Tuesday, 5 March 2013

I Will Not Admit to Being a Damsel in Distress (but I will admit I am having an identity crisis)

A friend of my sisters had become a godfather and he asked me if I would make something special for his new goddaughter. I do have to say that I am a total sucker for a project like this, especially if I am fond of the person doing the asking. I want everyone to be able to have a piece of art to mark the new and important times in their lives. I can see the struggle for people when they would like to get something distinctive for someone they love but are often left with little choice except for the same old gift options that have been given time and time again. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think there is anything appalling about traditional gifts. But I can understand that when you are looking for something different or unique to celebrate a new role, a special birthday or a once off event (hopefully!) like a wedding, the market is flooded with items that can lack imagination.

For me, this has meant that I have found myself in the position of filling this niche in the market. I have created very unusual handmade gifts that I never would have imagined I would be making when I started work as an artist. I have discussed this before in regards to the coffee cosy, the lighthouse and sweat lodge tea cosies that I have shown on this blog. I think I must be missing a view into parts of my personality and I can miss things that other people see in me that I am not connected to.

Let me try to explain. I don’t drink alcohol and never really have because of an allergy that sends me to sleep within about fourteen minutes of me consuming it. When I am out socializing, I generally would drink tea or soft drinks, but due to this, I have developed a reputation as a bit of a “tea lady” I think.

I do a lot of my own baking and I bake for any family birthdays, anniversaries or special occasions that come up. This of course adds to the appearance of the “tea lady” thing, but now I’m the “baking tea lady”. Because of my ever expanding creativity I think I am also quite house proud; meaning my home has now become an extension of my creativity. I do lots of DIY projects around the house; painting chevrons on my bathroom walls, updating old lamp stands and wooden frames and appliquéing cushions to add colour and textures to our work rooms. Gary and I started growing our own vegetables last year and we have just planted our seed trays for this coming summer.

I am starting to sound like a 1950’s housewife and as a feminist from about the time my parents were able to read to me “Fairytales for Feminists”, I begin to feel like I strongly object to myself.

I somehow don’t see myself as a tea drinking baker who knits dolls and tea cosies, who embroiders cushions and is “growing her own”. But that is what I do so I’m obviously having an identity crisis. The point I am trying to make is, sometimes, I don’t know how I end up making the things that I do.

When I started making the knitted tea cosies it snowballed into the vast array of Snugs that are documented here, they are something that I have continuously gotten paid for and so that is a really good motivating factor for making more. I have bills to pay and the Snugs have paid them. When I started knitting more often I got better and better at it. I challenged myself with more complicated projects and continued to improve. So now I am a knitter and it just sort of happened organically. I don’t think I set out to be one. So I think it can be really odd for me to be identified as a knitter now because I always just think of myself as an artist.

This knitted doll was taken from the “Dream Toys” book by Claire Garland I have written about before.  I added lots of my own details to finish off this beautiful lady and hopefully make her into a treasured keepsake for many years to come. I try to bring my artistry to everything I undertake and for some reason I can’t always see it until years after I have completed the project.

When I look at her now I can see that her stitches are even and finished to a high standard. I have embroidered and stitched with confidence to ensure years of endurance. I have made her truly one of a kind to mirror the uniqueness of the little girl for whom she was created. I think when I see something so complete, so common-place and yet, so special, another knitted doll in a long tradition of knitted dolls; I think I get afraid that I will be pigeon- holed as a doll-maker or a knitter or an old-fashioned woman. I fear being trapped by labels and the limitations of a singular genre.

I feel I want to make everything. I want to try everything. I want to use all the materials. I want to be free to choose without someone else deciding what I am or what I should be. I think that is what true feminism or true artistry is about; the freedom to choose to be a “baking tea lady” or to knit to make art, not to just have to use paint to be legitimate. The “having” to be something or someone is often the thing that destroys the experience. I want to be all facets of my personality and share it all without fear of being called a cliché or without being put in a box, labelled and filed away.  

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