Thursday, November 09, 2006

Creative lineage

"We all grow up with the weight of history on us. Our ancestors dwell in the attics of our brains as they do in the spiraling chains of knowledge hidden in every cell of our bodies." (Shirley Abbott, author of The Bookmaker's Daughter)

As someone who is about to adopt a child who is not biologically related to me, I've been doing a lot of thinking about nature vs. nurture and heredity. Also, last weekend my sister and I (and her three kids) traveled to northern Wisconsin for my Grandma Doris' 95th birthday. One thing that runs in that side of the family (and also in my mother's side, now that you mention it) is longevity. Another trait that seems to be in the genes is craftiness and creativity. Apparently, it's mostly an X chromosome type of thing.

This photo from the party is of me with my cousin Stacey, who isn't a big crafter but is a wonderful cook and super creative decorator, especially with vintage things, many of which she got from our grandmother. I'm wearing a vintage dress of my grandmother's, I think from the 60s. She made it herself, with fabric she bought and watched be hand-printed in Key West, Florida.

My Grandma Doris (blowing out the candles on her cake presented by my dad) was a home economics teacher who made everything from her own granola to winter coats for her children from my grandpa's old suits. She also is a notorious packrat, which I also inherited from her! Many of the cool vintage things I have (coats, dresses, hats) belonged to her first. I remember visiting her home in Durand, Wisconsin as a kid and going through all her goodies in her sewing room or her basement. I have this vivid memory of her making these red and white striped stuffed horses to sell to raise money for an Indian reservation. She is the creative matiarch of our family.

Her daughter, my Auntie Sue, is the next generation. She is also super crafty, a big stamper, sewer, decorator, and now knitter. Her beautiful old house in Rice Lake, Wisconsin if full of cool things, many of them vintage. People tell me I look a lot like my grandmother and my Auntie Sue, and I think I inhereted more than looks from them.

Not to be outdone by my dad's side of the family tree, my mother also is a craft woman extraordinaire. She sewed most of my clothes growing up, is the architect of the Schlumpf Women Cookie Baking Weekend (coming up!), and has her own knitting blog. I love that we share simliar hobbies and can talk for hours about our creative endeavors. I believe her mother was creative as well (weren't all women of that generation?), although I didn't know her as well as my other grandma. I have some beautiful hand tatted Christmas ornaments that my Grandma Werrell made.

My mom's sister, my Aunt Pat, is an extraordinarily creative women who ran a ceramics studio out of her basement when I was little, complete with kiln and everything. We used to love to visit and paint ornaments, toothpick holders, and ceramic baked potatoes to hold sour cream. At 80something, she stioll sews, stamps, quilts, and now is starting to sell stuff on ebay!. She is a regular reader of this blog, and I hope she launches her own soon.

My sister thinks she's not crafty, but she is a very creative cook and has, at different points in her life, taken up somecreative projects. Come Christmas, I'll post a photo of one of her most ambitious endeavors. I think her children are her greatest creaive project so far!

But in the end, I'm not really sure if creativity is an inherited trait like blue eyes or blonde hair, both of which also run in this family! But I do know that if I hadn't been exposed to all the creativity of the women in my extended family, I might not have become the craftaholic that I am today! And that's what I hope to be able to offer my son and daughter: They won't have my genes (or Grandma Doris' or Aunt Pat's), but I do plan to teach them both how to knit, sew, cook, paint and to expose them to whatever particular creative outlet they seem interested in. I want to pass on this creative lineage that I have been so lucky to have "inherited," however that happened.


Anonymous said...

Heidi, thanks for sharing your family lineage with us. I think you said the key word, it may not be genes, but it's the exposure to all the craftiness, the bonding, the works your family created that surely inspired all the other women down the line.

I am sure your children will grow up to be great artists and crafters like yourself and your family tree because you will surely take the time to expose them to many different things.

My little guy likes to paint and comments on Momma painting. So anyway, I hope by seeing me do something, he will give it a try...maybe we will have a new Manly Species of crafters born from his


Paula said...

They are going to be SO lucky to have you for a mamma! All little ones like to get their hands into projects and create. They are so proud of their projects and with encourgement that continues on into their adulthood. What a great heritage your little ones are walking into.

Anonymous said...

Hi Heidi: That was nice of you to say--I guess I am a creative cook. But that's about it. I think I know what you are talking about and that was just a gift of love for you, not really a representation of any craft genes on my part. Hmmm, no craft gene, no blond hair, no blue eyes--what happened? Amy