Ivory Soap Eagles and Hummingbirds

When you have a lot of time on your hands like inmates do, it’s natural to occupy your time by immersing yourself in projects meaningful to you. I fill my days training and caring for dogs, but when I’m not doing this, I immerse myself in my stock studies because I trade. I’ve been involved with the market for 20 years, and I first began study here. I do it all for my financial future and for that day when I return home. When I’m not engaged in either of these pursuits, I’m writing this blog for you. Writing is therapeutic, and I enjoy sharing. These are only a few of the ways I positively focus my energy and maximize my time. But what about others? What do they do with their time?

There’s an amazing pool of talent here. You see it as a skilled HVAC operator who works in the maintenance department, or as a brick layer, or as a painter working within the institution fixing and maintaining facilities. Other times it’s a people skill as an adult GED tutor, or proficiency with computers working as a CAD assistant in the CAD trade program.

Yet, the most amazing talent here shows itself in the form of arts and crafts, and this is how many guys occupy their time. Using little more than craft sticks (aka popsicle sticks), wood glue, sandpaper, and toenail and fingernail clippers, guys create everything from amazing jewelry boxes, fully functioning clocks, to Harley-Davidson motorcycles, complete with functioning lights and handcrafted wooden chains. It’s common for bikes like these to sell for $100-$400. I know guys who create lifelike full-size eagles and hummingbirds from mounds of ivory soap. A number of craft items are unique and can’t be categorized.

Then there are those who can draw. I’ve seen some of the most compelling portraits here behind these walls. The talent is staggering. Within this spectrum of drawing talent, there are black-and-white drawings and portraits…

…to custom full color drawings to unique one of a kind greeting cards made to order.

Guys here creating arts and crafts often sell their wares in the front lobby to visitors. Craft items are placed in a display case until sold, and a percentage of the sale is then taken by the Department of Corrections.

On the far end of the talent spectrum are the tattoo artists. The most incredible tattoo work I’ve ever seen has been here behind bars. Guys that shoot tattoos use homemade guns made from ink pen tubes, motors from cassette players, and needles crafted from metal guitar strings. Ink is often made from a variety of sources (and can be hazardous as a result), and tattoos come in a number of color schemes. Tattooing is against the rules and can literally be hazardous to your health. A number of men who shoot tattoos either owned their own tattoo shop or plan to own a licensed shop upon release. To this day I know a half dozen or so guys who have been released over the years and who now make a good living tattooing in their new lives.

*If you enjoyed this post, please like and share with your friends. In the meantime, I’ll keep writing for you! Also, if you know of other blogs written by inmates, please let me know because I enjoy reading what other guys write. Frankly, it helps keep me sane

—Christopher