What do you get for the girl you’ve bought everything for? That was the quandary I faced when trying to figure out what to buy my best friend for her birthday this year.
After a decade of friendship, I’d covered pretty much all the gift-buying bases: books, clothes, prints, records, chocolate, beautiful – yet ultimately pointless – bits of crap. For probably the first time, I genuinely was stumped.
As the arty one in our relationship, she has made me numerous handmade gift over the years. So, after coming across a blog about making a personalised version of Guess Who, I decided it was the perfect present, particularly for a woman that loves board games as much as she does.
The first task was accumulating the photos – a process of herding her friends and family and getting them to send a picture of themselves that was both the same size and style. That was, it turned out, the easiest part of the project, even taking into account the task of tracking down people I didn’t know and randomly asking them for a photo. I think we should just take a moment to look at what a sexy bunch they are:
Next up was trying to source 50 miniature pieces of wood which, God bless the internet, involved only a few messages to DIY types on eBay. Most told me it would be nigh on impossible to find anyone to cut MDF that small but thankfully, someone out there had a teeny tiny saw and some time on his hands and made them for me no questions asked. Well, except one: “Are you sure those are the right measurements?”
I had already batted my eyelashes at a timber yard and had two larger pieces of MDF for the boards cut to size, so I started the drawn-out process of spray-painting the wood. I do not have an art degree, but thankfully two of my friends do and had given me advice on primer and the type of paint I needed. Even following their advice, the MDF was so porous each piece needed several coats and it took two days to get the right coverage. The downside was some of the layers in the wood started peeling at the edges. The lesson here is don’t use MDF. It’s rubbish.
While that dried I attached the photos and hinges to the individual pieces of wood. The blog had suggested supergluing the hinges rather than using the miniscule nails they came with and this, my friends, was what caused me to almost lose my mind. On that Saturday in June those tiny pieces of metal were the worst thing that had ever happened to me.
I glued them on; they fell off. I glued them on; they glued the hinge shut. I glued them on; they stuck and then took off chunks of wood when I realised it wasn’t going to work and tried to removed them. I attempted to nail them in – I won’t even go into what an unmitigated disaster that was.
I stared in despair at the chaos those evil little bastards had caused and realised I was at risk of ruining the whole present if I didn’t change tack, the irony being I couldn’t call the one person who probably could fix it because it was her gift I was destroying.
Luckily, I knew exactly who else to call.
My friend Bunty is a crafting superhero who creates incredible pieces of art just by brushing past a wad of paper. I knew if anyone could save my disaster she could – even though at this point it was covered in holes and glue. I turned up at her house looking like a woman who had looked into the art abyss and seen unspeakable horrors and presented her with what I had deemed to be an unsalvageable mess.
She took one look at it, produced a roll of washi tape, and in less than 30 seconds, saved the day. We spent the next hour patching up the wood and attaching the photo pieces to the boards using the magical masking tape, then she did what arty people do, which was to polish the whole thing off by covering up my mistakes with a piece of felt on the underside of the boards; therefore banishing the holes and the patchy paint to the graveyard of crafting misery.
Though it took me two weeks and an obscene amount of money to make, it was totally worth it for the number of jaws that dropped when Ruth unwrapped her present at the pub. That being said, I’ve made it clear I probably won’t be making her anything ever again. At least not for another ten years.