Hints and Tips for Amateurs


Can you do six or more string figures? Want to have fun teaching string figures? Untold millions of kids (and adults) know nothing, or very little, about how to have fun with a piece of string, so opportunities for you to share are vast.

First, try showing string figures to anyone you know, and make it known that you would like to share your pastime with others. Someone will suggest you talk to so-and-so, or have so-and-so contact you. By simple networking you may make contact with teachers, kid's clubs of various sorts, camps, after-school programs, medical care facilities that may have bored children among others, nursing homes, senior citizen centers, churches, libraries, summer recreation programs, and who knows what.

If that doesn't work it's because word is just not getting out, so you may need to be a bit more direct. Yes, actually go to any of the above groups that may exist in your area and say, "Hi, I'm an amateur string figure performer. Would you know of any opportunities there might be for me to perform some string figures and perhaps teach others a few?" If speaking in person, do a string figure while you speak (and grin). If the possibility of rebuff concerns you, remember you're selling free entertainment and in the long run you can't fail. A positive response is highly probable.

So you're on to visit a local third-grade class. What now? Keep in mind the short attention span of your listeners and go for a brief introduction, something like, "Hi, do any of you know any string figures?" Find out who knows what, then say, "Okay, it looks like kids in this country know a few string figures, but did you know that in some parts of the world kids know how to make dozens and dozens of different and amazing string figures? Well, I'm here to show you a few of the string figures kids in other places know [if there is a map handy, point out these places], and how much fun it is to make them." Then show them what you can do.

If possible, try making up simple stories that allow you to use some of the figures you know to illustrate them. For example one story I tell is about "Peli's Bad Day."

Peli lives on an island in the South Pacific. He got up early in the morning and decided to go fishing, so he when down to his boat [do Cup & Saucer which could also be a boat sitting on the water]. His boat is an outrigger canoe [do Outrigger Canoe from Cup & Saucer]. But Peli was hungry, so he climbed a coconut tree to get a coconut, [do Man Climbing a Tree] but as he was about to reach for a coconut, he slipped" [when he gets to the top, release strings and say, "Oh no, poor Peli, he fell from the tree."] Well, Peli decided to paddle his boat [do Cup & Saucer again] out into the ocean and use his fishing spear [do Fishing Spear] to catch a fish for breakfast. He looked everywhere for a fish, but couldn't find any. [If you can, do Sea Snake or anything else he might see instead.] Finally he saw some, [do Three Sunfish if you can and show them swimming away after he misses them.] so he throws his spear at them, but missed and throws it again and again [do Casting a Spear], but he just couldn't spear one--he was having a really bad day. It was starting to get dark [do Setting Sun] when he finally got back to the beach. He was tired and hungry, and wanted to go home [do Siberian Hut]. He went to bed hungry [do Man on a Bed] and was just about to go to sleep when his hammock broke. Poor Peli was not having a good day…and thank you very much.

After you're finished showing figures, say, "Would you like to learn how to do a few string figures yourselves?" You already know the answer, so you can either pass out strings you have brought (I do this only if time is short), or, preferably, have them wrap string around their hands eight or nine times, cut the string, and show them how to tie a square knot and trim the ends (if string is not provided I bring a roll of cheap cotton twine—I don't want to give the impression that you have to have some kind of special knotless string to do string figures). This way when they lose their strings latter they will know how to make another. I give away my knotless nylon strings only as a special reward for learning some number of figures—be mean, make'm earn one.

You can teach everyone as a group how to do Position 1 and Opening A, then teach them a figure (I always start with Cup & Saucer and variations, then Fishing Spear). After several have learned the first figure, I have them help the others. I also keep a look out for anyone having serious problems and give them some one-on-one help. While most are working on the first figure, a few who have mastered it will want me to teach them a new one. I then send out the quick learners to share the new figure with their friends, and so on. In this manor the remaining time soon passes.

Okay, so I hope I've made my point—this ain't rocket science, so get out there and have at it. To have just one string figure promoter per 300,000 people, we need about 1,000 volunteer performers in the USA alone, so hang your shingle out now.


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