Archive for October, 2010
Several years ago I was perusing a local crafts fair when I happened upon an artist whose work really spoke to me:
Then again, I love critters of all sorts. So, as it happens, does Liz Russell, creator of the R. Honeypots ceramics that so drew me in.
From lemurs to nautili, from owls to ladybugs, anteaters to leafy sea dragons, her work ranges the animal kingdom. Whether you’re looking for a mug, bowl, pitcher, soap dish, teapot, or decorative tile, it’s there and it’s practical. Every piece is individually crafted with non-toxic glazes. They’re microwave, oven, and dishwasher safe, too.
It didn’t last long, but it made an indelible impression on my mind and my heart. For those of you who blinked and missed the five or six episodes back in 2005 on the Style Network, it was sort of half summer camp crafts lesson, half Wrestlemania, with a side of demonic Martha Stewart.
The premise was simple. Two ordinary crafters go head to head in two timed crafting challenges, and are judged by a panel of professional crafters and minor celebrities (one judge’s claim to fame was that she had appeared on The Apprentice). The crafter with the highest aggregate score was then declared the winner, won a selection of crafting supplies, and was forced to face The Craft Lady of Steel, Jocelyn Worrell. If by any remote chance the challenger beat the CLoS, he or she won a scrapbooking cruise. Yeah, it even happened once or twice.
We often think of crafts and the people who make them as gentle and refined. But then, we craft and we aren’t always that gentle or refined. The fact is that people who craft, whether for amusement or a living, run a wide gamut. It’s also a fact that people have always been interested in the macabre.
And this leads to the story of hanging bobbins.
Bobbins are the tools bobbin lacemakers use to hold their threads. In most places, they are simple. For instance, the bobbins in this detail of Caspar Nectscher’s 1664 painting, The Lacemaker, shows a style of bobbin that’s similar to modern Belgian and German bobbins.
Note that they are simple wooden spindles with a somewhat bulbous end and little if any decoration to them. Their job is to be utilitarian and that’s it.
But for some reason, in the Midlands area of England, bobbins got a lot more whimsical. They were often decoratively turned, and since they lack the bulb on the end, they feature a ring of beads called a ‘spangle’ at the bottom for extra weight and better tension. Painting, decorative metal bitts, and even writing were not uncommon, as you can see from this photograph of Midlands lace bobbins from the Cowper & Newton Museum.
Oh how I love a pretty string of beads! It has so many uses, and is decorative even before you decide whether to make it into a necklace, weave it into a pretty bookmark, embed it in a ceramic project, or sew it onto a piece of clothing.
The bad news is that getting those pretty beads can add up quickly. The good news is that Shipwreck Beads is having a sale now through Oct. 31 on a huge variety of gorgeous beads. Whether you’re looking for strands of seed beads, a single cloisonne or bone beauty, some gorgeous gems, or elegant glass, there’s something on sale 30% off the regular price.
And if you don’t know what to do with your wonderful purchase… well, they have plenty of instructional books and videos as well as every possible finding you’ll need to get underway.
Okay, I’m guessing some of you have already started on any crafts you plan to give as holiday gifts and party decorations. Thing is, I didn’t have this blog last month which would have been a better time to start talking about this.
All the same, it’s far from too late if you haven’t gotten started. If you’re looking for a few good, quick projects, take a look at a couple of these and get inspired!
Here’s a great idea if you want to make an advent calendar to help kids count down the days until Santa arrives. It’s even simple enough that a child could help make it.
Everyone can use a nice hat when it’s cold. Knitted ones are particularly welcome when the blustery winds blow… even here in California. Here are some thoughts for knitted hats for kids, women, and men. Not inspired by those particular projects? Don’t worry! There are plenty more where I found them.
And don’t forget that you can craft gifts from your kitchen as well. No, not just cookies and fruitcakes! Think about making small batches of your favorite jams and jellies. Or infuse some olive oil. It’s very simple:
Take one good-sized bottle of decent olive oil and several smaller bottles. Fill the smaller bottles with oil. Add a sprig or two of your favorite herb (rosemary is particularly pleasant, I find), a couple cloves of garlic, or a goodly strip of fresh lemon or orange peel to the smaller bottles. Stop up the small bottles well and leave in a cool, dark corner of your kitchen for at least a couple weeks. Pass them out to your friends and neighbors who enjoy cooking. They’ll love you forever.
A bit of imagination and a little time can turn into amazing gifts, if you harness your talents correctly.
It’s almost inevitable. The more obscure your craft, the more inevitable it becomes. At some point someone is going to utter those dreaded words: “Will you come demonstrate your craft for my craft fair/Renaissance Faire/colorful ethnic celebration/weekly knitting clatch/kid’s preschool?”
This happened relatively quickly for me. After all, bobbin lace (my chosen creative outlet) is pretty unusual.
The first demonstration I did… well, let’s just say my demo partner and I learned a heck of a lot for the next time.
We made every rookie mistake. We didn’t spell ourselves. We never got lunch. We only got something to drink when her husband (Or was it my father? I honestly can’t remember. It may have been an angel. Or possibly Godzilla.) brought us one soda each.
By the end of the day, we were both gibbering. I have a very clear memory of my demo partner sitting at her lace pillow muttering a conversation to herself. It went thusly:
There is a long and colorful history to the bearded lady as a circus sideshow attraction. She often looked much like this:
But what to do if you want a beard for your ladylike self and nature has denied you luxuriant chin whiskers? That’s when it’s time to contact Erin Dollar.
In her blog, Erin discusses beards that please her and her own adventures in making beards out of yarn or felt for women, men, children, and whoever would just like to put on an obviously unnatural beard once in a while, as who would not?
So what inspired Erin? A combination of things, such as gender roles, questions about what women are expected to make as crafters, Frida Kahlo, and Edward Gorey. I call all of these excellent inspirations. But Erin? If you read this, I have another inspiration for you: Remedios Varo, who painted this glorious ode to the (literally) handlebar moustache.
Some would say that man is more evolved than the ‘lower’ beasts because of higher thinking, others because of tools. Me? I say man is the crafting animal. Doubt me? Just think back to Sunday School.
Adam and Eve take a bite out of the fruit of the tree of knowledge, and what’s the first thing they do? They notice their naughty bits hanging out and craft up a fabulous line for fall out of fig leaves. They didn’t stop to invent fire or condos or faster, more efficient ways to kill Bambi for dinner. No, they invented the Project Runway alternative materials challenge. And Tim Gunn (Call me, Tim!) sayeth unto them: Make it work.
From there on, man has been crafting away for both practical and decorative purposes almost nonstop. We sew, we knit, we embroider, we crochet, we carve, we decoupage, and so on, and so on, and so on.
Whatever your favorite craft to do, or to collect, or just to gawk at, chances are you’ll find it discussed here. Instructions? Sometimes. Cool work being done by real people right now, sometimes for sale? You betcha! Dribs and drabs of crafting history? Absolutely. Sources of resources? Oh yeah. It’ll be here.
So come back by often. Sit a spell… and bring your craft with you.