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CNET News Video: Artist's low-tech art form gets high-tech attention

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CNET News Video: Artist's low-tech art form gets high-tech attention

3:52 /

The humble toothpick has been elevated to a thing of art. An elaborate sculpture of San Francisco is drawing crowds to the city's Exploratorium museum. CNET's Sumi Das shows us a surprising low-tech device used to create the masterpiece.

-And I gotta make that-- -That's incredible. -Ugly look. -Scott Weaver is a man of many talents. He juggles hatchets, spins Frisbees with his teeth and is a master sculptor in an unusual medium, toothpicks and Elmer's Glue. -That this embodies the maker movement, it embodies tinkering. It is classic taking of household item and making something that is kinetic. -Over the course of 3 decades using more than 105,000 toothpicks, we've recreated Rolling Through the Bay, a 9-foot-high love letter to his home town of San Francisco. At first glance you might think the intricate sculpture was designed using CAD or maybe 3D modeling software, but the tools of Weaver's trade are actually less sophisticated. -I use this old Sharp calculator for figuring out how many things will fit in an area if I need arches, and I have the circumference of 23 inches, how am I gonna fit an inch and a half, you know, into that. So-- -Oh. Nail clippers are his toothpick trimmers and everyday objects become forms and molds. What's the most difficult part about creating a toothpick sculpture? -The glue, I'll use masking tape, I use any kind of thing, household items, salt and pepper shakers, masking tape, my phone, coffee cups, whatever is handy. -Weaver's natural talent has elevated this rather low-tech art form but he credits high tech for much of his success. -It just snowballed. It got on the internet and it went viral in the matter of a couple of years. You go to search page after search page and I never would've thought this. I mean I did a radio show in South Africa at midnight. -Impressive for a hobby that traces back to a 4th grade assignment. - Sue Rathbun, elementary school teacher taught us build these little sculptures. I went home, I wanted to build a huge one. I started making these long strands of toothpicks. -In 1974 Weaver who has no formal training created a few San Francisco landmarks out of toothpicks. -3 things, Lombard, Golden Gate, cable car. Those were my first original things and then I said wow. It will be cool if I made like another thing of the city here. -And that was how Rolling Through the Bay was born. Ultimately the sculpture included many sentimental favorites. -This home right here is 518 12th Avenue. You can see the address right there. 5 generations of our family spent the holidays at 518 12th Avenue between Anza and Balboa. That's my mom's home. It was like the place where our family whenever we got together, that's where we went. -This meticulously detailed San Francisco homage is now on display at the city's Exploratorium museum-- -Right there. Thank you. -Attracting sizable crowds especially when they realized it's not just the sculpture. -A ping pong ball roller coaster, some people have said. -Like Rolling Through the Bay, Lone Galleon, a pirate ship demonstrates his eye for precision with its retractable cannons and movable captain's wheel and what's next for Scott Weaver? -It would be a self-portrait of myself doing what I invented maybe, the ping pong ball rolling through myself or rolled through my arm and then down through my foot. That would be cool. -Continuing his tradition of turning ordinary objects into something extraordinary. In San Francisco I'm Sumi Das, CNET.com for CBS News.

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