Chew on This

Sunday, April 16, 2006

In the interest of hard-hitting consumer reporting, I decided to try out of one Marraccini's Chew by Numbers kits ($12.95 each at http://www.chewbynumbers.com/ ). I opted for "Tulips," a colorful, relatively simple 5-by-7-inch design that comes with 22 pieces of gum. Each piece is numbered and corresponds to numbers on the board, so unless you're really drunk, this project is hard to screw up. (See my fabulous work at left.)

As simple as it looks, however, the art actually requires a time commitment. Marraccini says each piece must be chewed for at least 15 minutes to get rid of all of its flavor, sugar and oils. Let's see: 22 pieces times 15 minutes a piece . . . I can't do the math, but it's a lot of time. So, if you try and make this in just a day or two (as I did), your jaws will feel it.

Once I chewed a few pieces and started spreading the gum on the board, my inner-second-grader emerged. Diving into my first art project since a hopeless diorama in Sister Suzanne's class, I quickly felt remarkably accomplished. And the weirdness and gross-out factors were pretty satisfying too -- especially because I was making this in the office. (I should note that no colleagues offered to chew gum for me, a fact for which I'm incredibly grateful.) The project truly did seem foolproof. My only advice is to have water nearby to wet your fingers to keep the gum from sticking to them, and to spread the gum in small pieces rather than big wads.

As a finishing touch, Marraccini recommends spraying your work with enamel to keep dust from sticking to it. A UV-resistant spray will protect it from fading. I plan to frame mine and give it to my parents for their anniversary.

-- J.H.


© 2006 The Washington Post Company