Guest series :: The stream of inspiration runs both ways

by Admin on 15/05/2012

in Guest series 2012, Kids Crafts

Guest series 2012: I asked fellow bloggers, makers and creators to write on their creativity and focus their essay on one of four topics: creativity and health, creativity and business, creativity and parenting or creativity and process. I am very excited to have a wonderful lot of fellow creative folk guest posting here at over the next couple of months. Please welcome…

Lorraine is a retired Physics teacher, married to a software engineer, and mother of three girls Emily (7), Jenna (5) and Kate(4). She blogs at ikatbag, where she shares sewing and cardboard projects. She lives in St Paul, Minnesota (USA).

Thank you, Kathreen, for letting me be a part of your wonderful blog for a day!

I am continually amazed at how much a parent’s world is centered around their children – naps, bedtimes, dietary limitations, entertainment and their unbelievable energy. My three girls have left me wiped out on the sofa on too many days to count, but they have also pulled me into physical, mental, emotional and artistic spaces that leave me breathless and inspired. They have the best ideas, an almost-ludicrous disregard for the word “impossible” and a delicious capacity for more learning, more exploring, more creating. More mess, too, but it is a fact that small people bulldozing their way through life’s adventures will often leave a trail behind them.

I grew up in Singapore. My own parents love the creative process – Dad taught primary school Art, English, Mathematics and Science, painted, did a lot of carpentry and sewed leather accessories for whichever sport held his interest at the time. Now retired, he continues his art in custom-made archery bow cases. Mum is a homemaker, seamstress and extraordinary cook. Grandma was a tailor and most of the other women in the family dabble in some kind of fabric art.

I grew up understanding that anything could be made with a roll of Scotch tape and cardboard. I made my own toys, devoured craft books and yearned for the craft resources unavailable to me then. I learned to improvise, adapt and veer off the beaten path. Along the way, I also discovered that I enjoyed doing things differently, trying methods other people wouldn’t and accomplishing projects everyone said were hard. Blessed to be in an environment of available resources and help, I learned to hand-stitch at about 9 and use the sewing machine at about 13. Mum taught me to draft and sew and I made clothes and bags all through my teen and young adult years. Both my parents were incredibly tolerant of mess and the disorganized madness that comes with creative inspiration. I suspect this was because they were themselves creative people, but me being occupied by creative pursuits also meant I was keeping out of their hair so they could do their own crafty stuff. It was a perfect arrangement.

Fast forward several decades and, adulthood inexplicably snuck up on me in the form of a career and marriage. I was a junior college Physics teacher and, later, an education and crisis counsellor. I loved my work but not how it left me little time to create. Then my girls were born and I retired to be a full-time mother. I was supposed to have all the time in the world at last but it would be a few years before I’d actually feel it. It seemed I could hardly wait for my babies to be old enough to create with me and now that they finally are, oh, we have so much fun! We work with cardboard, sometimes together and sometimes individually on secret projects.

I draft and sew clothes and costumes (see first image of Kate in a pink Halloween gown) and invent toys. I’ve made fabric playhouses, egg-laying chickens, lactating pigs, dolls with bandages and foam dirt in which to plant felt flowers. These all came from watching my girls at play. I could never have imagined them on my own.

I am grateful for the place I am now – staying home with and enjoying my kids. Some  days we are crafting maniacs. Some days we make nothing. Most days we are in between. And for those days when we aren’t inventing new crafts, we love the kits we can buy in stores, designed by other people, and with little colorful bits packed in ready-to-play boxes.

There is always so much to balance in a single day, just in the area of crafting and creating alone. Some questions that run through my mind as I am working with my kids include: How much do I create with them? How much do I let them create on their own? How much inspiration, ideas or suggestions do I plant in their little eager minds? When should I step in to protect, nudge forward, redirect? How much should we involve books? Blogs? The internet? How much should I teach? How much can they learn? And, most importantly, how do I inspire them so they keep learning, continue creating, and are excited about helping others do the same?

It runs both ways, this stream of inspiration that drives us to create and invent.

I am not always directing; I am also hungry for the learning to happen through other sources. I pore over the artwork my girls bring home from school – I love the techniques that are new to me, their teachers’ ideas, and watching the development of their different artistic styles – Emily is minimalist and 3D, Jenna is assiduous and colorful, Kate loves making sets of tiny masterpieces. I make them teach me how to paint with watercolours, make spinners out of paperclips, how to sprinkle coffee grounds on sticky pictures to make fragrant grizzle bears.

I started my craft blog to share our projects and pass on the skills I learned from my parents. Occasionally, I will sew something for myself when I need a break from the manic flow of child-centered ideas and projects. Such is the irony of parenting – I want to make all these creative things for my children, but I will only have the time to do it when they’re no longer young enough to be enthralled by them. There are not enough hours in a day, or years in their childhood to realize all the ideas that come from the books we read, the stores we patronize, the catalogs we browse. Or even simply watching them play. So in the short time I have, I must pick what to make, and what to save as sketches in my notebooks. Perhaps some will be a grandmother’s project years down the road. Perhaps some will be published for someone else’s kids to enjoy. And perhaps some will be saved just as they are, to be shown to my girls when they are grown, to remind them of the different ways their mother loved them when they were little.

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For more kids craft, creative ideas and activities go to the Action Pack website

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 debra@improvdiary May 15, 2012 at 10:50 am

What a beautiful little essay about creativity and kids…I really enjoyed it, Lorraine! Your blog is wonderful, too.


2 maryanne @ mama smiles May 15, 2012 at 11:09 am

Wait, your chicken pattern includes chicks? How did I miss out on (or forget) that? Very tempted to acquire it, now!

I’m hoping to make lots of grandmother projects, someday!


3 Dace May 15, 2012 at 8:39 pm

Adore the white hens, clean and contented. Also the fabric houses, what patience and skill and they could last for generations and be handed down to the next generation.


4 Terri May 16, 2012 at 1:04 pm

You are an inspiration, both in your engineering creativity and in how you care for your family. I imagine that everyone who reads your blog wishes that they could have grown to maturity under your nurturing wings.


5 Deepa May 16, 2012 at 1:46 pm

Love your projects, Lorraine! I live in St. Paul too. Your last paragraph made me want to cry. I work full time but try to keep the creative DIY spirit alive in myself and my kids. It’s a huge challenge. There are absolutely never enough hours in the day. Know that there are people jealous of (and inspired by) you. :)

Off to check out ikatbag now…


6 Liz L May 16, 2012 at 8:10 pm

I’m a huge fan of ikatbag. And after reading this even more so!


7 Pascale August 29, 2012 at 8:39 am

Love your words your creativity and your spirit!


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