Back when I was 22, I undertook my biggest ever art project – the building of my home (which you can read about and see photos of here), complete with gothic arched stained glass windows, solar electricity, a composting toilet, water tank and more. I love functional art, and this would be the ultimate piece for me, something magical and beautiful for me to live in.
But after I moved in, I discovered a paradox. My house was so small that once I had made quilts for our bed, and pretty, functional things to use every day, it was full. If I was to make anything else, it wouldn’t fit. There was hardly any wall space available for art. So I stopped making stuff. I felt the loss of that creation sorely. And Paula, my girlfriend, observed that when I haven’t been creative for a while, I get cranky. She’s right. When I don’t make, after a while there’s a kind of grey cast over everything, and life feels a bit pointless.
Then I’ll take out a new project, some stitching or painting or drawing, and as I work, my mind wanders and drifts, and after a little while I realise I’m content, happy even, and when I have finished whatever I’m making, the ultimate satisfaction is with me. And that is a life truth of mine, that nothing gives me more pleasure than making things. Why this is so, I don’t quite know, but it is.
Every single thing that we make, instead of buy, comes with a lower environmental footprint than the commercial version, which was usually made in a factory, packaged in something that will be discarded (and the packaging too was made in a factory, shipped to another factory), and the item itself, shipped to our local shop. All those resources add up. Don’t forget the human cost too, especially of items made in developing countries where people are paid a pittance for their work. Just by making our own, we are helping in some small way to save the world. It’s not to be sniffed at. And later, you end up with a house full of handmade things that have meaning and value – it’s a good way to live.
I have accepted now, that making and creativity simply have to be a part of my life, whether I’m inspired or not. They are to be included, just like washing the dishes and brushing my teeth and taking a bath. I don’t think I’ve gone more than a week without some form of creativity for many, many years. And that’s a good thing for me. But sometimes I have struggled with a sense of purpose. What am I making FOR, other than to keep myself sane?
These days my answer is this: to bring something beautiful or thought-provoking into the lives of others. My Etsy shop, and the sales of my art, with the knowledge that what I’m painting or making will go into the home of someone who will treasure it as something special, that gives my art a sense of purpose.