I’m an artistic wannabe with no talent to back up those aspirations. But my desire to come up with frugal and meaningful presents pushes me to attempt crafts rather than stare dreamy-eyed at all the luscious offerings I can’t afford, the ones made by people with real skill.
Over the years my four kids and I have made hundreds of gifts: mosaic tiles, felted ornaments, hand-dipped candles in carved holders, glass magnets, painted pillowcases, you name it we’ve probably done it. In most cases these projects came out reasonably well. Any flaws could easily be ascribed to the youthful nature of the participants. But now my kids are old enough to make or buy their own gifts, no need for mom’s help.
Yesterday one of my sons heated and hammered iron into an odal rune amulet, similar to the ones worn by his Scandinavian ancestors to ward off jötnar, those unhelpful yet powerful beings known as trolls. I want to wear one, or at least hang it near my computer where pesky trolls still lurk.
Another of my sons is doing woodworking projects. One is a simple board with a beverage opener mounted on it. But he’s hollowed out the back, where he’s installed a powerful magnet. When a soda or beer cap is popped off, it’ll cling like magic to the board just below the opener. Another of his projects is a five foot long custom rack for halters and ropes to be used in our barn. The wood on each is sanded and oiled to smooth perfection.
And my daughter has been making darling felt owl ornaments, inspired by her volunteer work at a wildlife rehabilitation center specializing in raptors. These plump, stuffed little creatures are a hoot.
My decorating, baking, and cards got done quite early. I had only a few projects lined up this year.
1. Homemade cocoa mix kits with chocolate spoons and cocoa nib marshmallows. These are going into cookie baskets I give to neighbors and elderly aunt types.
2. A few felt ornaments (okay, I got the idea from my daughter), which I’ll use to adorn packages.
3. And my main project, cement stepping stones embedded with my friends’ favorite quotes. It was fun detective work finding out those quotes (including Virginia Woolf, J.R. R. Tolkien, and Buddha) but not so fun doing the project in a crowded garage.
I know leaving enough time is essential if I want to create in a lighthearted way rather than with that teeth-gritting Get It Done Already attitude. But this year I got started too late.
Being short on time also leads to poorly done (okay: ridiculously bad) projects.
I hurriedly assembled my cocoa kits, meaning I couldn’t come up with more artful labels than old adhesive printer forms.
The felt ornaments, which I intended to look like quizzical chickens, were described by one of my helpful family members as strangled poultry. I may just hang them on our tree o’homemade ornaments rather than give them away.
And I shan’t speak of the cement stepping stones, still sloshy in their forms.
At least my kids have learned to make their own projects joyfully, creatively, and well ahead of time. Maybe my craft attempts aren’t the real outcome of my artistic longings. Maybe generating kids who are themselves artful is what I’ve been working on all along.