with new eyes;
- a plastic bottle cap, representing the power to reuse and repurpose materials;
- a magnet, to find ways to make solutions both mysterious and attractive.
- a paper-clip, a to-do list, and a schedule, to cultivate good organizational habits;
- a piece of string, to enable the hand to tease out a thread of meaning;
- pieces of copper wire, both insulated and bare, for intuition in solving electrical problems;
- a spring, for increased skill in solving mechanical problems;
- a heart cut out by a third-grader, in blue fabric — for generosity of spirit and nobleness of character; and a matching pink heart, for skill in fashion design;
- a game piece, for cleverness in designing games;
- a piece of PVC pipe, for awareness of the risks and benefits of using certain materials;
- a bead, for sophisticated jewelry design;
- paper-clip pieces and bits of finishing nails, for skill at designing wire sculptures;
- popsicle stick pieces representative of skill at woodworking and structural design, and architecture;
- a rubber band, for skill in developing structures that use and manage energy;
- and numerous other items.
And of course, I am mindful of the lesson of the divine man from Nazareth, that “the stone that the builders rejected has become the chief of the corner.” Up in one corner of the the design lab is a sample structure left over from my Kavad experiments. It’s already a consecrated home to the mercurial spirit of communication, cooperation, and design awareness who watches over the lab; and there’s already a mojo hand of sorts designed to awaken and improve creative ideas and dedication to see them through.
And with the permission of these two spirits, I made this new mojo hand at home, to watch over and guide both me and my students in the work we do together in this space.