David: I’m very happy to introduce my old
friend and colleague, Clive Dyson. Clive, would you like to tell us a little bit about
yourself and why we’re doing an interview? Clive: I think we’re doing the interview mainly
because I’m very involved in toy-making and all kinds of arts and crafts. I’ve been making
toys for about seven years. I’d done a lot of things in my whole life – a lot of jobs,
activities and it has caused me some pain in many ways, because up until about four
years ago I’d always felt that I’d been a failure, because I’d never been able to stick
at anything. I read a book by Barbara Sher, which says; refuse to choose. In this book
she says there are two kinds of people; people who can stick at one thing for their whole
life – they start off as a child really enjoying some subject and then they carry on right
through life with that one thing. Then there are people like me who are scanners;
we tend to go over a whole range of subjects, and we don’t give up because the going gets
tough, but we give up because we get bored – we do a thing to death sort of thing, and
then we’ll go onto something else and then something else, and maybe we’ll come back
to the thing we were originally doing, and that’s been the whole story of my life. I’ve
stuck with toy-making for seven years, and I’m still thoroughly enjoying it, but I’m
also doing other forms of creative work, too. Somebody said to me when I was a kid [1:49].
When I was growing up my father said, why don’t you choose something and stick to it?
I’ve tried to and I’ve tried to, but I just couldn’t make it work. So I’ve come to the
conclusion that I am a scanner, and I enjoy doing lots of different things. That’s the
way I’ve been wired, so that’s where I am. David: The last time we did an interview,
Clive you told us about the huge range of jobs you’d done, and that interview was almost
two years ago. Honestly, I couldn’t think that the time had gone so quickly, but one
of the very impressive things about when we made contact again after a long time since
we’d served together in the South Island as Methodist ministers – one of the huge things
that impressed me was what you do as a toy-maker – and you run a website called The Kiwi Toymaker,
and we’re going to look at some of the projects that you do, but very briefly, before we get
onto that, just tell us a little bit about how you take toys that you’ve made out into
the community, and what you do with those toys that you’ve developed.
Clive: I belong to a group called Santa Claus’ Workshop, and that’s a group of about 10 of
us retired people. The group meets on Mondays and Wednesdays from about 8:30-12:00, and
we make wooden toys. Last year, last December we gave away 1500 toys to underprivileged
kids; people like whose parents are in prison or people who have only got one parent, or
haven’t got enough for Christmas anyway. We pack up these toys and various organisations
come to the workshop in November and pick up these toys and distribute them to these
kids. Because it’s about 35 minutes away, and I have all my own tools, I work from home,
and occasionally I make trips into town and deliver 50 or so toys, and then come back
and make some more. So that’s how we’ve been doing it. I have made some for the church,
and we’ve sold them on stall. Sometimes if I see somebody who’s in need,
I’ll just give them one of the toys that I’ve made. [4:44] runs a holiday program, and I
was given the task of running a wood workshop for two hours with kids from seven to 11,
and I was trying to think, well what can we make that’s non gender-specific. So I came
up with these dinosaurs. What I do; I cut out all the parts, and drew round them – around
where the legs go, and put double-sided tape on each side, because kids – they’re very
impatient, and they can’t wait till they’re glued to dry. So what we did; they glued the
legs and then stuck it on, and the cello-tape held it tight while it dried. Then the kids
painted them and they were very wild, some of the colours, but they were really impressed
with the time; took them about an hour to do the job, and another hour to paint them,
and we got some weird and wonderful colours. So, that’s just one way that we’ve been able
to use these toys to help kids. There were about 20 of them.
David: What a great idea to get kids involved in a holiday program where they’re very tactile
kind of thing. So, woodworking is not quite what you’d expect at a holiday program. You
might expect some painting, or possibly some other things, but actually working with wood
like that, that’s a great idea. Today at church was Peace Sunday, and we had
some young people who made the cranes for Hiroshima Day, and this kind of artwork/craftwork
is very tactile as well, and the congregation – every member of the congregation was given
one of these cranes, and a very moving story of how a young Japanese girl who had been
born after Hiroshima developed leukaemia at the age of 12 I think they said. They told
the story extremely effectively, and as she developed leukaemia she had a vision that
she should try and make 1000 of these paper cranes, but she died at 651 or whatever. So
a very powerful and moving story to illustrate the theme of peace, but The Kiwi Toymaker
site that you run, and the work that you do, I think is a marvellous illustration of what
Christian ingenuity and creativity is all about.
Clive: Yes. This started because a friend of mine came and her grandson who’s three
years old was very fond of Fireman Sam, and she asked me if I could make Fireman Sam’s
fire-engine. Well, to be quite honest, I’d never heard of Fireman Sam. So I went on Google
Images and I saw this fire-engine, so I took a screenshot of it, and put it into Inkscape
and drew some plans from it, and then I cut it out with a skill saw and various other
things. When she took it home to him, he was absolutely beside herself – for his birthday
– and he took it to bed with him, and he said goodnight to it.
Everywhere he went, it with him. Unfortunately one of the wheel-stays came loose, and he
was most upset so she said she’d take it the doctor. So she brought it to me and I’d found
one of the design faults, so I fixed it up and I put a bandage around it, and she took
it home and he took the bandage off, and he’s still loving it. It’s about 600 long, and
about 300 high, and the ladder goes up and down. So it’s quite tight. No, it’s really
good. I’ve only made three of them, but they take quite a time.
David: They’re a lovely looking model, and a lot of children would really want that as
a toy. Clive, you’ll put the plan eventually into the toymaker website, so some of our
participants in Kiwi Connexion who have got an interest in woodworking would be able to
download the plan and do that for themselves? Clive: Yeah, the website is just a Facebook
page called The Kiwi Toymaker. It’s not an actual website as such. It’s just a Facebook
page attached to my own page. David: Right, so we’ll put a link to that
in the YouTube video that comes out from this recording. Okay, let’s move onto another one
of your projects; this is a beautiful nativity scene. How does that come about?
Clive: Well, I’ve been making these for about 30 or 40 years. Every church that I’ve been
to I’ve always make them a set. The figures are about four foot high, and they’re just
cut out of chipped particle board or chipboard, and as you can see, they’re on stands and
they just stand up. The church I’m at – this is a Rangiora one – and at the end of the
Christmas season they wrap it in Bubble Wrap and put it away and keep it for next year.
David: You must get a tremendous feeling of joy seeing this come out in different church
contexts. Clive: Yeah. I don’t know whether some of
the churches are still using them. Probably not, but they do – Rangiora’s using it, so
that’s good. David: Would there ever be any plans for that
if there were a group that were interested? Clive: Actually I got the patterns from a
book that I bought hundreds of years ago. It’s a book of children’s Sunday School plans,
and I’ve just scaled up the whole drawings. I could put a – I don’t quite know how to
go around copyright, but it’s for Sunday School leaders to use, and I could put the name of
the book, or failing that people could write to them and I’ll send them a copy of the pages.
David: Well, actually just putting the name of the book would be great. Again, we could
put that in, because I think that’s a kind of project that there’d be some people really
interested in doing that. They stand about four foot high so they’re not sort of domineering.
Clive: No. David: Excellent. Let’s have a look at another
one of The Kiwi Toymaker’s projects. Now, this has nothing to do with church, I suspect.
Clive: No. We live in a farming community, and my grandson had one of these toys years
ago, and somebody asked if they have one, because the guy who used to build them has
since died. So I took measurements and I made the gates open, and there’s a ramp you can
see on the left hand side of the screen there, that goes up to – it’s a loading ramp – all
the gates open and close. It’s been quite funny; I usually make a couple of model sheep
to put in with it, and the kids always go for the sheep, and they bounce them up and
down but the parents – they do the gates. They always try to open and close the gates.
That’s been quite a popular thing, too. That I do sell. Generally the kids love it, particularly
being in a farming area. David: What are the dimensions of the sheep
yard? Clive: The sheep yard is 600×400 basically
– millimetres. The gates of the fences, about 80 millimetres high; it’s made out 7ml ply
and pine, and the rails are black birch. I don’t use nails if I can help it; what happens
is I glue them on and buy toothpicks, and drill holes and slot the toothpicks in, then
cut it off flush. That means that if anything does happen, the kids don’t get hurt with
something very sharp. I take the points off, of course. So that’s basically what it is.
David: How long would it take you to make a sheep yard?
Clive: I could probably make one in a day, but to paint it – all the gates and all the
fences are oiled – but once I’ve got the plans set out, it’s just a matter of drilling the
holes and cutting all the pieces, but I think a day would – eight hours would cut it out.
David: Now, the last project that I want to highlight is – again it’s out of the rural
scene; tell us about this one, please Clive. Clive: Oh, this is a stable. You can see to
the left of the screen there’s a brown bit of carpet; that’s the paddock, and the green
part is where the horses come out of the stables. The lid comes off the stables so inside you’ve
got where they can hang the harness and the bridles and things like that. The stalls – yeah
inside the stalls you’ve got one wall and two rails, so it looks very much like a real
stable. The whole thing is screwed down to the baseboard. Again, the fences are all – this
time they’re all [16:28] with square posts. The green and the other is that artificial
grass, and chains as well. The measurements; I think that one’s about 700ml x 500. I’d
have to look at my plans. That’s just done [16:58].
David: Right. So how long would this take? Would this be more than a day’s project?
Clive: Yeah, I think this probably would be about a day and a half.
David: Do others of your group – you mentioned there were a dozen or so – 15 maybe – do they
make identical projects, or they do different ones?
Clive: They do different ones, yeah. These are just my own ones. They make things like
jigsaw puzzles and the karts with the blocks, pull-along toys, games – Chinese Checkers
and things like that. There’s a wide range of toys that they make.
David: Right. So, that leads in very nicely to what I want to ask you, because you’re
not just The Kiwi Toymaker; you also do videos, and initially we showed one of your oil paintings
as well. There’s something about the creative impulse. This is what I find; when we start
to look at things with our eyes, not just as objects but how these objects work in their
space or the context they’re in – their colours, their shapes, the short of space around them
– to me this is being a kind of creator. Well, it’s the creative impulse in its purest form.
One’s looking not to sort of just take it – if I can put it this way; we’re not just
taking a photograph as a record, but rather we’re trying to find the essence of the thing
and create things around it. Do you feel that? Do you feel that creative impulse?
Clive: Yeah, I do. As a Christian I think we’re called to create. Get a lot of people
saying; oh I haven’t got a creative bone in my body. Well, I don’t believe that, because
anything we do is creative, even if it’s cooking an ordinary meal – that’s creating. People
have said to me, oh look I couldn’t even draw a straight line; when you look at nature,
God doesn’t draw straight lines. There is no part in nature, and so this whole straight
line idea is man-made. We’re called to – there’s this creative spark
within us, that calls us to be – to make something – to carry on what the Creator has started.
That’s why I find – I love to be making something or doing something like that. To me – I hope
I don’t get into trouble here, but watching sport is the biggest bore in the life for
me, because I’m not a spectator; I’ve got to become involved, and I’ve got to make things
and create things with my own hands. That’s just me. I’m not saying watching sport’s wrong
[20:27], but no it’s – I love creating. David: Yeah, I see that in all the sort of
Christian activity that a lot of people do. A lot of people in congregations, even in
today’s world where everything can be bought – many Christian people still want to be involved
in fundamental acts of creation. They want to paint pictures. They want to decorate things
in the church. They want to paint the buildings, maintain things. All of these are I think
part of the God-given understanding of what it is to create in the way that the Creator
creates. It’s gifting. Clive: There’s one other thing I want to say
to that, too; with God there is no such thing as waste. For example; my wife – she knits
booties and she gives these away. This is from wool that’s been thrown out or given
to her, and she knits about 300 pairs of these booties and hats and things – yeah, just to
give away. So here is creating, using waste materials – stuff that would be taken. All
my toys are made from scrap wood. Okay, things like plywood I have to buy, but all the pine
is all scrap. The rimu that I’ve made some toys with is old chests of drawers. That’s
just me. I just love recycling as well, and doing what the creator does; He recycles.
David: A few viewer comments in, Clive about Christian activities that congregations can
undertake. One idea that is very new is called the repair cafe, and the Takapuna Methodist
Church apparently have started a place where you can go and get goods repaired – any kinds
of goods, and church members donate their skill and their time I guess in that initiative.
Stuart Mannins who’s a musician makes a comment that anything that we create and share together,
be in toys, music – whatever; he says that’s a worthwhile activity. If I put it in my terms;
that is a Godly thing to do. How do you feel about that?
Clive: Yeah, I totally agree with that statement. First of all, the Santa Claus’ Workshop started
off 40 years ago by three retired builders taking in toys and repairing them, and just
advertised bringing toys to repair, and they got quite a lot of toys giving their toys,
and that’s how they started; they moved from repairing toys to making their own plans.
So, this repairing thing is a very useful thing to get started. Also, I’m reminded,
when Stuart says about whatever we share with others is worthwhile – I’m reminded of the
story of the person walking along the beach with someone else, and there are all these
starfish on the shore – on the sand. You’re wanting to make a difference, and this
friend said, oh you’ll never get rid of all these starfish – you’ll never make a difference.
So he picked off one starfish and threw it into the sea, and said, I made a difference
to that one. If we do it one at a time – if we make a difference in one person’s life
by sharing something with them – giving them something, giving them something that we’ve
made or helping them to learn how to do something, that’s worthwhile. We don’t have to go on
these great big campaigns to save the world; just one at a time makes a whale of a difference.
David: That’s a fantastic thought to draw our meeting to a close, but what I would like
to do is just come back to this oil painting of yours that I think you did a number of
years ago; it’s fresh, it’s vivid, it’s painted in a very painterly kind of way. Do you still
paint? Do you still draw? Clive: I do paint and draw occasionally – not
very often. Most of my work is now digital, making movies and animations and things like
this, and the woodwork. I’ve still got my paints, but I think they’ll probably be dried
up by now, but no I don’t do a lot of it. I know I should, but I haven’t got time. There’s
only 24 hours in a day. David: That’s a great way to end. I want to
say thank you very much. This is the second interview with The Kiwi Toymaker, and how
much we appreciate the fact that you’re giving your time. Hopefully we’ll be able to get
all of this into Kiwi Connexion and YouTube in the next couple of days. So thanks again,
Clive and all the very best. The Kiwi Toymaker Revisted kiwiconnexion practical