Friday, January 15, 2016

Fostering the creative spirit

People often ask me how I had the confidence to put my creative work in the public sphere. Even more often, I hear how amazed they are by my girl's confidence in her own creative ability.

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...).
Whenever there was an opportunity for an exhibition or art prize, we were encouraged to enter. Local newspaper clippings were saved when we won or were acknowledged in any way and our efforts were always praised, regardless of the outcome....

...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 .

Aged 16, in front of the garment mountain I had sewn.

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.


m.e (Cathie) said...

This is so beautiful Nikki, I feel quite teary reading this.
I especiallylove how you talk about your mother and I bet in many years little Miss will be saying the same things about you.
So much love to you x

elmy eporon said...

❤❤❤❤ I love you

elmy eporon said...

This is Erin L. By the way ❤ Ballyvaughan:-)

elmy eporon said...
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elmy eporon said...
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Vicki said...

What a lovely post. And I love your letter to your mum. So beautiful. How lucky for you to have a mother who encouraged you so. You can see it now being passed onto your daughter.

Anita said...

How beautiful. I love how my own daughter sews so creatively and also cooks in a similar way to me. My first grandchild is now 2 and a bit and we sit together at the sewing machine for brief moments and she absolutely loves it, so I'm looking forward to lots of pleasurable times in the years ahead. You can be very proud of your daughter and also yourself. Your Mum is very proud of you.

A Peppermint Penguin said...

You're an amazing lot!

clairemclaughlin said...

What a lovely testament to your wonderful mother. I hope I get to meet your girleen. The more nikki-like folk in the world the better. Lots of love from a frozen Ireland. Claire xx

Jodie said...

A wonderful post Nikki, but you had me at limited edition print version. Is there anychance I can purchase on of thes limited edition versions. i am happy to wait, throw money... Anything at all.

Dianne said...

Beautifully said Nikki! ( but a little embarrassed that your 10 y/o can knit in the round when I am totally baffled by the process!). But really not surprised at her increasing talent having seen her skills and imagination grow on your blog over the years!I am always making stuff,and fixing stuff; and people ask me to make stuff and fix stuff ( esp. work colleagues!) but I don't always stop to think how I know how to... when really, like you it comes from creative parents ( mum sewed and encouraged our creativity, we would find a pattern in a craft book or Women's weekly and ask her to make it!), as well as following Dad around the shed of course!- and grandparents ( both my Nanas knitted and sewed). My taller-than-me 15 year old son has chosen to do cooking and textiles at high school, so hopefully I have had some positive influence there! The world needs more kids doing hands on stuff - thinking, dreaming and making!!!

Rebecca said...

This is a beautiful post. Thank you so much for sharing it. Your family home sounds magical. I can only dream of creating that for my children as we battle against the creativity sapping screen time!

Md Mahmud said...
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Fer said...

This is so very beautiful and inspiring. Thank you for sharing. xx

Casey Carroll said...

How wonderful! What a creative girl you have! :)

Sisi M said...

Beautiful and moving picture !!!!