On Growing Up Crafty:
I was born into a family of makers. I grew up watching those in my family make the things they wanted, whether it was meal, or a dress, a house, or a business. “I could make that,” is a sentence I heard a lot growing up. Why buy something almost like what you want, when you can make it exactly like what you want if you do it yourself? I used to laugh at my mom because anytime I wanted to buy something, she would say, “I’m not buying that, I could make it better.” All three of my siblings grew up to be creatives – one sister is a musician, my brother makes video games, and my other sister uses creativity to help young children learn. To my younger self’s horror, I have been caught uttering those words myself as an adult. The more I realize how much I know how to do because of the people who raised me, the more grateful I am for them.
Even more than the skills that I learned though, I appreciate the attitude I have inherited about making and learning. Not only do my people like to make, but they love to learn. That lifelong interest and curiosity to learn new things has given me a life of creating – in my home, in my career as a stylist, and in the classroom.
When my mom and I found Pinterest, we thought we had died and gone to heaven. It’s a creative’s dream. But it’s also an insane depiction of what life could be like if we had endless time and resources. One myth of crafting that Pinterest (and a lot of bloggers) promotes is the idea that crafting and “doing-it-yourself” is money-saving. It can be. Go ahead and make your own laundry detergent and only spend like 3 cents a load. Own it. I support you. But please don’t be fooled into thinking every thing you make is cheaper than what you can buy. If you are making a homemade Halloween costume from stuff you already had in your house, then yes, you saved money on your Halloween costume and I think you’re pretty dope. If you are like my mom and you spend a month driving all over town looking for the exact historically/film accurate lace to go on a Rose DeWitt Bukater costume and spend hours making an exact replica dress, you are not saving money my friend. That doesn’t mean it’s not worth it, though. You still make your Titanic-obsessed daughter happy, and you get the pride of knowing you made something beautiful. Plus a lot of compliments.
Crafting is a hobby, and hobbies cost money. Let’s not delude ourselves, Pinterest. I don’t (usually) craft to save money. And if you don’t enjoy crafting, don’t waste your time. People so often forget that time is currency. Don’t spend yours on a Star Wars costume because you think it is necessary or money saving, because it’s probably not. Feel no shame in your Target-bought costume. I craft because I like making. I like creating something new and pretty or useful. I like looking at things in my home and saying, “I made that.”
In college I met my first true love – Martha Stewart (really second true love – I have been waiting on my marriage proposal from Leonardo DiCaprio since the 6th grade). I was probably the only one in my dorm getting Martha Stewart Living delivered. Anyone who knows me knows I love Martha – my dad finds it hilarious, and the Martha-related dad jokes have been endless since Martha went to the big house. But know what? Martha broke the law, she did her time, and then she came back and made her brand more profitable than ever. Is she my moral compass? Not really. Is she a badass self-made business woman in a business world full of men? Yes ma’am. Let’s be clear, there would be no “lifestyle brands” without Martha. She paved the way for such an industry to even exist. BOW DOWN.
Martha and I have a lot of shared interests. I like cooking, and crafting and decorating, and sewing (sortof), homekeeping tricks, entertaining, and spending a lot of time making something that is probably cheaper to buy – but what I really admire about Martha is how she has shaped the modern concept of the home. In my opinion, the home should be a reflection of the people who live there, and should have a balance of comfort, practicality and beauty. Creating your living space is something that happens continuously over time, and making things for it help make it a unique place. Obviously, people have always decorated their homes, but Martha has taken the concept of “home-making” to the next level.
My mom is (not so) secretly slightly miffed by my Martha devotion. She would argue that she taught me how to cook, and to sew (sortof), and that she has always encouraged creative pursuits in our house. And all that is true. And I can tell you that I most certainly learned to love creating from my mom (and from my Grandma Chela, who taught LL a thing or two). My mom is the queen of finding alternate uses for everyday objects. She gives Martha a run for her money when it comes to clever solutions to household dilemmas. She’s the first person I call for advice when I don’t know what I’m doing. I’ve never seen her try something domestic or handy that she couldn’t do better than the person who taught her how to do it, and she’s not even scared to go to Home Depot without her dad! (Home Depot is the most amazing/terrifying place in the world.) She is also the person who taught me to take the time to do things correctly and carefully the first time (Chela’s favorite expression, “Lazy people work double,” burns me at least once a day). I owe my attention [addiction] to detail to her.
But there is one thing that my mom isn’t good at. She lacks confidence her abilities, and it keeps her from wanting to start projects because they seem like too much work, or for fear that it might not be perfect. She let’s herself get intimidated, even though once she starts, she manages to outdo herself every time.
That’s where Martha comes in. Like my mom, Martha can do pretty much anything. And Martha does it. Martha is 74 years old, and that’s a lot of know-how, my friends. Martha wasn’t always Martha Stewart TM though. Like me, she had to learn how to do things little by little, one recipe, pattern or project at a time. The willingness to learn and try that built a homemaking empire inspires me. It’s unlikely that I will build a billion-dollar lifestyle brand, but what Martha taught me is that I can learn how to do these things. know that if Martha can do it, I can do it, and I take pride in knowing that my home is a comfortable and beautiful place because I make it that way.
I am forever grateful to my mother and others in my life who created a culture of making that made me the way I am. When people tell me they wish they could do what I can do, I always wonder why they don’t just do it. Craftiness is not a gene, it’s the patience to learn something new and the desire to create something yourself. You get good at things through practice. Martha can do it, my mom can do it, I can do it, and so can you. I promise. I’ll even show you how.
You can make that.