Creating Things with Sticks and Strings.
I don’t consider myself an “artist”. I am not a knitter, but I do knit. I am not a sewer (sew-er?), although I sew. I enjoy creating, and take pride in being able to make things that make others smile. But “artist”? I am not comfortable with the label for myself.
For as long as I can remember, I have enjoyed crafts, drawing, and making in general. My family is full of people to whom the label “artist” obviously applies. I have aunts, uncles and cousins who are able to pick up a pen or a paintbrush or a stylus and create artwork. As a child, I was mesmerized by paintings on the walls of my childhood home created by my mother’s siblings, and as an adult, I have work by a cousin on my own walls. My dad loved to doodle, and could scribble out a caricature of Mickey Mouse, or Popeye, or Homer Simpson on the corner of a page with ease. I aspired to create art like these family members, but my own talent in that regard is lacking, although I can draw a decent dinosaur, gnome and slice of pizza. As a child, I attended classes in everything, including but not limited to drawing, painting and stained glass, and was not adept enough at any of those things to put in the effort required to get good.
Fast forward to 2019, when I attended a business course facilitated by Kootenay Employment Services in Creston, and met someone with a skill I envied, but was certain I couldn’t master: Knitting. I learned to crochet long enough to make one baby blanket for my son when I was pregnant twenty years ago, and before that, I sewed through my own finger with a sewing machine in Home Economics class in grade nine. I knew, without a doubt, that I would fail at this new skill, but I wanted to support a friend, and so I tried to learn. And I failed. My first project, a dishcloth was a misshapen mess, with stitches added and dropped all over the place, and holes where there should not have been holes. My dog loved it when I threw the scrap to her.
My grandmothers both knit, my great-grandmothers all knit, I come from a long line of women who created things from sticks and strings going back generations, as I am sure we all do. I still have a blanket my grandmother crocheted for me when I was a baby, and another one of my favourite blankeys was given to my uncle (an Artist for sure) for safekeeping when I was small. I have been surrounded by people who have been creating useful things, without realizing the skill required, and without seeing the beauty in those everyday items. Not just knitted or crocheted items, I remember my dad tucking me in at night with a quilt my grandma made, and the feel of the flannel right up to my chin. I have beautifully detailed cross-stitched pieces made to celebrate births and weddings and first days of school. My son spent years playing with knight’s swords and shields made out of yarn and plastic canvas, and you know you’ve been accepted into my family when grandma gifts you with an appliqued stocking. Because of this history, I decided to try making a second dishcloth.
I took my time with the second dishcloth, and had moderate success. Something in my brain or my hands or both knew where I’d gone wrong, and adjusted. I moved on from knit stitches to purls. I learned to knit in the round (game changer!). I knit myself a sweater, although, I got bored by the time I was supposed to knit some sleeves, so it is a sleeveless sweater. I found my knitting passion in making toys. When my dad died, knitting became my therapy, a way to shut off my brain and the pain and just feel the sticks and the string and the fabric I was creating.
Last Christmas, I started work on an applique stocking for our new grandson’s first Christmas, and if all that knitting didn’t make me realize what an artform fiber crafts could be, the challenge of that stocking did. I started with a kit purchased, but discovered my grandma designed all her own patterns. She drew
inspiration from the same kits I was now using, drew her own characters, planned out the pattern and just…. Made. The. Stockings. That is an Artist.
Most recently, at the beginning of the year, I had the idea I would like to sew, and was given the gift of an old sewing machine. It took weeks of looking at the machine to get over the fear of sewing through my finger again, but as soon as I did, I was off! I started with straight lines, creating quilts inspired by memories from my childhood. I tried sewing toys, clothes, pillows…. As with knitting, I am constantly learning, getting bored, adapting and creating. I’ve discovered some inherent knack passed along in my DNA. I’ve played with making my own patterns, gaining confidence with my successes, and have created beautiful things other people seem to enjoy. I understand the artistry and skill in what I am doing, and appreciate my grandmothers as Artists more than I ever have before.
But me? An “artist”? Never.
- Amanda's continuing adventures with sticks, strings and other things are chronicled here: https://www.facebook.com/sticksandstringscreston