Last week turned out to be a week of gifts, and I’m happy to say I managed to do all of them without spending a cent. I once asked my girlfriend, what can I give that doesn’t cost any money nor take any time? She stared me down and suggested that the whole point of giving a gift is that you give something of yourself – whether it’s time or money. So maybe there are times when you have an abundance of something and it’s easy to give away the extras – that’s great. But the substantial gifts, the ones that make the receiver feel special and loved, are going to take some time, if they didn’t cost money. I’m trying to learn that, to take the time for the people in my life who I care about. The point of this post is really to suggest ideas for gifts that don’t involve buying, and all the consumer evils that go along with the spending of money.
Meet my niece, Ivy. I invited her over for a birthday sewing session. When she arrived, I asked her what she’d like to make. My suggestions included a doll, a cat, a rabbit, a bird… The bird inspired her so I drew a pattern on a piece of scrap paper. I then let her go through my stash of good fabrics, though I stipulated there were a few I wouldn’t be letting her use. I needn’t have worried – she immediately fingered a pink floral fabric that I am happy to part with. While I cut out the bird, she went through my button jar, carefully choosing which buttons to use for eyes. Her favourites were, surprise, the pink ones. When I showed her the pink button eye on the pink birdy, and suggested they might be a bit tricky to see, she got it immediately, and opted for purple instead. If she’d wanted pink, I swear I would have gone with it! She sat on my knee as I stitched it up on the machine, and chattered to her about securing the thread by going backwards and forwards (she pressed the button on the machine for me), and showed her how to use a pin cushion and so on. When at last birdy was finished, she was thrilled. The whole venture took two hours of my time and made me feel really good. It wasn’t only Ivy who ‘received’ from this project.
My nephew, Olly, is into gardening, so for his birthday I saved up a bunch of the more fun gardening jobs, and invited him over to work with me. We had a beautiful morning, I got plenty done, and I gave Olly a few of our pickings to take home. Like the bird, the morning with Olly made me feel good.
My neighbour, Lis, had her birthday this week, and I remembered that I’d done a picture in my journal that looked rather like her, and even included a painting of my favourite Tshirt that Lis wears. I really loved the Tshirt and had drawn it as a reminder that one day I should maybe make myself one like it. I also loved the colours in that journal page, so decided to work up a new version of it to give Lis for her birthday. It’s much quicker to do a painting based on something you already know works well, because most of the agony (for me) is in trying to get the colours, textures and composition to come together. I whipped up this pic for Lis in just a couple of hours, and included a space for her to declare her creative intentions for this year – a theme we’ve been chatting about lately. When I dropped in to give it to her, she was up to her ears in house cleaning, to prepare for guests coming that afternoon. I thought that sounded like a very un-special way to spend her birthday, made even less special by the fact that her hubby and kids managed to forget to make a fuss of her first thing in the morning, so I offered to help her whip the house into shape. It didn’t take long, but with a bit of help from the kids, within half an hour the house was looking great. It didn’t feel like a lot to give but Lis said she felt really fussed over.
Unfortunately I forgot to snap a pic of the other present I made, which was the biggest one of the week: a mixed media portrait for my cousin’s wedding. I used a bunch of photos I found on her facebook page to to work out faces, colours, bodies and styles for the drawings of her and her fiance. Since my cousin is pregnant, I cut her dress out of a pretty patterned paper, including a big bulge for her belly. But I didn’t glue down the belly part of the dress – it unfolds like a little door, and when it’s open, you can see the baby inside. I liked the concept, but I’m not sure how well I pulled it off. I ended up panicking because the whole thing just wasn’t coming together. Unlike the Lis portrait, which was based on a pre-existing page that I knew would work, I was flying blind with this, trying to come up with colours that I thought would appeal to my cousin and her partner, make them blend in a way that was appealing and yet somehow earthy and not too girly etc… I kept on going, glueing on rocks, found objects, and adding more and more texture with shellac, blots of paint etc. And eventually it was sort of alright. I wasn’t entirely happy with it, but I showed it to a few people who assured me it was gorgeous. Hmm. Anyway, I was out of time then, so wrapped it up and left it on the gifts table at the wedding. I’ve no idea what she and her now-hubby will make of it, but hopefully they’ll appreciate that while I was making it, I was putting a lot of love and good wishes into the formation of their little family.
My final gift of the week wasn’t photo-worthy at all. I simply invited a friend around to lunch and cooked for her. We had a gorgeous chat and got to enjoy each others’ company.
What about you? What gifts do you make? Got any consumer-free ideas for presents? Please do share here!