I can’t remember a time when I didn’t make ‘stuff’; stuff out of clay or paper or paint or shells, rocks or toilet rolls, I’m not picky. I was blessed (cursed occasionally) with an incredibly artistic and crafty mother. She studied art and then like so many women of her generation, marriage and family put any ideas of a career on the back burner.
However, that didn’t stop her from initiating her five daughters into the joy and pleasure of making stuff with our hands. Like the time she decided that we should all make our own death masks. I was twelve. Great idea! In principle, more than practice it has to be said. First she tied our hair back and then smeared our faces with Vaseline. (I don’t think she’d stopped to think about the challenge of getting Vaseline out of our hair after making the masks.)
This step complete, she inserted two straws up our noses and proceeded to cover our faces with a thick layer of plaster of Paris that took about thirty minutes to set. MRI’s always bring back a very vivid memory of being encased, thankfully without the need for breathing straws. Then the set plaster is lifted off and you see your facial features inverted in the plaster. Next you coat the plaster with papier-mâché, let that dry, paint it an ashen grey and then for the final touch sew stitches across the image of your closed eyelids and finish off the face, your face, by embedding your baby teeth into the mask.
My mother was very creative and very odd and I’m just lucky her many artistic ventures didn’t result in my needing years of therapy! She instilled in all of us a love of colour, shape and texture and the thrill of taking one substance and creating something else from it. I “dabble”…in everything and anything that takes my fancy; paper crafts of every sort: cards, handmade journals, intricate photo albums, pop-ups. Then there was the eye-wateringly expensive venture into working with silver clay to make one of-a-kind pieces of jewellery and polymer clay to make fantasy figurines and wee dragons. Working in watercolour or acrylics, die cutting, embossing, wreath making, découpage furniture; I get enormous pleasure out of making and creating anything and everything. I’d like to be able to say that crafting only requires one’s time, attention and dedication but that would be a bold faced lie.
Every diehard crafter will tell you, each of these ventures requires ALL the equipment in EVERY size and colour. A committed crafter would rather forego a new pair of shoes in order to purchase the newest bits that will take their craft to the next level.
Every now and then I will forget myself and usher someone into my studio (a hoarder’s paradise) and see their jaws drop in astonishment and we aren’t talking wonderment here, but shock. I can literally feel them re- evaluating their previous perceptions/opinions of my character. I mean who has four crates of ribbon, five different sets of watercolour pencils, six different pairs of scissors, colour paper stacked three feet high or thousands of rubber stamps? I do.
This is my collection of craft supplies from the last thirty years of projects past, present and future. It has been suggested that it might be time for a clear-out, but as any crafter out there will attest to, we find it virtually impossible to resist the temptation to add to our hoard and equally hard to discard any of our accumulated treasures. Yes, I know that I haven’t made a polymer clay dragon in a decade, but that doesn’t mean I won’t want to make one later today and then, well, I know I still have everything I need. It might take me a couple of hours to find what I need, but I know it’s there… somewhere.
However, I’m not just a pretty face with hoarding tendencies because whenever a friend or neighbour wants a unique card made for someone special or a gift wrapped, or they want to borrow the stamps, card, scoreboard and glitter to make their own creations, I’m their go to and happy to be so. And we never know where our crafting will lead us. I had the pleasure of teaching for over a decade at a lovely craft store in Surrey. Then about three years ago I was approached by a small group of women who initially just wanted to try their hand at a few crafts. The group is still running strong; meeting once a month to work with inks, make faux leather notebooks or traveller’s journals, inter-active cards, whatever catches their interest.
I never cease to find enormous pleasure in opening the door to others on what is a wonderful world of creative opportunities. But there eventually comes a time in every ardent crafter’s life when they are confronted with a dilemma. What do you do when you love to make things, but you’ve run out of family and friends to give your creations to? They have taken to pretending they’re not home when they see you coming to the door with yet another one of your handmade cards, earrings, pottery vases, mosaic hot plates, crocheted and or knitted hats/scarves/slippers, to say nothing of your handmade sock puppets, ceramic mugs, wooden pencil holders, boxes, etc?
Now, I hear a few of you thinking, “I’ll get a stall at a craft fair and sell my creations” and of course you can…try. I went this route for a number of years with staggeringly varying degrees of success. Fairs are hard work and often a disheartening slog that can leave you seriously out of pocket. Just breaking even on the table and not making a loss can be a challenge. However, there’s no denying that little thrill you get when someone, anyone, actually pays for something you have made.
My most recent crafting obsession was making hand painted, découpage and decorated boxes in all shapes and sizes, dozens and dozens and dozens of them. My initial intention was to go back on the craft fair circuit, but realised after the fact that my heart just wasn’t in it.
If like me, you can’t stop making. You don’t want to stop making. But, you have filled up every nook and cranny of your home with your work (in my case, I’d even taken out a storage unit for the overflow for goodness sake)you know something has to give.
I was struggling with the issue of what to do with all the lovely boxes I’d made when Susie Matthews, a friend of mine, who I wish didn’t need to be nearly so familiar with the Chartwell Unit, suggested that I consider donating my wee masterpieces to The Chartwell Cancer Trust to sell in their charity shops.
A brilliant friend with the brilliant idea that the items I had enjoyed making could be put to such good use! I am pleased to be able to support the wonderful work of The Chartwell Cancer Trust.