Raised by a Maker: Those Who Gave Us the Gift of Crafting
At a family breakfast this weekend, Mama, my aunt, and my uncle talked about crepe paper flowers my grandmother made when they were little. My uncle remembered how she curled the petals with scissors. My aunt remembered how lifelike they were, especially the hydrangeas. Mama said when the flowers were finished, my grandmother dipped them in paraffin to help them keep their shape, and they were used on family graves for Decoration Day. They all talked about helping her cut out the petals, and I was moved by how fondly they remember these times with her as children. They were raised by a maker.
With 11 children and very limited means, my grandmother made quilts, clothes, and canned foods. But she also made these crepe paper flowers, both out of necessity and for the beauty of it. I’m sure she learned to make them from her mother or grandmother, who likely learned from their mothers or grandmothers, and this realization of being at least a fourth-generation crafter fills me with pride.
My Three Grandmothers and More
I was so fortunate to spend summers and after-school time with both of my grandmothers. They found many ways to keep me occupied and to spend time together. My floral legacy was also fed by my grandmothers; I learned the names of all the flowers playing in one’s garden and various ways to make them from the other. From sewing and quilting to making meatloaf, making ceramics, and breaking beans, from crochet and embroidery to baking cakes and biscuits, tending the gardens, and painting porch furniture–there were no idle hands in those blissful days!
I was literally raised by makers, too. Mama made stained glass art, is a masterful cook (everyone says so, not just me and Brother), and has made some beautiful quilts. Through carpentry and woodworking, my Dad can build and fix just about anything, and I learned all about tools helping him when I was little. I still have a marshmallow roaster he made for me on a picnic when we’d forgotten ours–made with a coat hanger and aluminum foil.
My “TV grandmother” and crafty godmother Carol Duvall taught me to knit on the set of The Carol Duvall Show when I was the crafts editor at HGTV. I also learned felting, paper crafts, and many other crafts with her while working on the show for five years. There’s also sweet Elizabeth, my grandmother’s cousin who makes charming hats from plastic grocery bags (yes!) and clay out of rose petals. There’s Lexi Erickson who taught me metalsmithing, Susan Lenart Kazmer who taught me how to mix all of my jewelry passions into one, Cynthia Thornton who taught me bead crochet, Anna Griffin who taught me the art of elegant scrapbooking, my middle school art teacher Mrs. Jordan. . . .
There are so many other wonderful teachers who’ve taught me numerous crafts and jewelry techniques. How grateful I am to all of these makers and the dozens of others I couldn’t possibly list here.
–Tammy Jones, Online Editor and Social Media Manager, Beading & Jewelry
Some of my coworkers were also raised by makers, and some of them are raising little makers of their own. . . .
Making Earrings with Aunt Sylvia
I remember adolescent boredom that predates the cell phone. These were difficult times. Options like reading a book or, I dunno, going outside, were wrung out easily. More often than not, learning something new in order to pass the time was simply necessary.
Enter my artsy Aunt Sylvia. During one summer in particular, I voiced my complaints to her about having nothing to do. Within the hour, she had set me up to make my first pair of earrings. I was completely aghast that I had the power to design my own jewelry. I kept asking her questions about which beads to use, and could not believe her answer: use the ones that you like. The idea that I was in charge, and that I could customize earrings to my own taste, kind of blew my mind.
I think as a military brat, I had accepted that much of how my life unfolded was largely out of my control. Personal choice didn’t have a lot to do with the way in which our family lived. She taught me enough about crafting jewelry for me to buy my own tools, many of which I still have stashed in a crafting toolbox today, along with other earring ingredients. These objects will long be symbolic of an adolescent me trying to understand personal choice, and the freedom that comes along with it.
–Jenn Rein, Online Content Manager, Interweave
The Gift of Creativity
I grew up on a steady diet of arts and crafts. My mom always encouraged my sister and me to be creative, whether that was playing with homemade play dough, sewing doll clothes, or making pop-up cards. Now, with my two boys of my own, it’s only natural for us to bond over messy papier mache, paints, clay, cardboard castles, flip books, or a dozen other things.
Whatever I try, they try — which means when I learned how to manipulate seed beads and do kumihimo, so did my kids. My younger son in particular fell in love with the systematic braiding motions of kumihimo. Soon he was exhausting my supply of rattail cord and taking my disk to school to teach his classmates. His work-in-progress often accompanies him wherever he goes — a fact that became obvious when I saw him up in a tree with his cousin, peacefully clicking his cords into place around the disk while balanced perfectly on a limb.
I’m a strong believer in the benefits of crafts for kids. Making promotes fine motor skills, creativity, and confidence. So the next time you find yourself wandering the toy aisle in search of a child’s birthday present, pick out some art supplies and feel good about it!
–Tamara Kula, Producer, Bead and Jewelry Group
Four Generations of Makers
Like so many in our circle that have parents and grandparents who were makers, I too was raised by a maker—many! And the making fills a wide range of materials and techniques. My maternal great-grandfather was a tailor and made beautiful suits in the late 1800s. My maternal grandmother not only sewed clothing and dresses for herself, she also made dresses for others, including my aunt’s wedding dress. I was fortunate to wear this same dress for my own wedding, with my grandmother present—I hope it made her as happy as it made me. I also recently learned that my grandmother made jewelry and accessories—go figure!
My mother is a maker and one who tries her hand at many, many things, and all with great success. From the jute wreaths and macramé plant hangers she made when I was in grade school, to the curtains she still makes for her home, to bead crochet bracelets and wire weaving—to her latest passion—weaving with fiber! My mother never ceases to amaze me with her talent and depth of enthusiasm for her latest endeavor (aka—she has a weaving room, a knitting room, a cabinet filled with beads, and on and on!).
My Dad was also a maker of many things. His material of choice was wood. Not only could he build a house, he made everything he could think of in wood—from sconces we have on our wall that hold candles, to photo albums, to holiday décor—he put his heart and soul into all he did.
My parents (and grandparents) not only shared their love of making with me through example, they shared what it means to follow through on a project (not that I don’t have a lot of UFOs around!), to take pride in having made something for ourselves, and to once in a while sell our handmade items so we can help others have beautiful things, too, not to mention, to cover our expenses so we can keep on making!
–Tammy Honaman, Editor, Beadwork
Raised by a Maker in a Crafty Household
I was raised in a crafty household. My parents owned Dee’s Delights, a dollhouse and miniatures distributorship. The company manufactured dollhouses and accessories as well as distributed everything you’d need to outfit your dream dollhouse. I spent my high school summers electrifying and wallpapering the inside and putting brick or stone on the outside of miniature houses–or hanging out in the darkroom developing miniature portraits and making gilded resin frames.
Luckily for me, Dee’s Delights was one of the first companies to sell Fimo polymer clay in the US. I got to learn alongside the artists who were being trained on all of the amazing things you can do with polymer clay. I have cranked the handle on a pasta machine more times than I can count! Thankfully, it was the 1980s and I could make as many huge earrings as I wanted to make, so I got a lot of practice.
I’m really fortunate to have grown up with parents who were crafting a business and a lifestyle based on crafts. I’m proud to be raised by a couple of makers!
–Katie Hacker, Interim Managing Editor, Beadwork
We’re all so grateful to the makers who raised us and instilled in us the knowledge and passion to fill our lives with creativity. Were you raised by a maker? We’d love to hear your stories. Please join all of us at Interweave on Instagram by tagging your posts with #raisedbyamaker and share in the comments below!