Sunday, 26 June 2011
So are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin...
I could just say that I've always been creative and making cards is just an expression of that. This is my story of my creativity and how I come to be making cards today.
The best thing about school was that it had big sheets of paper and lots of pencils and crayons and paint with pots of white glue for those fun times when you could paint and create. One day our teacher, who seemed like an old lady but she probably wasn't, introduced us to the squares of brightly coloured cloth with little holes (aida). We each chose a coloured thread to start with and discovered we were going to learn how to cross stitch. Brilliant day that was... seriously. I knew about cross stitch. It was a skill my mother excelled in.
I loved the scarecrow and farmyard design embroidered on the large tablecloth in wonderfully detailed cross stitch. I admired it every year when the embroidered red cloth adorned our Christmas dinner table. I must remember to ask her if I can take some pics of it when I next visit. My mum made it as a young girl in St. Lucia where she grew up and won a prize when it was shown as part of an exhibition. I never saw her actually doing any cross stitch though. When I was growing up she was more likely to be doing another form of sewing.
At home, mum was a machinist and I was accustomed to seeing her hunched over the industrial sewing machine as we watched TV or played with the drone of her work in the background. Material would arrive in great piles already cut into pieces, ready to sew and be taken away as completed dresses, or skirts or whatever she was making that week. She also made some of our clothes from patterns she created herself adapting styles she made for adults into something suitable for her young girls. Like the pink hotpants and skirt set she made after we asked if we could have a pair of the hot fashion item at the time. Brilliant for going to the park or the seaside. We could wear the skirt and then when we felt like running around we could whip it off and run about in our hot pants. No one else but me and my sister had a set like that and we loved them, especially because our mum made them.
If she wasn't sewing my mum was knitting, usually in preparation for an expected birth. I was fascinated with the speed in which she could create a full set of booties, hat and matinee jacket. My mum taught me how to knit when I was about seven during the summer holidays in response to my complaining of boredom. It wasn't a long process as mum was, as you can see, a very busy working mum so it was a case of, 'I'm showing you this once and then you'll have to practice'. It wasn't actually like that as every now and again she would lift her eyes from her own work to admire my effort even when it was full of holes from dropped stitches. But I'm a quick learner and I spent the rest of the summer practising knitting. I soon stopped dropping stitches and even learnt to speed up.
School was also the place where I learned I could draw a bit and I love to draw.
These memories mark the start of recognising my joy in being creative. Thinking about my story and how I got to where I am now raises so much that I could do no better than to start at those earliest experiences. Clearly my mother is the person that gave me a start along with school arts and crafts.
I won't pretend that my childhood was all happy and golden or my teenage years were not difficult. Throughout my life the one thing that continues to bring me happiness and ensure I stay on a positive path, or get back on it when I slip in negativity, is creativity...
I used to knit clothes for my sisters Sindy doll.
I used to knit hats or tams as we called them.
I once learned to crochet (taught by Mum) but I lost patience with it and went back to knitting. (I rediscovered crochet again via a Twitter follower - yay!)
I loved Art most of all at secondary school and college. I especially loved doing new things so pottery and working with clay was a special pleasure, for example. I struggled to work in paint though, favouring pencil, charcoal and pastels more.
A couple of the drawings I did as a teenager are still hanging up in my house and my mum has the first head I sculpted in clay and I have the second.
I did machine sewing at school but I was rubbish and still am. I couldn't stand having to thread the machine. I prefer to thread a simple needle.
I knitted some of my childrens baby clothes. Working with patterns was something I started doing only once I started having children. I taught myself how to read them by getting books from the library. I guess I like to give myself challenges.
I used to make little dolls out of yellow felt with wool dreadlocks, and their clothes some of which I knitted or made out of old clothes. Hand sewn of course... gave some as gifts to friends children. Kept a few for ourselves too :)
I used to buy A1 sheets of paper from the stationers and three tins of powder paint in red, yellow and blue so my son and daughter could have painting fun at home. I mixed the colours in plastic plates making six colours out of the original three. We used pieces of an old sponge as brushes and on at least one occasion I cut some potatoes so they could do potato printing.
I took about three days to make an alphabet banner for my children's bedroom wall by drawing each letter with a relevant picture on an A4 sheet with colouring pencils and felt tips. It was 26 sheets long and held together with sellotape, and I was quite pleased with myself when it was up. Saved me a bundle that did ;)
Me and my then husband used to create and sell poster calendars with holidays according to the Rastafarian Holy Days based on the Ethiopian Calendar. Well I created them, he got them printed and sold them. It filled a gap that I picked upon when visitors admired my very first calendar made for myself. So the following year we had some printed and they were quite popular. I even saw some of my posters on the walls of scenes on that old TV programme 'No Problem!'
I had a collection of poems published in the 80s by Centerprise, a local publisher and once appeared performing my poems on the same bill as Benjamin Zephaniah who also attended my book launch.
I used to be a youth worker in a music workshop, teaching and playing bass guitar. My children and I performed singing one of the first songs I wrote putting music to one of my poems.
I spent many years being unemployed during which I took courses and studied and messed about on computers in community centres and when I got my own at home, enjoyed creating holiday projects with my children, attempting to write a novel, writing many poems and songs, some on my own and others with my musical partner at the time.
My earliest handmade cards were created on the PC and printed on paper which would be folded in four, using photos, clipart and so on.
I get really cross when pencils drop and hit the floor. I hate pencils that are impossible to sharpen because the lead keeps breaking and falling out.
For a while I entertained dreams of going to art college but my self esteem didn't allow me to keep those dreams for long. I was convinced by my careers interview that I wouldn't be good enough and it was too hard to get into. Besides the pressure to study for a realistic job was impressed on me being the oldest child.
Me and self-esteem still have battles but age makes me bolder and braver, age that has seen me go through some adversity such as seeing my oldest child become mentally ill and repeatedly subject to sectioning and treatment that is difficult to witness or understand. That was a big dent in our family...
Sorry I just had to blurt that out...
It is one of the hardest things to come to terms with for me and my family. You may hear me mention my son when I share the cards I make for his birthday. He was the first family member to get a handmade birhday card from me followed by his nephew.
I hope I've made a good decision but I just feel that this is something I didn't want to hide any more. It is a matter of more sadness than is healthy to dwell on. At the moment he is doing well... please excuse me if I say no more on this matter for now.
As I said I am of an age that covers more than a few decades. Once I was part of a married couple then I was a single parent. One day I had a good full-time job then I was redundant, then I was sick.
It was during that prolonged hospital stay that I rediscovered cross stitch. I wrote about how I got started on this phase of my creative life in an early blog post which you can read here.
After experiencing redundancy and serious illness, making cards became something I enjoyed doing while I was recovering. Card making became a form of therapy. I started making cards for family and friends just to thank them for seeing me through the tough times and of course for birthdays and so on. By the time I found another job I was already blogging and recording what felt like a significant point in my life. I started off copying designs from magazines but soon began to experiment with my own ideas. From the beginning it was important for me to record this even when no-one knew I was there. Little by little I began to find out that there were lots and lots of people making stuff, all kinds of stuff all over the world.
I began watching the Create and Craft channel - how could I not have known that was there? Time recovering allowed me to discover via the internet, that there was a world of handmade and I was a part of it, in my small way. I started to work at being more involved and developed the idea of DivineChoice Creations focussing on card making with the possiblities for doing other stuff like creating my own stamps. I didn't even know about digital stamps then.
There is a lot to learn as I develop my own ideas. My problem is I have so many different ideas that use different styles and I am always experimenting.
Sometimes ideas work and sometimes they don't.
The idea of selling my cards came from what I saw other crafters doing on Etsy and Folksy, Art Fire.
And my mum, my daughter, my sisters, brother and friends encourage me - they would be very disappointed if I did not give them one of my handmade cards for those annual and special occasions.
I love making cards and other things. I've got a knitting project that's due to come out of dormancy.
I love blogging and tweeting, although I have to have at least one day a week when I don't tweet at all.
Sometimes life gets hard and making a card is a way of forcing myself to face the light and do something positive. Sometimes it is being made for someone special in mind and other times it is just for the fun of making something I like and I think aomeone else would like. They might even be willing to buy it.
I work with any materials I find as well as buy. Birthday cake ribbons are always coming my way as are slightly crumpled sheets of wrapping paper or bouquet cellophane, anything that remotely looks like it could be used to make cards. There's a reason why I rarely make exact replicas. I make cards according to what's available.
I am not getting any younger and sometimes I wish I'd started doing this years and years ago as the reality of my health and circumstances means I've got more ideas than I have energy. I struggle to keep up with the social networking and all the things I need to learn and do just running an online store, blogging, taking photos and so on. Card making and all the activity it demands means something else... I do not worry about what I'm going to do to occupy myself if I ever get made redundant again ;)
The inspiration and motivation for this post comes from the stories so far written in the campaign by The Academy called, "What's My Story?"