By Brad Marx, 17, Los Angeles City College
Print This Post

I like to make things from pipe cleaners. You might call it an obsession if you went to my room. On the dresser there are four green dragons. Two totes at the foot of my bed are filled with pipe cleaner soldiers, monkeys, video game characters, samurais and guitars of every color. On the desk behind my computer monitor, there’s a bunch of pipe cleaners, felt, knights in armor and samurais, and there’s a drawer full of pipe-cleaner Pokémon and Halo characters.

Brad showing off a knight he made out of pipe cleaners.

It started when I was 11. My parents decided to homeschool me, so I was just home all the time. The only time I got to leave was to visit the store or the bank. I randomly decided to make monkeys with pipe cleaners from Rite-Aid. Pretty soon, I was making 10 or 20 Pokémon a day. I developed callouses on my fingertips because I spent so much time making pipe cleaner creatures.

When I was working on my creations, I was in my zone. I wouldn’t call it a high—I was at peace. I was in my own little world, the only person in it, and nobody could bother me.

By the time I was 12 or 13, I was going through 300 pipe cleaners a week. I discovered that Michaels had a whole aisle of pipe cleaners along with felt. Immediately I began planning to make felt wings for dragons. I started making dragons with so much detail—teeth, scales and wings—that people wanted them. I used nail clippers to cut the pipe cleaners exactly where I wanted. The first comments I got were from my mom’s friends. “Wow, this is amazing!” “You made this?! You’re so talented!” “You should sell these!” “You should make more of these.”

It was shocking to hear it. Then it started feeling weird. People were making the same comments. Was my mom telling them to say this stuff?

After that, I started keeping my creations in my room, away from the public eye. I wanted to judge my own stuff for myself and decide if it was worth keeping. Wherever I went, I had some pipe cleaners and a nail clipper in my backpack.

The pipe cleaners took over

Slowly I was turning into a nut case. I had no one to talk to while I spent hours making perfect intricate animals out of furry wire. I noticed that I had made a menacing black dragon with serrated teeth that looked like the spawn of hell. I realized I was a pretty weird guy and I had no life. I used to joke that I was making my own friends out of pipe cleaners, and if I didn’t like them any more, I would destroy them.

I started taking classes at Los Angeles City College, and my classmates and teachers sometimes saw me making something out of pipe cleaners before class. They thought it was great and crazy, but I never talked to them. I was a solitary kind of guy. By the time I was 16, I had made so many creations that I had run out of ideas. It sucked to be surrounded by unused pipe cleaners with nothing to make.

Then I ran into some old friends at L.A. Youth. My friends have probably been the best creative spark because they wanted me to make miniatures of them. I made figures of them as soldiers, Pokémon trainers, even Lord of the Rings characters. I was like the master toymaker. I could make just about anything I wanted. I made video game characters from The Legend of Zelda, Sonic The Hedgehog and even Halo and Halo 2. For the Halo creations, I made all of us as Spartan super soldiers with the corresponding colors we had in the game (black, blue, maroon and white). I made vehicles and rocket launchers, grenades, swords—every weapon in the game. Then we’d play Halo on the living room floor, in which soldiers had to fight off aliens and parasitic life forms. Childish, but awesomely fun.

Then I went into a feudal and medieval craze. I made armies of knights, elves and orcs. I had hundreds of mini-warriors at my command but I got bored with them. I then entered the samurai phase. I made many different samurai each with unique armor, clothes and weapons. My current favorite is a sparkling red foot-tall samurai with an eye patch and a bandanna—all made of pipe cleaners and felt.

Nowadays I take requests. Recently I made a dragon, a duck and guitars for other people. People still think I’m a nut case, but my work kicks plenty of ass.