Weekend Frivolities: Making Holiday Gifts - Handmade Fans on Sticks

This year I harbor a fantasy of making gifts for friends and family instead of giving them what they want. I know many people crave popular electronics, but I think in the long run they'll appreciate homemade craft items, especially if the giver makes something precious and a little weird. The worst thing that can happen is that the recipient will hide the touching and eccentric homemade gift in the closet until the creator passes away. Then no one will care.


The thought of passing into the next life provides the natural segue to the first type of gift I'm going to teach everyone how to make this weekend - the Southern Funeral Fan. I possess a modest collection of authentic fans, the kind sponsored by funeral homes in states such as Mississippi and South Carolina. Typically, these fans consist of an image printed on a curvy 8 inch square piece of sturdy paper (#12 card stock) and then stapled to a wavy wooden fan stick.

Fans made like these are not unheard of in New York City, because they're often used for promotional purposes. I found one for a Broadway production that someone left behind in Washington Square Park, but I don't think that the same level of emotion is at play with these promotional fans as the ones used to calm the grief of a family member sitting in an un-air-conditioned church.

Making fans is easy. Cut out a square piece of cardboard in the shape you desire, think what image would delight the recipient, and then create it. You could print out a picture of Andy Warhol or a cat, or both, trim the image and then paste it on the cardboard. Lamination is a possibility. Then staple the assembled fan on a stick. That's it! Who wouldn't love a southern funeral fan with Andy and some kitties?!

Lee's Art Shop at 220 West 57th St. should have some wooden sticks for crafters living in NYC.

Other holiday gift ideas from WOTBA: The DVD of Ric Burns's excellent 4-hour Andy Warhol: A Documentary Film for American Masters (PBS Home Video), in addition, of course, to the gifts from the new Walking Off the Big Apple Emporium at Cafe Press.

Image: WOTBA's demonstration fan with Andy and kitties, Broadway promotional fan, and a southern funeral fan from Walterboro, South Carolina.

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About Walking Off the Big Apple

Walking Off the Big Apple features self-guided tours to neighborhoods, streets, cultural history, good books, architecture, museums, parks, landscapes, and offbeat travel experiences in New York City.

Older posts will sometimes be updated to reflect relevant changes in the city, i.e. store or restaurant closings or transit information.

Writer and editor Teri Tynes created Walking Off the Big Apple in the summer of 2007. Email: teritynes@gmail.com.