Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Making Pretty

Collecting vintage ephemera, books, fabric, and lace has a problematic side. Finding space for it all and keeping it organized is a tremendous ordeal. When I go junking, possibility pieces attach themselves to me like steel shavings to a magnet. I keep the pile down by sharing the bounty and limiting how often I go foraging. The present messy disaster is a necessary part of the artistical inspiration later.

I have aprons, slips, hankies, hooked pieces, and quilts from the turn of the century. They were well used, washed often, and mended. Repeat. Linen and batiste fabrics become as fragile as onion skin ~ I am able to save only the lace.

Several plain white workaday aprons have tatted lace sewn laboriously not only around the hem, but also along the tie ends.


Even the plainest of the used hankies have a touch of delicate hand work in a corner. 


This silk pocket for storing delicacies has french knots arranged in a design on the inside.  



We go to artist retreats to find the serenity, space, and teachers who give us inspiration and license to create. I love these places and dream of going myself. I want to support them and encourage their vision, but it isn't the only way. It isn't only somewhere else that making pretty happens. It's right here with our own needles, box of crayons, or ball of yarn. Moments grabbed whenever it is now, in the muddle of every day, using what we have handy.

I want to be a brilliant entrepreneur, have the hottest Etsy space. I'm envious of the artists and bloggers featured in high quality creative living magazines like Somerset's, Kinfolk, and Uppercase. I want to print copious amounts of business cards and have people begging me for one. I long to hang a shingle which will make me real. When I get published, then I will be an author. It would be amazing for someone to not only want what I make, but pay to own it. 

The truth is I don't sign up for an Etsy account, nor do I take the risk of submitting an article. I haven't gone to the printer's with print ready graphics for a card. I haven't cut out that shingle. Why? Maybe because I'm terrified of both success and failure. Maybe I'm content, not wanting the bother? 

Motivated and rewarded extrinsically is one option, but in the cultural flurry outside, I don't want to miss the slow, warm glow growing inside of me. 

It could simply be putting a sweater on a candle, making a paper box for it to nestle in, then giving it away. 




These pieces of intricate work made by an unknown woman's hand, cause me to pause. I want her results. It feels like she was the lucky one, making pretty for pretty's sake alone. She used the resources at hand to satisfy her creative urges, bringing texture to her workaday life and pleasure to the ones who received these gifts. 

My favorite pieces are ones like this apron. Thankfully, it was tenderly mended instead of discarded. 



It seems like they made pretty for themselves ~ intrinsic motivation and reward. Often, the very tools they used are works of fine art in themselves, made with precious material like bone or exotic wood. It must have been a pleasure to use them. 


The lady who labored over these tiny stitches might have lived and died in obscurity, yet her artful life was the best kind, the everyday kind. The most useful kind. She did what she could with what she had to let beauty surround her, then drip on her family and friends. 







This is a tribute to my artistical girlfriends. You have hospitable homes, hearts, and art. You have quietly gifted those of us who walk through your door. You are the bravest of the brave girls who make pretty, finding great peace and satisfaction in doing so. You give me courage. You know who you are. Thank you.  

8 comments:

Maureen said...

You have some beautiful examples in your collections, Kathleen! Suffering from collector's bug, I know how difficult it can be to walk away from a treasure. Some of your wonders look like they belong in a museum.

Setting a beautiful table, making a delicious dinner, appreciating how to bring beauty to others by writing a post like this: there is art in that, too!

Kathleen Overby said...

Thanks Maureen. Everyday art is art. I love to encourage people to believe it.

Unknown said...

"She had to let beauty surround her, then drip on her family and friends." This is my favorite line of your beautiful post. Because this describes you, Kathleen. This is how you live and what you do. You inspire and bless others. Thank you for that gift.

Susan said...

And thank YOU, dear friend, for never ceasing to do art with your whole being.

Valerie Kamikubo said...

Oh, how I love this post, Kathleen! Your way with words seems so natural and always gets to the heart of the matter. I wish that I felt a bit more secure in the word department, but I always feel my most vulnerable and fear that I am most misunderstood when writing. I love that you understand the tactile need to create with one's hands and that you understand what a gift is represented in a person's laboring with what is on hand, or the seemingly common. So, thank you for the gift of this post and for sharing your thoughts and photos... all of it lovely.

Louise Gallagher said...

Kathleen, you are one of the most giving and generous and artistic people I know. Your entire being exudes creativity -- and just so you know... I always think after visiting here or receiving one of your tender notes in the mail (thank you my friend, you have no idea how timely and much needed your last note was) -- I always think, Oh how I wish I was like Kathleen. She is so amazing. She inspires me.

Just so you know.

Kathleen Overby said...

Valerie, I think you do have a way with words....because you nailed it with....seemingly common. What a paradox this thought is. Living it is even more so. Go girl.

I love you Louise. Be content with being you - you are beloved. I think all of us are amazing, not because we are amazing, but because Someone amazing loves us and sees us that way. Therefore we are.

Susan, you are the bravest brave girl....I wrote this for you. :)

S. Etole said...

So much of this brings memories of my grandmother and mother. A treasure for sure.