Last week, I packed my bag, and went with my dog to spend a few days with my grandparents in Fall River, Nova Scotia. My grandmother had just returned home from the hospital after having underwent brain surgery, so I decided to spend some time with her during the early days of her recovery.
My grandmother is from Newfoundland; she married, and raised a family there. After her three children (one of whom is my mother) ended up settling in Nova Scotia, her and my grandfather eventually decided to relocate to NS so they could be closer to their children and grandchildren.
As a child, my family would travel to Newfoundland usually once per year to visit my grandparents. It was always so special to spend time with them. My grandmother is particularly creative; she always has many projects on the go. Still to this day, she commonly works on embroideries, sewing clothes and home textiles, and knitting intricately patterned sweaters. Her hands have always been busy making things.
I remember being enchanted with her box of embroidery threads and collection of various yarns in a rainbow of colors just waiting to be transformed into beautiful, carefully crafted pieces. Over the years, my grandmother passed along many of her skills and creative knowledge. I have distinct memories of the first time she let me use a sewing machine, and the first time she guided my hands to properly hold a pair of knitting needles.
When I was staying with my grandparents last week, I realized it was the longest time I had spent with them since they had moved to NS over a decade ago. I reflected a lot on all the time my grandmother and I had spent crafting together when I was younger. She had introduced me to a number of different mediums, and in the process, had taught me so much about both creative discipline and play.
With each new skill I learned, I also learned patience and perseverance. I learned about trial and error, about starting over, and about creating fearlessly. I learned about not expecting to become an expert overnight (or ever) without practise, dedication, and hard work.
With each new skill I learned, I learned about gratitude. I was always so grateful to learn a new skill and creative outlet through which to express myself. When my visits with my grandmother were over, I would return home, and I would take what I had learned, and I would play and experiment without inhibition.
Years later, after obtaining a BFA, and a thorough understanding of my chosen craft, jewellery design, I often reminisce about the carefree attitude with which my child self would approach new creative projects. I have been a perfectionist right from the beginning, but this never held me back as a young, aspiring artist. I try to remind myself periodically to take a step back from my work in attempt to recover the confidence and curiosity of the child artist -the one that is not afraid to make so-called “bad work”, or to “fail”.
On days when I feel stuck with my jewellery work, I set it aside. I don’t give up or pack it in, I just engage with some sort of creative diversion that helps me to get back on track. Picking up a paintbrush, creating models with paper, and drawing are admittedly not my strongest creative outlets, but ones I enjoy very much, so I turn to them when my jewellery work feels stagnant. I don’t get hung up about creating the perfect doodle, because drawing is not really my thing, but knowing that somehow makes it easier to engage with freely.
When I just let it all go -when I let go of the fear and self-criticism that is often the source of my creative roadblocks- I begin to feel the sense of creative freedom that was so familiar to me in childhood. After a while, I return to my jewellery bench, and that eager willingness to open up and dive into my work also returns. I think of crafting alongside my grandmother, with gratitude for both my learned skills and the persistence to keep creating.