Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Crafting in the Moment
Friends, I took a little break. It was not exactly intended, but not exactly surprising either. If I had to pinpoint a cause for this break, I would say it's an end of summer ennui, a large workload followed by a lovely vacation to California, and a series of moments when inspiration struck, but I was far from a computer.
The break, however, was not for lack of making things. In the past few weeks alone, there has been the completion of a second wedding quilt, dozens of rows knitted on a sweater, the construction of a six-layer pink ombre cake, and I made the acquaintance of a certain baby Frida, who modeled a particularly cute hand-knitted seed-stitch hoodie for me. And yet, I haven't taken a photo of a single thing. Not exactly intentionally. In fact, I really did mean to photograph them. But when Megan put the sweater on Frida, I completely forgot to reach for the camera. And when I gave the quilt to my parents, I declared that I would take photos in natural light the next day (and then proceeded to forget to do that for the next five days). The cake? Didn't bring my camera to the party...there was flourescent lighting in the kitchen anyway, so it would have been a wash.
But the truth behind the matter is this: I've grown a bit weary of the beautification of craft, the trendiness of craft, and the expectation of perfection. (And believe me, I know this sounds crazy coming from a craft book editor, since these three merits are absolutely part of the job.) But lately, I've found that there is something disconcerting about a perfectly executed creation, an impeccably styled photograph...rather than thrilling me as it once did, I've been feeling like it gets away from the heart of the creation. I guess you could say that I miss seeing the hand of the maker, the mistakes, the surprises. As I peruse some of the most vibrant DIY blogs on the planet and admire their offerings, I sometimes find myself wondering, is this what my life is supposed to look like? (Note: this is not what my life looks like.) The sensation reminds me of the anti-Martha battle-cry of the late '90s/early 2000s, when I would hear my mom cursing in front of the television as Martha Stewart demonstrated the how-to for some gorgeous decoration. "I hate her. But I can't stop watching!" (I might be paraphrasing.) Only now it's not just a single Martha...it's a whole internet full of Marthas with creations that we can't stop watching, and the trends that float through Pinterest repeat more reliably than a chevron bedspread. In recent months, I looked on in amazement as people from all walks of life considered the merits of filling mason jars with salad for each day of the week, and I still can't help but wonder how good Friday's salad will be and if the lettuce won't be just a wee bit wilty.
Not that I am immune to salad jar craft ideas! I am, after all, a person who not many months ago went to the trouble of making her own cheese, and I am also a daughter of the Sassy Magazine generation, who lived to tell the tale of dyeing her hair with Kool-aid and chamomile tea. I only started knitting in 2005 when the bandwagon pulled up in San Francisco, and I still to this day take on all manner of projects that will likely not look as good or taste as yummy as the variety that can be bought at the store down the street. Nevertheless, I will never stop making things. I guess the difference is that, in the last few weeks, I have just been trying to enjoy it for myself. The way I used to. Before the internet, before blogs, before everyone was an amateur photographer, before I started making books. There was a time when I used to make things only for the sake of showing myself I could do it, and showing someone else that I loved them. To that end, it's been sort of nice to take a brief hiatus, to live in the moment of making and giving without documentation. When Frida wore the sweater I made for her, I held her in my arms and rocked her about, completely forgetting to grab my camera. And that is probably a good thing.
This isn't to say I won't be sharing creations here anymore! Because, well, that would be pointless. There are still many many reasons to share and enjoy, just as there are many many reasons to sometimes take a break from sharing. I just wanted to let you know where I've been and where I am and what I've been thinking. Do you ever feel this way, too?
Finally, despite all of my grand declarations in this post, I did want to share one of my recent creations...the only one I did think to photograph. It is not very good and it is certainly not trendy. It's a watercolor pencil sketch I did at Alpine Lake, sitting on the shore with my mom and my aunt, each of us with a sketchpad in our lap and a grip of pencils in our hands. My aunt declared my shading to be wimpy and filled in the shadows of the lake for me, and later, my mom taught me how to wet the brush and blend the colors. This is one of my favorite creations, because it is laden with laughter, advice, sunscreen, and the memory of that perfect golden day.