A Hand Made's Tale
This lamp is a very cherished piece of art. I was so delighted when the young artist from Fool Moon asked me to make a trade. I call it my Dr. Suess lamp.
It was Christmas, and I was home from college. My friend Larry had just moved into a small house a few blocks from my parents' home, and I had planned on visiting him. And, bring him a Christmas gift.
I have been crocheting since I was about eight years old. I mainly was crocheting, not making anything of note. It kept my hands busy, and for some reason, unbeknownst to me at the time, I believe the counting of stitches was relaxing to me. I still do many forms of counting today – weaving, knitting, crocheting and even baking bread.
It was a scarf in what must have been an unmemorable color because I somehow can't picture it. I'm sure Larry wasn't being unappreciative after opening the gift, but he did say, "Why do you spend the time to make a scarf that you could simply buy at the store?"
Why do we make things, work with our hands, and gift handmade items rather than purchase things made (today) overseas?
Handmade gifts are more expensive; why pay the extra cash?
Well. When volunteering to do art classes at my children's elementary school, I used to explain it like this.
When people visited me, they said, "Wow, your house has so many cool things. I love it."
I said, "Well if you shopped at art fairs, you too could have a house full of wonderful things."
I feel a connection if I am stirring kuchen pudding with a spoon that my friend Shuster made with his hands. A warmth. I take extra special care of the things made by friends as if I am taking care of them simultaneously.
I made new friends and acquired new art no matter where I went. One of my best friends from Bemidji, then New York Mills, made the most exquisite and funky jewelry. I always received compliments when I wore her earrings. My house in Mandan was full of original prints, paintings, photos, blown glass, ceramic and raku vases, mugs, rugs and mats – you name it, I traded for it. Everything reminded me of a face or a place in time.
I hope people who own my hand-loomed clothing or dishtowels feel the same. In purchasing something from me, they received a part of me.
After moving to the "farm, and a smaller house, my children received many of my art items. My walls are still full of photos and paintings, including several my mother did when she became an empty nester.
Whether Larry cherished that scarf or not is beside the point. It was given in the spirit of sharing. I hope the love I prayed into that scarf was a blessing to him. Sort of like I feel blessed that I have pieces of art from my friends who have since passed away. Hmmm, it's like a legacy, I guess. Not to mention, it's rare that someone would have the same piece in their house, and we all know how horrifying it is to walk into a gala with the same dress as the person across the room.
Sometimes people would say to me, "Oh, I wish I was talented." I replied, "Well, if everyone could do what I do, then there would be no one left to buy anything from me, and I would have to quit creating. So, we need you. I make it, you buy it, we are both happy."
Mother's Day is coming. Make your mom and your local artisans happy this year.
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Sue B. Balcom
Writing, or maybe talking, comes naturally to me and under the guidance of a great newspaper editor I have acquired skills that led me to author four books.