I have always been a dilettante when it comes to arts and craft. I feel inspired by the work talented and creative people produce and I want to replicate what they have done even when I have no experience, talent or knowledge about how to do it. I’m not alone. A joke among some of my friends is that when visiting a gallery or exhibit we often say, “We could do that,” and then make big plans to get together and try our luck at…quilting, encaustic, making purses of recycled materials, and anything else we might have seen and admired. Fortunately, we’re usually too busy to carry out our plans.
I can still recall some of my least successful undertakings. Three of us attempted to make Polaroid transfer prints in a city park and attracted the attention of several policemen. My friend Marilyn sliced my finger with a picture-frame making tool while we were attempting to mat photos. I threw out various pansies and violets after they left dark stains in the books I was using to dry them. The baskets I wove found a nice home in the garbage bin, as did the placemats I wove, which shrank to handkerchiefs the first time I washed them.
Nonetheless, I’ve had more successes than failures in taking and manipulating photographs, making greeting cards, playing piano, and binding books. As an aside, Marilyn and I were drying some transfer prints in a different park when a bicyclist saw them and complimented us on our work. I recognized him as Seattle artist C.T. Chew and was thrilled to receive such praise. My friend Sylvia and I became near virtuosos at creating gyotaku — Japanese fish prints taken off the fish itself — and amusing the fishmonger at the public market as we examined each of his rockfish for the quality of their scales, not their edibility. We got so attached to our subjects that they all became Ralph the Rockfish. Now that I’m retired I have time to try my hand at whatever crafts I choose.
This past week saw a bonanza of projects completed; well, maybe not quite a bonanza, but two that I’m pleased with and none for the recycling bin. I sewed four placemats on Wednesday. I rummaged through my friend Donna’s fabric collection to find all but one of the designs below. Donna has enough to stock a small fabric store, perhaps one for backyard gardeners, since she has an endless supply of fruit and vegetable prints.
And speaking of gardens, I also made a colorful garden-themed book in a class at Impress. Marilyn reminded me today that we do some of our best work under supervision, as in the bookbinding and Polaroid transfer print classes we took. She’s right in that both my projects were completed with the help of someone who knew what they were doing. The fact is that Donna did most of the difficult cutting and some of the stitching on my placemats. And the instructor for the book class did the cutting and assembling of paper and accessories packets for each page, so all the students had to do was stamp and cut out images, emboss, and glue. I’ll take Marilyn’s observation a step further and say that I do best when others do most of the work.