#WhyIMake

Earlier this week, LoveCrafts.com asked me to participate in their blogger awards (The Crafties) by writing about #whyimake. At first glance, it seemed like there are so many reasons why I’m a maker, so how to condense them into one post? But after looking back over how I became a maker and thinking about why I’m still doing it, I realized why I make is actually quite simple. Here is my story of how I started and why I will always be a maker.

I have always been a creative person. As a young girl, I loved to draw, and then as a teen, dreamed of becoming a fashion designer. My sketches of dream outfits from that time are still tucked away in my studio. When I was in high school, I got serious about taking art classes, drawing, painting, and preparing my portfolio for art school. I ended up going to school for graphic design and loved my college courses.

But graphic design in college is not the same as graphic design in the corporate world, and I have to be honest and admit that after graduation, I was not happy as a working graphic designer. I felt chained to my computer all the time, and so many days it felt like there was no creativity or making in my day at all. I would come home from work feeling drained, read fashion magazines, or just go shopping. This was not fulfilling at all, but it certainly filled the house with stuff and drained my bank account!

After I became a stay-at-home mom, we moved to Los Angeles when my son was 9 months and my daughter was two, and as you can imagine, it was a hard adjustment. A year later, I was still feeling lonely in the large city, and then my father died very suddenly. I found myself in the lowest, most painful time in my life to date. I felt trapped at home with the all the challenges that come with mothering two toddlers, a continent away from all our family and closest friends, and of course, the shock and grief of losing a parent. When someone from church asked me if I’d like to come to her little fiber group and learn to crochet, I figured I had nothing to lose by trying, so I went.

It sounds dramatic, but it was a life-changing night for me. I went home from that first meeting and stayed up until the wee hours practicing because I desperately wanted to make sure I wouldn’t forget how to do it by the next day. It is hard to put into words how important it was that I didn’t forget how to do it, because a whole week until our next meeting felt like such a long time!

I consider learning to crochet to be when I truly became a maker. It was the first night since my dad had died that I was able to get my mind engaged and enthusiastic with something. Crocheting made me excited, and it didn’t even matter what I was working on. I was as excited and energized to work on that first hole-y, uneven little dishcloth then as I am to work on a beautiful, complicated shawl or sweater now. I would sit and crochet anytime I was feeling sad or when I couldn’t sleep, and sure enough, after working on a project, I’d feel worlds better. To me, this is what it means to be a maker – enjoying the process of learning and of creating with your hands. The end result is just the cherry on top.

I’m a maker because I love to explore and learn, then translate what I’ve learned into a beautiful piece made by hand. People love to ask designers where their inspiration comes from, and I know I’m only one of many when I say, “Everywhere!” That may sound vague, but it is a true statement because there is always something new to learn or explore. The endless possibilities are what keep it exciting and fulfilling. There are so many studies about the the great mental benefits of knitting and crocheting, but I think those things are the side effects of what is really going on, which is experiencing the joy of learning and creating. Whether it’s focusing on a new stitch pattern or technique, or listening to an audiobook or podcast while I’m meditatively stitching a simple pattern, I love that feeling of having my mind engaged. It energizes me just thinking about what new project to start or what country’s textile tradition I can explore next. It’s exciting to buy a different fiber or even just use a color combination I’ve never tried before.

I have also realized that being a maker leaves me fulfilled and satisfied, and being a consumer, whether of things or entertainment or both, does not. I no longer have the craving to constantly shop and buy new things all the time because I am satisfied with the process of making. (Except for yarn and books – but you saw that coming!) Advertising doesn’t lure me the way it used to either because as a maker, I’ve learned to appreciate true value. I am also much less inclined to waste time getting sucked into Netflix or social media (and then being angry at myself after) unless I am working on a project. If I spend an evening watching Netflix while knitting or crocheting, my mind has still been engaged with my hands, and it still feels fulfilling. (So no judgment here on a good Netflix binge, but please let me have a project in my lap at all times!)

I love that this competition is not called “why I’m a knitter” or “why I’m a crocheter”, but is focused on why we are “makers”. You can always enjoy being a maker, even if you get tired of a certain craft or medium for a time. I’ve discovered that if I’m feeling bored or out of the mood with my craft, it is usually because I’m no longer learning, and once I fix that problem, the excitement returns. Since that first night I learned to crochet (and to knit shortly thereafter), there have been very few days I don’t spend at least a few minutes working on a project.

I still want to learn to needlepoint, to quilt, to spin, to weave…let’s be honest, that list will probably just keep getting longer! But whatever my craft of the moment is, I will always be making because it fulfills and excites me. I am a lifelong learner, and therefore a lifelong maker.

All of us have our own stories about how we became makers, and I’d love to hear yours. Thanks for reading mine, and please leave yours in the comments. If you want to keep up with what catches my eye, as well as my latest works in progress, check me out on Ravelry and Instagram. Special thanks to Lovecrafts.com for nominating me to participate in their blogger awards contest!

In Praise of Solitude

When you’re a parent, especially a homeschooling parent like me, you get constant lectures about making sure your kids have friends and meet “social standards”… whatever that means. I posted about introverts awhile back, after reading Grace Coddington’s memoirs and realizing how much I identified with her when she was talking about her creative process and how she prefers a relaxing night at home to being out at “glamorous” parties. Anna Wintour actually had to pull rank more than once to get her to go to certain parties.

Personally, I’m in favor of taking time to be solitary. This is not the same as being anti-social or unable to participate in society. It is actually something that only strong people are able to do, because it takes being comfortable with yourself and alot of independence to be able to function alone. I want to teach my children to get along with their friends, yes, but I also want to teach them that it is NOT good to get their validation from others, or to be unable to enjoy life unless they are surrounded by people.

I think this concept is especially important for creative types. I need to be solitary every now and then to recharge, to dream, to play creatively, and to maintain my independence and strength. There is a time to collaborate and absorb inspiration from the world around us, and there is a time to be by ourselves to process it and concentrate on our work. In my opinion, people who don’t know how to simply enjoy being by themselves, completely immersed in a creative passion, are missing some of the best moments in life.

As for my kids, here’s an interesting note – as homeschoolers, they are actually exposed to a much larger view of the world than they ever were when they were in private school. They have classes and social things at a variety of places, with a variety of people. They are more solitary in some ways, and in others, their entire world opened up when I started homeschooling them. For me, a very happy by-product of a decision made for other reasons.

I am posting about this because we don’t hear much praise for being solitary. We are pressured to always be “on”, and to force our kids to always be “on” too. Despite the fact that some of the most talented, creative, and successful people are introverts, being one still seems to carry a bad rap. So I am just putting it out there – there is nothing wrong with being an introvert, and if you want to be a happy introvert, don’t be afraid to balance your social side with a little solitude when you need it!

via Solitary