February 26, 2013

Obsessions, addictions and compulsions, oh my!


Like lots of folks, I have hobbies, passions, and a few not so secret obsessions. I've always liked working with my hands, so crafting and creating things has been a big part of my life. My Grandmother, a huge influence in my life, taught me embroidery when I was very young (I also followed her around her garden and plants, helped with harvesting and preparing vegetables, and learned to make patchwork quilts with her guidance.). I learned to sew as a teenager. Macramé, crochet, spinning and weaving, and eventually sculptural bead work caught my attention and were added to my repertoire as the years went by. It was a progression, or maybe evolution, it seems, from one discipline's mastery to the next.

Or maybe I just could never make up my mind. I loved each and every one of these pastimes with fervor and continued to dabble in most even as I progressed to the next. These things I've mentioned are just the tip of the ever enlarging iceberg that's been my life. From homesteading, raising crops and livestock, herb gardening, canning and preserving, building barns and putting up fences, and so forth, to crafting, collecting, altering and repurposing; I've seldom been bored and never been without an outlet for creativity. The problem is usually that I have too many interests, and no hope of narrowing them down. My heart actually cringes at the thought of having to choose among my many creative loves. Yes, it makes me flighty and inclined to pursue too many projects, leaves my life confused and undirected. In my more optimistic moments, I like to think of myself as a Renaissance Woman. I'll never be pegged as narrow or dreary; my life will never be tedious or uninteresting. During my less optimistic interludes, I just think that I'm a mess. After more than fifty years of life, I should have decided what I want to do when I grow up.

This blog, for instance-- I've started it and now I have no idea where it might be going. After one post, I've been busy and distracted, unable to start developing what ideas I do have. At any rate, I hope that this endeavor also will progress, evolve into just what it is supposed to be. Life's like that sometimes. You get this itch, this overwhelming tug in a direction, and then you either give into it or end up agonizing about what you should have done. That inner voice which has always guided my life says go here, so here I go.

A peek at my basement workspace in previous house.
One of the many lovely things about having moved back to this house my parents built, is finally having enough room to have an actual studio space. Not that I didn't have a place in the last house that I truly lavished with love, but it was tiny and located in the basement. Lighting was always a problem, and larger projects required that I infringe upon living areas that were not meant for my purposes. So far, having all this space has not meant that I've embarked upon some frenzy of creative activity. Too much else to do, and though I love it, it's still not the way I want it. Other than some few sewing projects and Christmas gifts, I really haven't done much creating. What I have done is sort, and arrange, and rearrange. How did I ever fit all this Stuff in my previous tiny space? A completely rhetorical question, because there had to have been some sort of dimensional shift, some metaphysical rearrangement of matter involved.

My new studio. There's still room for a large work table. Still rearranging!

Crafters, by nature I think, are Collectors. And perhaps I'm worst than most. It is genetic. My father has the pack-rat gene, that magpie zeal for a great find, for something antique, something that might be useful, that might have some intrinsic worth or just strikes the fancy. He passed that trait, for good or ill, to me and at least one of my sisters, and I obligingly handed it down to two of my own daughters. I have to differentiate here between being a pack-rat and being a hoarder. There is a great difference. We don't acquire out of a need to fill our lives with things no matter what they might be, and we're not stocking up for the coming apocalypse, societal collapse or shortfall-- we simply love the odd, the antique, the beautiful, the potentially useful or re-useful object. We love the challenge of finding a deal, of discovering treasure often hidden beneath dirt or neglect, the thrill of finding new uses for someone else's cast-offs, or just the delightfully unexpected. And then there's Shiny.
Seed Beads
I love shiny, sparkly, colorful and whimsical things. For the last twenty years or more, the focus of this affection for such effulgent items has been the acquisition of beads (also buttons, charms, chains, gemstones and a myriad other findings that are both necessary and the delight of a jewelry maker). Conservatively speaking, I have a lot of beads. But alas, probably not enough beads. Even when I owned a bead shop, I can't say that I ever had enough beads. There's always another color or cut or size that would be perfect for the design you have in mind. It's just the way bead compulsion works.

Okay, so I've established that I have a great number of beads and other jewelry making paraphernalia. What else does the conscientious crafter and collector have on hand in her studio. Buttons-- jars of buttons and boxes of buttons, and buttons in a display case-- along with lace, ribbon, yarn, wire, leather cording and thread. Also fabric looms large in my studio. I can't believe how much fabric ends up on the shelves of thrift and second hand stores, probably bought by eager potential seamstresses and then discarded in pursuit of other dreams. I've found everything from small remnants to bolts with seven or eight yards on them, from cotton to canvas, from silks and velvets, to yards of lace, without ever walking into a fabric store. Then there are art papers, cardstock, paper punches, stamps, inks, paints, pens and other tools for embellishing ephemera. I had only dabbled in that area of crafting, but a dear friend (whom I met when she started taking classes at my bead shop) opened an art supply store. Of course, I had to reciprocate, to frequent her shop as she had mine, and whole new avenues of crafting awesomeness opened before me. You see the progression here.

Buttons and Lace, and a really cool metal box found at a yard sale.
Along with all of this really nifty stuff to make things with and for, there are of course books and magazines, filled with ideas and instructions. Another compulsion, or addiction, as it were. I have loved books for my entire life, and though I now have a Kindle Fire (How neat are they? It's like having a whole library you can carry around with you as easily as a single book.) and a tablet, I will never give up the printed tome. Reading the printed page is a sensual delight, the weight, the smell, and the texture can't help but contribute to the experience. And lovely, colorful magazines with their come hither covers and glossy pages are a vice I try hard not to surrender to, but never with full success. Like the vocations that fragment the rest of my life, there is no single, or even half dozen, sort of magazine I love. Food, fashion, craft, gardening, art and even technical periodicals all beckon to me. It is difficult to resist their siren call at the checkout or the newsstand, and I won't even try to explain the inner turmoil I experience when an offer of lower prices and longer subscriptions arrives in the mail. It would not be an entirely bad thing if I was better at letting them go once they've been perused and digested. But I'm not. I might want to make something I've seen a pattern for, to try a new recipe, to do another tutorial, or just be inspired by the beautiful images stored on some of those pages again.


Before we moved last fall, I was very strong. I let my subscriptions to all but a couple of magazines go un-renewed, I resisted the urge to pick up just one more issue of a favorite at the checkout, and I sorted through my cache, eliminating at least fifty or sixty pounds of printed matter by donating it to one of my favorite thrift stores. There are limits, though. I have several years of Bead and Button (going back to issue #6), plus issues of Beadwork, Beadstyle, Creative Beading, Handcrafted Jewelry and Bead Unique. Also I have quite a collection of the beautiful magazines put out by Stampington & Company; Belle Armoire, Jewelry Affaire, GreenCraft, Somerset Digital Studio and Where Women Create to name a few. Then there are stray issues of magazines on polymer clay, digital design, garden art, etc., etc. I probably won't ever voluntarily part with them. That's just my studio. The kitchen shelf has a stack of back issues of Martha Stewart, Whole Living and Food Network Magazine. As I said, I have been strong though. I have only subscribed to one new magazine since we relocated (great, great deal).

 However, last year sometime in late Summer, my daughter sent me a link in an email. She was getting married, planning her wedding, and had found the cake she wanted on a website called Pinterest. Oh, I'd heard of it, but never looked at it to see what all the fuss was about. Though I love my computer, am entranced with all things Adobe, have spent extensive time on the internet at work, and can Google with the best of them in general, I'm not a "social media" person. I didn't do Myspace, I don't have a Facebook page or even Google Plus, and really just haven't been interested. But I clicked on that link, and Wow, pretty interesting stuff. For awhile, I just looked. Lovely pictures, variety, links back to intriguing web sites, and a seamlessly easy interface. Hesitantly, I clicked the Join Pinterest button. Well, twenty two boards and nearly two thousand pins later (and that's with having little or no internet access for nearly six weeks when we moved), I'd have to say I like it.

Is Pinterest a new obsession? Yes! Whereas a big part of me feels that I didn't need another one, it has kept me from indulging in more magazines that I really don't need at present. It has also enlivened me, educated, entertained and at times, amazed me. It's fun-- it's relaxing at the end of the day when I don't have any energy left to do. Do I think I spend too much time on Pinterest? Yes! But when all is said and done, I recommend this very fun web site to everyone I know. Not only does it give you a chance to dream, laugh, learn or just indulge in whimsy, but it gives artists, designers, and anyone else who needs it, valuable insights into trends and interests that they might otherwise have to spend a great deal more time gathering.

Since a number of my friends and family are now Pinning also, I've observed that Pinterest is also another way of getting to know people. What we choose to Pin says a lot about us-- our interests, our dreams, what we like and even our moods. So yes, I've got a new addiction, but I think it's one that I can indulge for now. Maybe I should work on some of the others-- or maybe not. I think I'll just keep waiting to find out what I want to be when I grow up.

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