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Sunday, February 3, 2008

Crafts and Hobbies

As you can see in my last post I am not like you other blogging addicts - I barely even break the 50% mark. But there should be a quiz to tell if you are addicted to Miriam's family history blogging/journaling prompts over at AnceStories2: Stories of Me for My Descendants. How addicted am I? Let's put it this way - Miriam now has her own tag/label on my blog called "AnceStories 2 - Journaling Prompts."

This week, she continues with a cold weather theme, and she asks us to write about some of the activities that used to keep us busy indoors on cold and snowy days in Week Thirty: Crafts and Hobbies.

What kinds of hobbies or crafts have you enjoyed over the years? Are they activities that you've created (visual art, needlework, metalwork, etc.) or items you've collected (model railroads, dolls, spoons, postage stamps, etc.)?

As a child I always had a creative bent - my mother knew not only could I create beautiful works of art but I was also creative when it came to mischief and mayhem. The problem, if you can call it that, was being a precocious kid with an overactive imagination. Like the time I thought that, while playing Army with my brother and other male cousins, that Mom's supply of Kotex would make neat bandages to be applied to our heads on other wounded parts. Well she didn't think it was so neat as we ran around the neighborhood and the phone calls from concerned mothers starting pouring in.

So I started out with stamp collecting which was fun, could entertain me on a cold winter day, and educational since I learned about many countries and the people, places and things depicted on the stamps. But the hobby could easily get expensive what with albums and purchasing stamps.

So I progressed to artistic expression including painting and drawing. It is something I still enjoy to this day but I just don't get enough time for. But I do keep a "creativity journal" where I can jot down ideas when the muse strikes and then hopefully I can revive that same "spark" at a later date.

How did you become interested in them? Were you taught them by a parent, grandparent, or other relative? Did you take a class, or teach yourself? Did you inherit a collection that you decided to build upon?

I didn't inherit any collection but I remember my great-grandparents saving stamps for me and encouraging me. I don't know where the painting or drawing came from to be honest. There was a minor Hudson River School artist named Jervis McEntee who may possibly be related to me since he also grew up in the same part of Ulster County, New York where my MacEntee relatives did. As for mischief and mayhem - there is actually a long line of tricksters in my family.

Do you have a hobby or craft room where you can work or display your collection or store your supplies? If not, what would your dream hobby or craft room look like?

I don't think I want to get to a point where I need a "craft room." It seems a bit decadent - like people who have a gift wrapping room. I kid you not - I know one of those people. To me, it not only means a hobby gone amok, but the need for just another room.

Currently, my obsession has been nature crafts. This past Christmas, as some of you may know, I created over 300 hand-made ornaments for my tree this year. I knew that in a small 2 bed/2 bath condo and only 3 closets (I kid you not) that I would need to think about the storage angle. Add to it the over 300 glass ball ornaments. And 1500 lights.



So, before the end of 2007 we did a total closet/possession purge and donated many items to our local AIDS agency thrift store which opened up some space. I have everything in those copier paper boxes but ideally I'd like to get some large plastic bins to place items in, especially to keep the creepy crawlies out!

What is it that your hobby or craft does for you? For instance, I know someone who took up crocheting to keep her hands busy while she was quitting smoking. Another relative knits items to donate to others as a way to give to the community. As for myself, I like the relaxing feeling of a hook and yarn between my fingers.

What it does most for me is it challenges my creativity. As a parent with early-onset Alzheimer's Disease that appears to be genetic in my family, I have this constant fear that if I don't challenge my brain in a variety of ways that I will fall victim as well.

So, I sketch out different ideas, create an "idea sheet," look for materials that are easy to purchase or gather out in the wild, and then usually make a prototype ornament. Not everything works but that's part of the fun and helps you determine what you feel "art" is.

Have you ever created your own patterns? Have you ever done a pattern enough that you've memorized it and create the object without reading the instructions? What one item have you made many times?

I had several female relatives who were quite reknowned with a needle and thread. They could walk past a shop window, look at a suit or dress, and then create a pattern from memory. I was always amazed especially since what they created were not your basic cotton dress with lace collar to use for going to church on Sunday. Their creations were fully lined wool suits, with unique, sometimes handmade buttons. Now I know where my obssession with detail comes from on my Christmas ornaments.

I've never worked much with a needle and thread (Mom did insist that I learn how to sew on a button and quickly fix a hem, even if it involved tape!) but I've always been fascinated with cross-stitch. I guess if I weren't so embarassed to be a male who was interested in needlecrafts I would just pick up cross-stitch - the intricacy and the math part interests me the most.

Have you ever shown or displayed your hobby or craft at a collector's show or fair? Have you ever marketed your hobby or crafts either in a physical store, crafters' fair or online?

This is part of my dilemma: I would love to start a line of nature-inspired holiday ornaments but the logistics and economics are just not right. We've become so "price pressured" in this country that many people shy away from buying something if it isn't made in India or China for the lowest price. And I don't have the desire to hire a staff, run a production line etc. Perhaps if I could design them for a company like Christopher Radko or Department 54 that would suit me just fine.

Where do you purchase your supplies or items for your collection?

The Internet, of course. It has become a running joke with my friends and family that I can find and will buy practically anything on the Web. My new obsession is buying my dry-goods groceries from Amazon. I usually shop at San Francisco Herb Company which I used to frequent in person when I lived in SF. And not just for craft supplies - their spices are phenomenal and cheap and good quality. A list of my suppliers is on my other blog A Catskill Christmas.

Name your one--or several--favorite things you've created or collected? Why are they a favorite?

Probably my Cabinet Photo Ornaments. It is a way of combining my passion for family history with art. I'm hoping to branch out this year and come up with different ideas and ways to use these photos.



What hobbies or crafts do you remember your parents, grandparents, or other relatives doing? Or what have you learned, if you've researched your family history, about the types of hobbies and crafts your ancestors did?

My mother loved to crochet - that was where it was at in the late 1960s and early 1970s. She'd host a "party" once a month where a group of women, usually co-workers, would bring their projects and either crochet or knit away, all the while telling off-color jokes and laughing with the raspy, kittenish purr one could only get from smoking three packs of Lucky Strikes a day. My mother used to call them her "stitch and bitch" parties since most of the time these women complained about their husbands or not having a husband.

2 comments:

Apple said...

I know a few men who cross stitch. Pick up an easy kit and give it a try! I had a small craft room in our last house and I miss it. I could leave a project out and work when I had time. Living in a small house I'm less likely to start something if I can't finish it quickly and I can't keep the supplies on hand that I used to.

Lori Thornton said...

Thomas,
Do give cross stitch a try. There are quite a few men who cross stitch. In fact, our local needlework store owner taught her husband how to cross stitch and now he usually does at least one big project each year which he enters in the county fair. He usually wins a medal. He's an excellent stitcher! Pick up Monica Ferris' stitching mysteries if you need further inspiration. You'll find men stitching in those too.