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  • Writer's pictureSteph Holmes

The Significance of Handmade

Every Thanksgiving in years past, Nana would gift each of us a handmade ornament. Sadly she has since passed away, so it’s gotten me thinking about those traditions in a new light. I feel ashamed to tell you this, but it’s true… I took those ornaments for granted. You’d think being a maker would have helped me to realize that they were special, that she had spent time and care in making them for me and that I should stop for a moment and appreciate them on a deeper level. Don’t get me wrong -- I liked them, I smiled, gave her a big hug, said “thank you”, and hung them on my tree during the holidays every year, but I didn’t actually pause to consider how significant those ornaments were and still are to me.

Now as I hold this ornament, I can imagine her fingers working the needle back and forth to lay every single stitch in its place. She would have been sitting in one of the two rocking chairs in her house with the dog laying next to her on the floor like he always did. The design, the colors, the materials, every consideration was a decision she made with care. What a precious gift! This was the gift of her time and energy. Now I appreciate her work on a deeper level and that helps me to feel the energy that went into her gift. It’s an entirely different experience and level of love that I feel.

I took my first embroidery class online recently. I’m pretty unfamiliar with fiber arts in general, but I’m realizing now that so many women in my family have knitted, crocheted, sewn, or done needlework, and I thought this would be a great way to feel connected to them.

I took a Craftivism class because my dear friend Katie had given me a book titled How to Be a Craftivist: The Art of Gentle Protest. This is activism for introverts!! How perfect is that? Katie, our friend JJ, and I then took an online Craftivism class led by Shannon Downey of Badass Cross Stitch. She taught us the basics of embroidery and told us stories about badass women who used craft to change the world. Check out her events calendar to jump into her virtual classroom too. Many of her events are free, and it's always a good day to learn something new.

Also, look! Here's my first embroidery. Certainly clumsy and made on an old junky scrap of t-shirt, but I’m still happy to have done it. This took so much longer than I had at first assumed. My Nana’s family tree has a lot of branches, so I’m curious just how early in the year she started on her embroidered ornaments to make one for each of us! I wouldn’t be surprised if she worked on them throughout the whole calendar year to get ready for her Thanksgiving tradition.

So, yes I’m still a fibers noob (and a clumsy one at that), so you won’t be seeing any embroidered ornaments from me anytime soon. What I have been making though is a batch of painted ones! One of the things you’ll find in my online art shop starting September 25 is a section dedicated to hand-painted ornaments on wood slices. I’ve been painting these on and off for the last several years, so some of you may have picked up an ornament from me in years past, but this is the first time I’ve sat down and really focused on creating a batch with my Nana in mind.

I've been painting woodland animals.

As I paint each owl or fox or deer, I imagine my energy and well wishes pouring down my arms, through my fingers, and into the paint as I lay it on the surface of the ornament. I want each one to be special and bring real cheer to the receiver. I'm curious if they will be able to feel it when they hold their ornament this coming holiday season.

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