BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - One young man is taking creativity to a different level. On any given day, after he’s worked an 8-hour shift, you can find him at home working some more. He’s not just putting together any 'ole project. He’s got several in the works. On top of the interesting pieces of art he creates, it’s what they’re made of that has people curious.
“I probably do about 6,400 a day at least,” said Michael Sanders.
He does 6,400 of what? The answer is surprising.
“You pay sometimes a dollar for toothpicks,” he said.
Yes, that’s right, we’re talking toothpicks. Sanders has a unique purpose for them, and he pays a pretty penny for them.
“A store run normally is about 60 bucks for toothpicks. It’s probably about maybe two to three times a week sometimes. You do the math,” he said.
That’s almost $200 per month.
“It’s arts. It’s creativity. It’s just a passion,” Sanders said.
It’s a form of expression. Sanders creates 3D pieces of art with millions of toothpicks.
“It takes a little time, but it definitely comes,” he said.
Sanders always has a few projects going on at a time, and they can take anywhere from a few days to a few months to complete. Right now, he’s working on a bible, a flamingo, and several other ideas.
“Something as simple as this just started out with two toothpicks. At this point, it may look like a tree limb to some people, but it can turn into anything,” he said.
Two toothpicks can really take shape as Sanders works. Sometimes, he creates functional pieces like a hat or walking cane.
“I tend to cut my toothpicks in smaller pieces. It provides the ability to give your work a little more detail,” said Sanders.
But he never knows the outcome will be when he sits down to start a project.
“I think this is a gift. A lot of people don’t have patience to do what I do, not to say they can’t do it, but it’s just... sometimes it takes a little extra. In my belief, that’s my little extra,” he said.
That little extra, that gift, he says is undoubtedly rooted in his faith, but his talented eye comes from someone.
“It’s just in the bloodline,” he said.
Sanders is a second generation toothpick artist. His dad taught him the trade a long time ago.
“I actually started doing the toothpicks at 4-years-old with a little simple pattern on paper,” he remembered. “As a child, I was diagnosed with ADHD and through the artwork, through toothpicks, it provided a therapy for me. It slowed me down. It calmed me down. So at this point, I’ve gained a speed with it. I guess most people would find it pretty abnormal."
It’s not necessarily abnormal, but it’s almost as impressive as one particular project he’s working on.
“I got to have enough toothpicks first of all. One day, I looked at it and I said, ‘Alright, I’m going to make an alligator,’” he said.
This second generation toothpick artist has been gluing and cutting his path to a 10-foot alligator for the last three and a half years.
“I never did decide on a size, but I knew I didn’t want it to be as large as my dad’s. I really didn’t intend on it being this big,” Sanders said.
Sanders’ dad did indeed make an alligator too. In fact, he’s is in the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest toothpick sculpture, weighing a whopping 292 lbs and measuring 15 feet long.
“As an adult or growing older, we grow through things in life and stuff like that and you realize what your calling might be or what actually you might be the best at,” Sanders said.
After endless hours of pasting and cutting, Sanders is trying to leave his day job and devote his life to art, because well, it’s in his blood.
“Dream. Create. Imagine. Your mind is a terrible thing to waste,” he said.