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Alumnus creates crafts from throw-away objects

George Tippin

George Tippin teaches tomahawk throwing and a variety of crafts. Photo: Courtesy of George Tippin

Whether he’s throwing a tomahawk, weaving a pine needle basket or turning wild gourds into flowers, George Tippin (MSW ’62) teaches
lessons that go far beyond a social worker’s usual repertoire.

Tippin’s second career as an arts and crafts guru started with the Boy Scouts; he was a scout master for 30 years. When some of the boys
couldn’t afford a basket weaving kit, he taught them how to make baskets from scratch out of the tall grass in Nebraska.

At the time, Tippin was working as the deputy director of the Department of Social Work in Hastings, Neb. He says that working with the Boy Scouts provided relief from the intensity of social work.

After Tippin retired and moved to New Mexico, he began collecting pine needles. He now spends his mornings and evenings weaving the needles into baskets, which come in a variety of shapes and sizes.

“I try to never make the same basket twice,” he says.

He describes the pine needles as “throw-away objects.” “You’re really making something out of nothing,” he says.

Another “throw-away” Tippin makes use of are the small wild gourds that grow in the Southwest. Tippin paints the gourds, fashions clothes for them and makes them into dolls. He also makes flowers out the gourds by cutting them in half and attaching a pipe cleaner stem.

For the last seven years, Tippin has taught people—from elementary school children to senior citizens—how to make their own  something out of nothing. He teaches courses through Eastern New Mexico University, where he offers one- to two-day summer courses for children and weekly classes for adults.

In addition to arts and crafts, Tippin also teaches tomahawk throwing. He describes himself as part entertainer, part instructor.

“People really love throwing that thing,” he says.

Working at his side at craft shows and tomahawk presentations is his wife of 54 years, Helen. Tippin says his many projects wouldn’t be possible without her.

“This is a woman of great patience,” he says. “We really work well as a team.”

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