Here she is (below), in her first finished wearable knitting project - a knitted-in-the-round beanie. It was school holiday pj-wearing-and-watching-tv-craft. She is dead proud of it and a bit amazed that it only took about three days to make. She's also wearing the dress she designed for me to make for her recent 10th birthday....and she's looking at books on Japanese animation at ACMI. Her interests are many and varied.
Last week, with great excitement, she published her first ebook "The Silver Star" through Amazon Kindle, and there's a limited edition print version (being on-the-spot printed and foisted upon anyone who looks vaguely interested). She's also working on a website and has animated a part of the story on Scratch. As always, I am enormously proud of my girl.
Lately, I've been thinking that this creative fearlessness is less about talent or drive and more about never having to think "I can't". It's simply following through the ideas that come to us... to the natural finish line, as we see it. A friend recently commented that my daughter is learning from my example of following through the creative process to publishing books, patterns and online classes (and this little blog), but I think it runs deeper than that.
I've been thinking a lot about parenting in recent weeks: the bigger, long-term picture. I have spoken about it before, but I can't stop thinking about my mother's genius, patience and encouragement in bringing up her own eight children.
Yes. Eight. (I know.)
I'm number 7, and certainly not a stand-out talent. We're a family of artists, sculptors, storytellers, designers, gardeners and general free-formers. As kids, we were encouraged to create and make and grow things. We were provided with materials and space and allowed to make the necessary mess to paint, draw, sew, knit, woodwork or electrical circuit* our ideas into reality. And - what I think is key here - in a time before the internet gave everyone a platform to show and tell to the world, Mum made us feel that our work was worth putting into public space.
*(for the science-obsessed brother...Creativity isn't always about art.)
My first published work, aged 6.
Our little house was far from winning any interior design award (especially after that unfortunate accident with the purple candle-making wax on the dining room carpet), but it was busting at the seams with our drawings, carvings, textile crafts, paintings, (... ahem... candles,) and all manner of other creative achievements, all proudly displayed. And the house was always full of people - neighbours, family friends and extended family - talking, drinking tea and telling stories. Our art and craft work was always pointed out, acknowledged and admired. We were all shy kids - and not encouraged to be shouty "show-offs" - but faith in our creative ability was constantly reinforced in everyday life.
Early sewing example by me, aged about 5 or 6.
When a little local community-run craft shop opened, my mother did all the membership duties for those of us who wanted to sell our handmade wares there (and starting at the age of 7, that's how I made my pocket money). When we wanted to sell at craft markets, she'd do all the purchasing of materials, paying of fees and management of transport. We'd look sweet, sell a few things, feck off to play somewhere (leaving her to mind the stall) and then keep all the takings at the end of the day. (That sounds a bit familiar, actually...).
...Or the fashion crimes involved, apparently.... I have an embarrassingly large collection of photos of clothes that I made, that from the age of 12, my mother let me wear in public .
My mum took us seriously. She showed us that if we had an idea, it was possible to see the creative process through as far as we wanted to take it, even if we were only children. She showed us that achievement takes effort and follows a process, nothing happens if you don't give it a go, and that you have nothing to lose by trying. In doing that, she also showed us how to foster creativity and individuality in our own children.
My girleen holds my hand as I work on the computer (with her in a sling) during the first few weeks of her life.
We have no way of knowing if Mum is aware of anything that any of us have done in the last 8 years or so, or if it would have any meaning to her now. Before that - in the first few years of this devastating illness - despite difficulties with language, she made sure that each of us knew she loved and was proud of the adult that we had become.
My Mum with my newborn girleen.
She had lost most of her language by then, but still had her gift for communicating with children.
We are all enormously proud of our mother and miss her every day.
And every single day, I am thankful for what she has given to me and to my super-creatively-confident kid.