Elizabeth is designer, blogger, mum and all around amazing maker whose life long love of art and making has led her on quite the journey.
...this is what it means to be a maker - enjoying the process of learning and of creating with your hands. The end result is just the cherry on top.
It seems like there are so many reasons why I'm a maker, so how to condense them into one post? But after looking back over how I became a maker and thinking about why I'm still doing it, I realised why I make is actually quite simple. Here is my story of how I started and why I will always be a maker.
I have always been a creative person. As a young girl, I loved to draw and then as a teen dreamed of becoming a fashion designer. My sketches of dream outfits from that time are still tucked away in my studio. When I was in high school, I got serious about taking art classes, drawing, painting, and preparing my portfolio for art school. I ended up going to school for graphic design and loved my college courses.
But graphic design in college is not the same as graphic design in the corporate world, and I have to be honest and admit that after graduation, I was not happy as a working graphic designer. I felt chained to my computer all the time, and so many days it felt like there was no creativity or making in my day at all. I would come home from work feeling drained, read fashion magazines, or just go shopping. This was not fulfilling at all, but it certainly filled the house with stuff and drained my bank account!
After I became a stay-at-home mum, we moved to Los Angeles when my son was 9 months and my daughter was two, and as you can imagine, it was a hard adjustment. A year later, I was still feeling lonely in the large city, and then my father died very suddenly. I found myself in the lowest, most painful time in my life to date. I felt trapped at home with all the challenges that come with mothering two toddlers, a continent away from all our family and closest friends, and of course, the shock and grief of losing a parent.
When someone from church asked me if I'd like to come to her little fibre group and learn to crochet, I figured I had nothing to lose by trying, so I went. It sounds dramatic, but it was a life-changing night for me. I went home from that first meeting and stayed up until the wee hours practicing because I desperately wanted to make sure I wouldn't forget how to do it by the next day. It is hard to put into words how important it was that I didn't forget how to do it, because a whole week until our next meeting felt like such a long time!
I consider learning to crochet to be when I truly became a maker. It was the first night since my dad had died that I was able to get my mind engaged and enthusiastic with something. Crocheting made me excited, and it didn't even matter what I was working on. I was as excited and energized to work on that first hole-y, uneven little dishcloth then, as I am to work on a beautiful, complicated shawl or sweater now. I would sit and crochet anytime I was feeling sad or when I couldn't sleep, and sure enough, after working on a project, I'd feel worlds better.
Crocheting opened up a whole world to me, and it wasn’t long before I taught myself to knit too! To me, this is what it means to be a maker - enjoying the process of learning and of creating with your hands. The end result is just the cherry on top.
I'm a maker because I love to explore and learn, then translate what I've learned into a beautiful piece made by hand. People love to ask designers where their inspiration comes from, and I know I'm only one of many when I say, "everywhere!" That may sound vague, but it is a true statement, because there is always something new to learn or explore. The endless possibilities are what keep it exciting and fulfilling.
There are so many studies about the great mental benefits of knitting and crocheting, but I think those things are the side effects of what is really going on, which is experiencing the joy of learning and creating. Whether it's focusing on a new stitch pattern or technique, or listening to an audiobook or podcast while I'm meditatively stitching a simple pattern, I love that feeling of having my mind engaged. It energizes me just thinking about what new project to start or what country's textile tradition I can explore next. It's exciting to buy a different fibre or even just use a colour combination I've never tried before.
My process often starts with something that catches my eye, such as the morning glories that grew in our garden in Burbank. I took a photo, then I started sketching them. I got curious about them and learned that they are often considered to be weeds, and usually are a blue/lavender colour. But I had already envisioned a long cardigan with the bright pink and yellow like my original photo, and my design evolved from there. It is still one of my favorite designs and is a perfect example of how the simplest things can be beautiful and inspiring.
My first published crochet design was in conjunction with one of my first published knit designs. I had been asked by the yarn shop where I worked to design one knit and one crochet pattern for the first LA Yarn Crawl, to be given away as free patterns during the crawl. They wanted both designs to be similar, using a similar amount of yardage from what we had stocked in the shop to cater equally to both crafts. It was a lot of fun translating knit and crochet into cowls the same size, and I still have a copy of the postcards we handed out hanging in my studio.
Crocheting made me excited, and it didn't even matter what I was working on. I was as excited and energized to work on that first hole-y, uneven little dishcloth then, as I am to work on a beautiful, complicated shawl or sweater now.
I have also realised that being a maker leaves me fulfilled and satisfied, and being a consumer, whether of things or entertainment or both, does not. I no longer have the craving to constantly shop and buy new things all the time because I am satisfied with the process of making (except for yarn and books - but you saw that coming!) Advertising doesn't lure me the way it used to either because as a maker, I've learned to appreciate true value. I am also much less inclined to waste time getting sucked into Netflix or social media (and then being angry at myself after) unless I am working on a project. If I spend an evening watching Netflix while knitting or crocheting, my mind has still been engaged with my hands, and it still feels fulfilling. So no judgment here on a good Netflix binge, but please let me have a project in my lap at all times!
You can always enjoy being a maker, even if you get tired of a certain craft or medium for a time. I've discovered that if I'm feeling bored or out of the mood with my craft, it is usually because I'm no longer learning, and once I fix that problem, the excitement returns. Since that first night I learned to crochet (and to knit shortly thereafter), there have been very few days I don't spend at least a few minutes working on a project.
I still want to learn to needlepoint, to quilt, to spin, to weave...let's be honest, that list will probably just keep getting longer! But whatever my craft of the moment is, I will always be making because it fulfills and excites me. I am a lifelong learner, and therefore a lifelong maker.
All of us have our own stories about how we became makers, thanks for reading mine! If you want to keep up with what catches my eye, as well as my latest works in progress, check me out on Ravelry and Instagram.