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Passion projects: Curbside Chronicle vendors on their hobbies

By Nathan Poppe, The Curbside Chronicle

Lauren on painting

Lauren doesn’t need a brush to paint her acrylic creations.

She lets gravity do the work. The Curbside vendor uses a special pouring technique to craft a totally unique and random creation every time she sits down with a canvas. Lauren never saw herself as much of an artist. She jokes that she’s yet to master the art of drawing a straight line, even with the guidance of a ruler.

Lauren prepares acrylic paint at the OKC Day Shelter during Fresh StART, a weekly art class offered to people at risk of or experiencing homelessness in Oklahoma City. [Credit: Nathan Poppe]

However, she learned about this method when she was clicking through YouTube channels and stumbled upon a video tutorial on acrylic pouring. It seemed like an affordable way to stretch her creative muscles.

“I did some research and thought I could do it, too. Turns out, I’m not half bad,” she said. “It’s fun. If I get overwhelmed, this helps me create a meditative focus. Everything else fades away.”

Lauren puts the finishing touches on her acrylic drip painting. She learned the technique from a YouTube video. [Credit: Nathan Poppe]

Lauren enjoys painting at home when she has free time. Her hobby is relatively new. She’s only been at it for six months but has already finished several pieces. That’s mindblowing to her because she never thought she’d be able to paint something impressive. Plus, if she makes a mistake, she can just repaint the canvas and start over.

“It’s art,” she said. “You can’t really mess up. … When I make something on a canvas then it’s more for me. If somebody else likes it, then that’s great.”

Rin on sketching

Sonic the Hedgehog dashed across Rin’s TV screen.

The Curbside vendor was only 5 at the time, and she’d just found the inspiration to start drawing. Her sketch of the video game character turned out pretty good. “My dad thought I was tracing the dang thing from the TV on a piece of paper,” Rin said.

Rin draws at an Oklahoma City coffee shop. Her sketch book is full of original creations and animated pop culture icons. [Credit: Nathan Poppe]

That early interest has since grown into a passion for drawing all sorts of pop culture personalities — everything from “Star Wars” to “Yu-Gi-Oh!” — as well as her own creations. At a coffee shop near her apartment, Rin showed off her sketchbook and reflected on her hobby.

“Drawing is a way for me to get past when I’m feeling depressed,” Rin said. “When I’m happy or feeling any kind of emotion, I’ll put whatever emotion into my characters. … I’ll draw the face and tell you the story about this character and why they look like that.”

Rin adds details to a recent sketch. She also has a passion for graphic design, computer animation and video games. [Credit: Nathan Poppe]

If you do catch Rin drawing, she really appreciates feedback because it’s a chance for her to share her creations with others. Plus, it’s a way for her to learn and improve her sketches. While some of them are for fun, others act as a visual diary of important memories. Rin’s work is more than just a hobby. It’s her way of processing her daily life.

“You don’t have to be artistic to make art,” Rin said. “Just go out and create. Invent something. I can sit here and tap on the table and make a tune. Start whistling and singing. There you go.”

Precious on crocheting

One day, Precious was cleaning and found a box of yarn. Instead of throwing it out, she started a new hobby. After a few clicks on YouTube, she found a tutorial to help her crochet a baby romper. Since then, she’s made dozens of creations.

“It was difficult at first,” Precious said. “I got the hang of it pretty quickly though. … It’s really fun. You can make a lot of things: purses, clothes, phone cases, anything really.”

Precious can even make a teacup of out of yarn. All she needs to craft her hand-spun creations is a ruler, scissors, yarn and the right crochet hook. Most mornings, she’ll start her day with a combination of coffee and crocheting.

Precious sits with a collection of her yarn creations. She was in the beginning stages of working on a blanket when visited. [Credit: Nathan Poppe]

Precious said her hobby can be frustrating and even flirted with the idea of quitting — each piece takes many hours to finish. However, she discovered crocheting threads throughout her family. Precious’ grandmother enjoyed the same hobby. So, she’s sticking with it.

“If you don’t have a hobby, then life will be pretty boring,” Precious said. “This is something I can keep in the family, something that I can teach my kids, hopefully.”

In their shared apartment living room, Precious’ mother Tee watched as her daughter started working on a blanket. The two often sell Curbside together.

“There is no way I could ever get to this level,” Tee said. “I can’t. But she’s creating despite her…”

“Learning disability,” Precious added. “This feels good because it’s like I’m showing people that I can actually do something.”

Bob on tabletop gaming

If you’re not having fun, then you’re playing the wrong game.

That’s the motto Bob follows when he’s tabletop gaming. You might be new to the term — Bob isn’t and has been playing for nearly 25 years — but it’s pretty simple. It’s any game that takes place on a flat surface that includes gaming pieces and accessories, such as dice, tape measures, miniature figures and cards. Tabletop gaming has evolved far beyond the early days of Dungeons & Dragons. Bob frequents Game HQ, a longtime Oklahoma City hub for board gamers and other tabletop enthusiasts. He enjoys visiting on the weekends and socializing with others.

“You make friends there, and it’s always good to see friends,” Bob said. “It gets your mind off your problems for a while. That’s one of the main reasons I do it. That way you’ve got something to think about besides the next bill that’s coming up.”

Bob enjoys the social aspect of tabletop gaming and how it allows him to keep his mind off everyday troubles. [Credit: Nathan Poppe]

Where better to escape the real world than the battlefields of Warhammer? It’s a popular choice in the world of tabletop gaming and easily one of Bob’s favorites to play. It puts players in control of fantasy armies with humans, elves, orcs and many other monsters. Much of the game’s “combat” is decided by rolling dice. Game HQ seems like the perfect place to get lost in a fantasy world. There’s a huge amount of tables and elaborate gaming accessories to help bring tabletop matches to life. Some matches can last several hours.

“I think it’s better to do stuff like that than to go out to bars and get yourself in trouble,” Bob said. “They’ve got all kinds of games. You name it, there’s a game for it.”

Calvin on leather work

Calvin knows when it comes to leather work, it’s easy for the leather to work you.

Calvin has a passion for leather work. It’s a skill he actually learned in a county jail and has improved on ever since. [Credit: Nathan Poppe]

It’s an expensive hobby that requires a lot of time, tools and patience. Cut a piece of fabric too short and you might be stuck with mismatched gloves. But this Curbside vendor loves leather. Calvin first learned the trade in a class offered by a county jail. Since then, he has made belts, moccasins and is slowly chipping away at a leather duster coat.

“There’s nothing like the smell of a Tandy leather store. Ain’t no other smell like it,” Calvin said in his living room workshop. “There’s just no way to describe that. I also like the way it feels.”

In addition to leather work as a hobby, Calvin also collects coins. [Credit: Nathan Poppe]

Wrapped around Calvin’s waist sits one of his more impressive leather creations. It’s a black belt with stitched slots designed to hold coins. He has made three belts in this style. The one Calvin wears is embellished with a silver Superman shield, a nod to the DC Comics superhero. But like the caped crusader’s many rivals, leather can be unforgiving — just lifting the massive pile of fabric for his duster feels like a two-person job. Still, Calvin said he welcomes the challenge.

“When I’m working with leather, I’ll get in the zone,” he said. “I just like making stuff with my own two hands. This duster might be here longer than I am.”