I’m engaged during my shelter-in.
What I mean is, instead of spending my time as a couch potato, mindlessly consuming media (I’m not judging…I’m grateful I have hobbies), I remain engaged with my life. I did a book quest (a five day course to help me write a book, which was AMAZING), am doing freelance work, maintaining my running schedule, eating healthy, staying in touch with family and friends (even making new ones) and nurturing my creative practice. I even managed to find a job.
This doesn’t mean I’m spending every minute of my day in productive endeavors. I’ve been known to binge watch a show or two (while gorging on plantain chips – one of my favorite snacks). One of the shows I found to stream (I don’t own a T.V. so it’s Youtube for the win!) is a PBS series first aired in 2007 called Craft in America. I love this series. Of course I love anything related to the creative process. (Other shows I highly recommend are Next in Fashion, A Chef’s Table and Abstract, all on Netflix).
I’ve always revered handmade objects. My dream house is filled with them – handmade quilts for the beds, original art (I have wonderful artist friends), furniture made out of real wood by real hands, a table set with hand thrown pottery, rugs woven on simple looms and flowers in hand blown glass vases. Being a crafter/artist/designer, I know every object is infused with the spirit of the maker. It’s part of its beauty and worth.
I’ve had the luxury of time to think about such things these days but these thoughts aren’t new. I haven’t kept track of the number of gifts I’ve made – my best guestimate is a buttload. I often wonder if they are appreciated. I don’t think they all are, as if my time and effort are meaningless and unworthy compared to a store bought trinket. Oh well.
Before the quarantine went into effect I was already on a path to seek out and support artisans, crafters, artists, etc. I’m not interested in assembly line, cookie-cutter fashion or decor. I want my home to be a reflection of my taste, values and personality, filled with memories of my travels and stories about the people who made the objects. I’m not there yet but I’m enjoying the process. And it is a process creating a home, filling it with the things you love so if you’re stuck there indefinitely, you don’t mind.
For instance, when I was in Rome with my son (9 years ago?) we found a little craft mall by the Pantheon (close to our apartment and an amazing gelato shop). It was filled with artisans and one in particular caught my eye. Her name is Mary Josemarie Plasdo. She took coins, carved out the design on them and created jewelry. I bought one and with that necklace the memories of that trip come flooding back.
While in Paris for Christmas in 2018, (again with my son), we went to one of the flea markets. I found jewelry designer, Simone d’Avray ((how French!) and bought a beautiful pair of Mother of Pearl earrings she made. She was a lovely woman and I enjoyed talking to her about her designs. I think of her every time I wear them.
Not everything comes from my travels. I have a dresser I bought from Goodwill, probably 15 years ago. It was one of the few pieces of furniture I kept when I moved to Austin. When I bought it ($40!!!!) it was a hideous green color. But it was well made. The drawers were dovetailed together instead of stapled (like cheap, mass produced furniture these days). It was made from real wood, not pressboard, so it had some weight to it. I took it home, stripped the green paint, sanded it down, stained it and bought new drawer pulls. It’s beautiful. And the time and effort I put into restoring it to its true glory makes it a part of me.
I think it all boils down to connection – the connection of the materials to the creator, the connection of the story to the finished piece, the connection of the maker to the person who buys the piece. In the end, that’s what life is all about – connection and community.
Maybe that’s the lesson of this pandemic. We’ve become detached from ourselves and our community. We try to fill the void with shopping, food or alcohol, finding ourselves caught in an endless cycle of that instant gratification high only to sink into feelings of guilt, remorse and shame. And we do it all over again to make ourselves feel (briefly) better.
Creating brings connection and purpose back into our lives. One of the reasons I’m not standing in front of the fridge every 15 minutes out of sheer boredom is because I create. My focus happens to be artsy fartsy but there are a million different ways to create. For instance, if you’re a sports fanatic, what if you created a new sport? Diving deeper into our interests (vs.skating on the surface) is where that engagement comes from.
We’ve become disconnected and out of balance. I think the way to correct it is by being creators instead of consumers.
What do you want to create?