Chimera, a collaboration between the Meow Wolf art collective and the Center for Contemporary Arts, led nine students through “Plushtronic Zoo,” a four-day workshop combining basic electronics, story-telling and stuffed animals to create one-of-a-kind toys.
It all started with a menagerie of lions, tigers and Teddy bears scattered across the tables. Meow Wolf artists showed examples of hybrid toys such as a dog’s snout emerging from a bear’s face.
The room buzzed as students ripped open stomachs, dug out eyeballs and sliced off ears to create their own critter mutations.
“You get results that you don’t expect,” lead instructor Nicholas Chiarella said. “There’s a lot of things that just fail. You’ll probably break things in here,” he told students, displaying a stuffed dolphin with electronic innards that made it moo like a cow. “We’re getting into things that don’t quite make sense.”
The artists handed out scissors and seam rippers, and carnage began.
Ten-year-old Adam Griffo wanted to attach a red decapitated elephant’s torso to a baby doll’s head.
“I just bought these things at a thrift store,” he said of his construct. “I’m going to try and see if I can make it hop.”
Joanna Whysner, 9, ripped the yellow ear off a stuffed lamb to attach to a dog.
“I like robots,” she said. “I like how they move by themselves.”
Willem Mickelson, 12, was there for the electricity. ” Science is cool,” he said. “I like electronics. Me and my friend take apart computers. We sold a hard drive for $20 and split the money.”
Padme Trujillo, 11, had already written a story about her creature in school.
“I’m making a mutant,” she said, her scissors slicing through the pink striped fabric. “I’m going to attach it to something else.”
As for the story line, she said, “a mutant came down from outer space. They wanted world domination, but then they failed.
“I like my creations to have world domination,” she explained. “I am a strange child.”
But twelve-year-old Rebecca Bidus huddled at the table, clutching a pink antennaed Valentine’s Day toy to her chest, its stuffed arm wrapped around a tiny koala bear. She soon withdrew to stand beside her mother Colleen, who was sitting in the back of the room.
Although the workshop was creative, it was all too much for Rebecca, who houses her own zoo of stuffed animals at home, her mother said.
One of the volunteers offered to help Rebecca stitch an outfit for her toy, but she declined.
“It’s like cutting up a friend,” Colleen said. “Some of this is just scary. This is a case against cloning.”