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Sunday, August 10, 2008

Crafting from the Roots Up

Coming into midlife has been challenging for me. I struggle with relinquishing who I was as a young adult, and I balk at moving into a future that is frighteningly wide open. I am emerging from my middle age metamorphic cocoon still not knowing what type of butterfly I am. What do I want to do with my life – the second half? The excitement of being able to reinvent myself is counterbalanced by the lonely glare of a blank slate framed by adult fear and indecision. I could reinvent myself…but as what? There are so many vocational options, unlimited activities to try, dozens of interesting crafts calling my name, and many facets of my personality to explore. I feel like a teenager again. Yet unlike a girl of 18, I am a “mature” woman with a lot less time to waste. My second half has an expiration date that was absent in my first half. I’d like to get to the heart of the matter soon and spend those precious second-half days doing things that make me truly happy; I want to grow back into the soul of the child I was meant to be.

There is something very overwhelming about having too many options. Which one of those numerous potential new activities and creative pursuits is “the one”? In order to discover my lost self, I had to take a trip back in time to my crafting roots. Was there an art or craft that always captured my heart? I began to remember the things I asked for as a child: crayons, books, a typewriter, paper, pencils, thread, fabric, a camera, more paper, more crayons, yet more books...some items were very prominent in my recollections. These key objects represented activities that brought me joy at an early age, and are interests to which I am drawn once again.

Looking back, I always liked to play with color and texture. I can remember the pleasure of opening a fresh box of Crayola crayons with their rainbow of colors to delight the eye. One Christmas I received an enormous box of crayons, well over a hundred, packed neatly in a large, flat box along with a crayon sharpener and a few other art supplies. I was in heaven! Then there was the holiday which brought a “learn to draw” set which came with a pressed board drawing surface, a book on how to draw horses (my passion at the time), a sketch book, a box of charcoals, and some professional pencils. I felt like an artist. When I was older, my mother bought me a “real” set of Prismacolor colored pencils and a small palette of Grumbacher watercolors. We even went to an honest-to-goodness art store to purchase them. I spent hours drawing, mostly horses and other animals, but I also designed clothes and imagined they would be in pattern books or fashion magazines some day. Many of those colored pencils were worn down to little stubs in no time, but I never had the heart to throw them away.

Does anyone remember collecting S&H Green Stamps years ago? My mother would get these stamps when she made purchases at the grocery store; when you saved enough stamps and pasted them in a little paperback book, you could get your choice of items from a catalog. After weeks of squirreling away and attaching those little green tickets (I can still taste the stamp glue!), I was able to make my dream purchase: my first camera. I was still in elementary school at the time so this was very exciting. My choice was a Spartus Vanguard, made by Herold Products. It took color or black-and-white photographs with 127 film and it had a bulbous flash set in a silver-lined cup that looked like a small radar dish. It seems so antiquated now, but at the time it was my window on the world; it was a way to capture the beauty of nature or to forever frame a moment in time. I wanted my photos to be like the ones in National Geographic magazine, which came every month like clockwork in my parents’ mail. The magazine’s pictures seemed perfectly composed, romantic and mysterious. Every one told a wordless story about people and places that existed in a world different from my own. Of course, of the hundreds of pictures I took with that boxy camera, only a few turned out even remotely like the magazine shots, but I kept trying.

And let’s not forget the world of crafting. During my younger days I tried a lot of different things from sewing to knitting to embroidery. In middle school I learned to follow a pattern to make clothes, and I sewed some simple decorating items for my room. Like a lot of other little girls I made clothes and jewelry for my Barbie dolls, and I created jewelry for myself from beads and buttons. (Have you ever seen beads made from drops of Elmer’s glue?!) One of my favorite collections that I still have today is a mixture of plastic beads that I keep in an old, blue and white, metal cookie tin. One day my family stopped at a country store not far from a relative’s house. In one room of the store was a large, wooden whiskey barrel filled with beads. For a small amount one could purchase a bag of beads in a random assortment of sizes and hues. I remember dipping my hands deep into that cornucopia of color and wiggling my fingers through the round bits of plastic as if I had discovered a pirate’s chest filled with gold coins.

But the most enduring of my childhood passions grew from my love of books, which were my constant childhood companions. Like photographs, books could transport me into foreign places and let me tag along on adventures that could only take place in my imagination. Words were enticing and playful, beautiful and magical. They had power and yet they could be shaped into landscapes, actions and images. Words could communicate on paper what a shy kid like me couldn't verbalize. I loved those words and I wanted to write them too. So sometime when I was about 8, I asked my parents for a way to write faster than I could by hand. My wish was granted in the form of a brown, plastic typewriter that had cream-toned keys. I banged on that typewriter for hours; my parents got their money’s worth from that purchase! Eventually I graduated to a more grown-up, metal, Smith-Corona and, sadly, the poor little plastic typewriter went the way of all well-used toys. However, it will always have a fond place in my heart.

Vintage Hermes 3000 typewriter I purchased at a yard sale brings back memories of my childhood writing friend.

So, as we grow older, do we grow back into the creative people we used to be; the people we were born to be? If we are lucky, I think the answer is yes. Though many of my interests popped up here and there during my 20’s and 30’s, I am now beginning to return to my roots with more fervor in my midlife rediscovery of drawing, needlework, sewing, photography, beading, and, through the wonders of technology, writing. Blogging is undoubtedly an addictive outlet for word-lovers! This emerging butterfly might have finally found her wings.

I asked friends in my Etsy BBEST team (Boomer and Beyond Etsy Street Team) to look back at what arts and crafts they were drawn to as children. Did they carry these interests into adulthood or do they find themselves returning to these parts of their earlier selves? Their insightful and interesting answers will be posted tomorrow!

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Blogger MagdaleneJewels said...

Absolutely beautiful Liv, I relived every second of my childhood memories with you. Thank you for sharing the memories that made you the person you are today. I am also looking forward to see what tomorrow brings in the way of how our other Boomer's developed.
Thanks for this great idea!

August 10, 2008 at 2:03 PM  
Blogger Attack of the Vintage said...

Thank you so much for taking me down memory lane, also in sharing your thoughts about what life has yet to offer us boomers. Well written and I look forward to reading tomorrow's blog.

August 10, 2008 at 2:27 PM  
Blogger Sixsisters said...

Liv this is wonderful. Your insight is perfect. You
touch on what many of us are feeling.
Thanks for this blog and I am looking forward
to tomorrow.

August 10, 2008 at 3:12 PM  
Blogger Jill said...

Thank you this lovely post. I share your feelings about what my future holds, and how much time do I have to accomplish what I want to do.

August 10, 2008 at 3:18 PM  
Blogger ZudaGay said...

Ah, the memories of a brand new big box of Crayola of the best memories of childhood. And now I am so blessed to get to lay on the floor coloring with grandkids.

Beautifully written, Liv!! Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and insights and journey with us.

August 10, 2008 at 3:30 PM  
Blogger maryeb said...

You are a wonderful writer. Your descriptions are so eloquent!!
I'm definitely looking forward to tomorrow.

August 10, 2008 at 4:05 PM  
Blogger Sonja's Adornments said...

Great Post! Change can be wonderful!
When you are through changing, you are through. ~Bruce Barton

August 10, 2008 at 4:21 PM  
Blogger Night Sky said...

What a wonderful article! I could relate so well to everything you said, including your passion for drawing horses as a child and the feeling of being overwhelmed by all the choices we have in the 2nd half of our lives. And that dreaded expiration date!

Zuda's comment reminded me of the smell of a new box of crayons! What a delightful memory!!

Thank you for sharing your feelings, memories, and journey with us!!

August 10, 2008 at 4:45 PM  
Blogger Judy Nolan said...

This post evoked wonderful images and memories, Liv. I can't wait to read your next post. As children we do not realize that we march boldly into the future, often looping right back to our starting point.

August 10, 2008 at 5:43 PM  
Blogger Chauncey said...

Liv, what a wonderful post. I too, can almost smell my box of crayolas. Your writing is fabulous.

August 10, 2008 at 5:58 PM  
Blogger On a Whimsey said...

A wonderful post that evoked and stimulated many childhood memories. Sometimes we all need help to 'open up the doors of memories' which then allow us to pour over the senses of smell, touch and sight.
Perhaps we were the lucky ones to have been allowed to enter the world of imagination which youngsters of today don't always manage.
Thank you for sharing!

August 11, 2008 at 11:11 AM  
Blogger Linda said...

Again, your writing is so beautiful and insightful. We share similar feelings about creating, and I can relate to your words.
I have returned to my crafting roots, but I am so much more confident and able in this stage of my life because I have had experiences and now the patience to make what I see in my mind. I'm not that frustrated little girl, seeing it but not able to make it. Thank you for sharing!

August 11, 2008 at 11:18 AM  
Blogger Rose said...

Hi Liv,

I find your writing holds great wisdom and insight into this phase of recreating, rediscovering who we are and who we want to become, as we move from nurturing others to nurturing ourselves.

You are well blessed with the gift of words!

August 11, 2008 at 9:20 PM  
Blogger The Filigree Garden said...

Thank you all for reading and commenting so nicely! Your responses have made me think further on the post subject, giving me new insights to consider.

August 11, 2008 at 9:23 PM  
Blogger Carolyne said...

I love the typewriter you found. My eyes are always peeled for unique finds at antique stores, too.

January 13, 2009 at 12:39 PM  
Blogger The Filigree Garden said...

I have a definite soft spot for old typewriters and sewing equipment. I have to stop myself from amassing a larger collection. ;-)

January 13, 2009 at 11:39 PM  

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