Monday, September 6, 2010

A Personal History of Crafting and Arts

Most of you know me as the lady that makes soap.

Soaping is a fairly recent endeavor that I dearly love to take part in for the past 5 years. For me, handcrafted soaps was the beginning of a crafting "breakout" in my life after years of doing NOTHING related to arts and crafts. Instead, I was too busy working, raising kids and being a married woman. Other life endeavors had me going in other directions. I don't regret them, but I wished that I had taken more time to allow some creative fulfillment in the mix.

Even as a small child, I was a crafty, creative sort with something of an entrepreneural spirit. At the tender age of 4, I was picking OTHER neighbor's flowers (we didn't have many of our own) and knocking on doors to re-distribute them. Around the same time, I recall creating some sort of rope contraption to help steer my tricycle that had broken handles.

At age 7 or 8 I learned the joys of styrofoam and made all kinds of wacky projects from the stuff. THEN I discovered artificially colored feathers you could buy in large packages to make various crafting projects. I concluded that styrofoam and feathers were a good combination and created Christmas wreaths and tree ornaments from them. I actually sold a fair amount of them too, probably because I was a cute kid with an eclectic crafting vision. Around the same time, I learned the joys of writing and wrote, illustrated and "published" my own book. I showed it to my teacher who was so impressed, she decided it would be a great class project. All the kids hated me for that. Nevertheless, I continued illustrating and writing as a regular pasttime throughout my childhood.

In the meantime, I discovered my mom had some material that she made curtains out of several years before. The rest of the material lay in closet, un-used in a dusty little corner. I got some of the stuff out and began creating an odd version of a toga/robe/lounge around the house dress from it. God forbid that it should EVER be worn outside in public. I asked my mom if I could make her one too. She tactfully declined.

Around age 12, I discovered a new medium...LEATHER. In particular, SUEDE LEATHER. I was into all things leather and poured through books on how to work with it. I made purses, moccasins, vests, hairpieces, bracelets. This time, they weren't half bad and I sold quite a few items. Also, my grandmother showed me how to do embroidery. I made quite a few embroidery projects. I also learned some interesting arts in beading.

Then, I took a class in sewing at my school and discovered the joys of sewing and latched onto it. We sewed a basic dress in the class which was quite wearable and was one of my favorite summer dresses. After school was out, I was bored, so dug out my mom's cantakerous, old sewing machine she never used because, well, it was cantankerous. She also had never really learned how to use it, which was another reason why it was a tad cantankerous. It also needed a little oiling and some care. I got the machine to working with some scrap pieces of cloth I had found in the same closet I found the other material a few years back. Then I found the bonanza! Material that had been tucked away for over 10 years. My mom had made some curtains for my brother's room with it. It was beige/brown with all sorts of old-time automobiles on it. I LOVED it and dug it out, pinned my favorite (and my only) dress pattern on it, cut it out and began to sew. Now, I had TWO dresses I made myself. Only one problem though; the second dress had all the old-time autos upside down!!!  It was a lesson learned in making sure the pattern is pinned on the material correctly, especially when dealing with one-way designs. Still, the dress fit, so I wore the thing around the house.

I stayed with sewing throughout my high school years, making most of my own clothing, designing many of them myself, fitting the design to fit my buxom figure since most of the current fashions were made for girls without boobs.

Creative writing continued to make an impact with pages upon pages of poetry and short stories. I seriously considered a career in writing. It was about that time that I discovered I could sing. Actually, I ALWAYS sang all the time when I was a kid ( I still do). But, I took a choir class on a whim and found that I actually had a talent for it. It never really went much further than just enjoying the fact that I could carry a tune though. I wanted to take voice lessons, but our family didn't have the $$$ for such whimsy. Kind of like piano lessons...wanted that too, but never had the opportunity. Nowadays, I just play by ear even though I can read music up to a point.

But back to the crafting. A friend of my mom's was an artist and when I was around 18, I took lessons from her, mostly oil painting, although I dabbled in a few other mediums. LOVED it! I still have a painting in my living room that I made back then. I also have a painting my teacher did that was a gift when I moved to Alaska.

As a young adult in Alaska, I continued painting and sewing. Sewing became a mainstay as I perfected my skills at designing, alterations and working with clothing designed for warmth. I made winter coats, ski outfits and such. I also learned some tailoring techniques and made some men's suits and designed wedding dresses for friends. THEN, one fine, frozen 50 below zero night, a friend of mine showed me how to crochet. I made a potholder. But the next project I made was a ripple afghan. From there, it was granny squares and so on. I created out of my head patterns for hand and finger puppets for local kids to help prevent the boredom of cold Alaskan winters. I made hairpieces, pins etc. And of course, slippers were always a hot item there (no pun intended).

On a trip back to the lower 48 states, my friends introduced me to belly dancing. I loved the dancing, but I REALLY love the costuming. All that draped and gathered material and the intricate top and belt designs. I was HOOKED! I created numerous embellished designs via embroidery, beading, pleating, draping. All of my sewing skills and many other of my skills were used to create these funky/beautiful costumed designs.

Moved back the lower 48 eventually, got married, had kids, had a full time job with everything else and I found I didn't have room in my life for crafting, writing or much else. It all geared down to a screeching halt for over 10 years. The artist inside me was still there, screaming to get out, but I had to keep stuffing her back inside.  I finally couldn't take it anymore. I wrote a book...a novel. Not a great novel, but my first. From that, I discovered soap-making and slowly, the artist in me began creeping back out again. I began drawing again, sewing, and trying new things.  I'm still a busy mom, wife and hold a full time job, but I'm not longer the frustrated artist screaming inside; well, except for wanting more time to create.

Now, I have 2 etsy shops that contain some of that creativity...not all of it, but some. One I have specifically for soap .  The other is for a variety of crafting mediums that I am just beginning, from tote/grocery bags to furoshiki cloths and more to come.

What I've learned from my experience is that no matter how busy you become, if you don't satisfy that creativity you have inside of you, it will come back to bite you in the butt. If you are a creative sort, don't stuff it. No matter how busy you are, make time for your creative side. God made me the creative person I am for a purpose. Who am I to stuff that away?


Linda said...

That's interesting, Patricia.
Being a writer is not easy; my son wrote reams from the age of 3 onwards. He has several published books so I know how that life works! Nowadays, unless you write all the wrong stuff, you don't get much money from writing. Being an author has to be part of a life, not the whole of it.

Trish's Soapy Blessings said...

I agree with you Linda. My oldest brother is also a writer and enjoys it, but doesn't make much money at it. He incorporates his skill in a variety of different ways so he is not a frustrated artist anymore either.

Linda said...

Pete got a new contract recently from Paternoster, for his latest book
"Understanding Jesus: Five Ways to Spiritual Enlightenment "

Trish's Soapy Blessings said...

Oooooh, sounds like a topic worth reading! I just finished reading "Without a Doubt. Answering the 20 Toughest Faith Questions" by Kenneth Richard Samples.

Linda said...

All Peter's books are worth reading, hehe!!