Charleen Kinser, animator, designer, craft writer, editor, creator (1933-2007)
It’s been my favorite never-ending job to describe the world of Charleen Kinser. With her whole life, she taught me how to edit the details to describe character.
After a powerful career as a young adult in animation, shortened by marriage, she worked her design education from Chouinard Art Institute (now Cal Arts) into her life as a creative force, focusing at the beginning and at the end on childhood amusements. As I was growing up, she worked as the crafts editor of American Home Crafts, as well as a freelance soft sculpture designer. Two of her more memorable commercial products were a line of a half dozen three-foot-high Orphan Annie dolls for a Chicago store window and a huge fabric hot dog (with mustard) for 7-Up.
And she wrote books. I remember most clearly her working on Outdoor Art for Kids (Follett, Chicago, 1975). My late brother, Tom, and I were the guinea pigs and models for the crafts and the accompanying stories inspired me to write. In the late 1970s, when I was becoming conscious of the larger world, Mom established Charleen Kinser Designs/Forever Toys, which for 26 years employed local artisans (mostly women with kids) doing piecework to create the characters Mom designed to be played with: toys made by hand for an international market. She gave teenage me my first writing job: to describe these creatures in story and doggerel. The production crew finally disbanded in 2000, but for Mom’s one- or two-of-a-kinds, I continued to write the stories until she stopped making them as well.
People called her “whimsical”, but like all good characters, hers were real in the minds of those who made them part of their lives, and I think of my writing about them as non-fiction.
Fred and Gwilym
Fred & Gwilym is an expression of Everyman's love affair. Or at least that's how I saw it when Mom showed me the pieces. So that's how I wrote it.
Fred is the quintessential game freak. He is intently, innately attuned to the numerous possibilities presented by each play. The intricacies of the world upon the board are his primary and perhaps sole excitement.Winning is not his goal.
His multifaceted understanding reduces the pace of the game; conventional timepieces are impractical in measuring the duration of his turn.
No one knows whether the Game originated in Fred's imagination, or simply as a response to the growing interaction between the Players. Some authorities even insist that Gwilym meant the first stone as a gift of some sort, but that Fred accepted it as an ante, and the Game began. One thing agreed upon by all onlookers is that Fred's talent lies in his determination to continue the Game, despite the transmutation of the rules, the pieces, and his mind. Fred is a true Player.
Gwilym did not set out to become a Player. In fact, despite the perhaps endless run of this period, Gwilym has little interest in the Game itself.
It is a more personal form of play that excites her.
However, in accepting the challenge, the ambiguous nature of the Game, and the kinetic nature of the pieces, she has honed a talent for drama, and has developed a detailed battery of symbolic communication.
During the long caesuras necessitated by Fred's more committed deliberations, Gwilym practices subtlety. The bright-colored orbs of her eyes alternately disturb the concentration, and decry moves yet only imagined. Observers have noted how the slightest gradations of flare in Gwilym's frill cape affect the opponent's diligence. As has Gwilym.
Precision is a professional's tool.
But Gwilym does not mistake her minor successes as a substitute, or even precursor, of some final triumph. Her spotty attention to individual moves aside, she has an almost magical understanding of the flow of play. The Game is merely the form of a deeper, psychic dance between Players. The content envelops them both.
Vanity was a one-of-a-kind creature Charleen created in 2001.
Vanity: A Dragon
She does not lust after elegance, but comes by it naturally; There is no avarice within her, but treasures she has aplenty; Slothful she is not, but quite the opposite, a model of industry; She is not gluttonous, for she is satiated; She envies no creature; She is not angry, but exudes a warm tenderness, radiating, we believe, from a belly full of maidens and knights; Self-control is maintained with ease, for she gazes eternally at beauty.
Approach her and bask in her generous loveliness.