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.


  1. So lovely. I would have cried, too. And yes, that vote of confidence is far more valuable than even all the advice and the concrete tools. That's exactly how I felt when my dad bought me a hardcover copy of Annie Dillard's The Writing Life one Christmas more than 15 years ago. It wasn't that the book held the key to being a writer--it's that he envisioned me actually making it happen.

    I love that you have this deep connection to your mother-in-law, and that you're able to keep alive such a big part of who she was.

  2. KT, thank you for responding. I love that we have people in our lives who believe in us and show that support in tangible ways. His gift meant more than a spoken word. I wonder what it means that our gifts were both given by fathers, rather than mothers? If that is how dads express their support? Keep writing, friend.