Monday, December 28, 2009

Origins of a Studio

The snow in Oklahoma postponed our 18 member strong family Christmas dinner until Sunday night. I think I can safely say that each of us had a strong case of cabin fever and were ready to be around some fresh faces. In a way, this was a great way to have Christmas. There was no stress, no running around, no where else to rush off to.

Of course, you may know that I took the handmade pledge, one I make every year, to give gifts that I made, (duh). Around October, I start brainstorming ideas. I pore over magazines and websites, I look through the piles of supplies stuffed into my studio. In short, I throw myself into this project.

I had already made DS cases for my nieces and nephew when I stumbled upon this super cute little Monster Chunk pattern. The crafty mania that plagues me rose up and I simply had to make these for said nieces and nephews.

Fast forward to the dinner. I wore a coat I sewed and fingerless mitts I knitted, I gave etched glasses to the adult couples, handmade DS cases and monster chunks. I cooked up a delicious and gorgeous chocolate caramel tart. When I handed the monster chunks out, and my father in law asked if I made them, and when I admitted I had, he called me into the other room.

In fact, he called me to the garage. Oh crap, I though. I'm in trouble again. He pulled out a white banner with HollyHouse Handcrafts emblazoned on it. My mother-in-law had this banner when she ran her at-home craft business. He also gave me a wooden sign of the same, that had also been hers. I asked if he was sure. I started to cry. He got a little misty. We hugged. It was touching, really.

Of course, Hollyhouse Studio is my incarnation of her Handcrafts, and really an extension of my precious time with her. While my parents are creative and thoughtful and fun and interested in beautiful design, it was my mother-in-law who gave me the tools to make the things I make. And I don't just mean hardware. She showed me that you don't have to specialize. She tried every single craft and technique she wanted to, and excelled at all of them. She showed me that you can forge a life of what you love, even if it looks different to others. She taught me, as my parents did, that mistakes are part of art and that is how one learns. She was always thinking of a better way to do things, from reupholstering a chair to painting a ceiling.

My father-in-law did not just give me a banner. He gave me a vote of confidence. In giving me that sign, he gave me a blessing. It was as if he said, "You will do this, you can do this. Keep going." As much as adult children don't like to admit this, we still crave the respect of our parents. His gift to me will outlast the cloth and wood on which it was represented.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

and now for something completely different

Wrist cuffs for attendees at 12 year old's birthday party. Tutorial can be found here.
If your last name is the same as mine, you can expect something like this under the tree. Glasses in a variety of sizes and styles etched with different themes. This is the easiest project. Slap a stencil on a glass, slap some glass etching cream on that, let it work according to package directions, rinse and give.

My sister in law hosted Thanksgiving for the first time this year. I made her this cheery cherry apron as a thank you.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

O Come, O Come or "Yeah, yeah, patience. How long's that gonna take?"

My husband and our three wild ones enjoy a CD from Dr. Demento, (crazy, right?) which has on it a little spoken word ditty about a sensei teaching a new student how to fight. The student is ready to start "hitting people" and the sensei says the student must learn patience. The student responds "yeah, yeah, patience. How long's that gonna take?" My wild ones find this hilarious.

They sense the irony without knowing what irony is. They know that as they wait for Christmas and the promise of presents, patience is hard. Waiting sucks.

At the start of Advent, I had a plan. A glorious plan indeed. We were going to be deliberate this year. We would read our Advent readings nightly, and light the candles in our wreath and pray and think and be still. We would avoid consumerism, the holiday rush, the frenzy of parties and activities.

Trouble is, I'm not in charge of assigning homework, scheduling basketball and soccer games, friends' birthday parties, choir concerts, church and work activities. And my plan fell to scattered pieces. Christmas morning is almost here and I've barely cracked open the devotional a friend gave us. The kids, though diligent in their attentions to the Advent Calendar, still have dreams of what's under the tree. And I, I am filled with a sense of failure.
I did not stay true. I let it get away from me. I did not sit still and wait. I bowed to the almighty calendar instead of the Almighty King. That is, after all, what Advent is. Preparing our hearts to celebrate the coming King.

The truth is, I'm not all the good at waiting. I don't like it. It's not fun if I can't be in control. Usually, when I'm waiting, I want to make a decision, or a plan, or find a solution. I want to do anything to make the waiting stop. Some of you are rather adept at this whole waiting thing. I asked you via Twitter and Facebook, what you do while waiting. Your answers inspired me. Many of you read, tinker, knit, or write. Most of your answers had this delightful sense of peace about them, as if you took the waiting as part of the journey and settled in for it.

I must have missed the memo on this, because when I wait I whine, I cajole, I text, I call, I facebook, I twitter, I email, I search for new projects despite the unfinished ones. All of my answers point to a restlessness, an inability to sit still, to let if flow, to enjoy the wait. Essentially, I make the wait one big drama with me in the center. Who knew?

Which brings me back to how I failed at Advent. I'm not really talking about daily countdown, a simple ticking off of hours and minutes until the next big thing. I'm talking about the kind of waiting that takes as long as it takes and looks a lot like living life on purpose, for a purpose, with an eye to the real Next Big Thing.

Good news, though. It's not too late for me to prepare this wayward heart for Christmas morning, and all the mornings after it. It starts now, with a clearing of space in my head for what matters, and a decided shoving aside of all the stuff that doesn't. I imagine my diligence will falter; I am, after all, easily distracted by the loud alarm of life and its demands. And again I will find my way back to a quiet, waiting space.