I recently made the most beautiful cushion. It was a Christmas gift for a young lady by the name of Olivia. It has the cross-stitched prints of her four-legged buddies, and patches made with her beloved, dearly departed Grandad’s tie. It’s really stunning. You’d hope she feels lucky to have it. But it’s me who is privileged. Olivia is a special young lady. She is the inspiration for this blog.
Olivia is a liker of my Facebook page. For Christmas 2011, she begged bits of her family’s clothes to make her mum a memory quilt. Imagine how special that must be. This is her Mum’s e-mail from August 2012 …
“ … you've inspired my 13 year old daughter since I found you on [Facebook]. Last year we had a completely homemade Christmas and for 6 months she secretly and painstakingly made me a patchwork blanket from clothes of all the people I care about! I've shown her your work and she's again determined to continue her creations.
I would love for our homemade Christmas this year to cheat a little and get her a print of our lovely dogs paw print- this would make her year! She's animal mad and adores our gorgeous pooch.
Please keep making. I love looking at your creations every day and love that my little girl can see a future in her own amazing works of art.
I've attached a pic of my blanket as it makes me so proud.”
I remember my school days. I was a geek. Not that I would have dreamed of admitting it at the time. I liked to make things. I always have and I would imagine I always will. I have to be practically handcuffed to stop me making something! If nothing else it keeps my hands busy and stops them putting food in my mouth. I used to make all sorts from empty loo rolls. My parents still have my clay creations. My Gran’s kitchen still sports the clock I made. I hate to admit it, actually no, I don’t (but I did at the time) that I used to take knitting into school to do at break. I had no friends. Well, I had “friends”, but no BFF (is that what you say these days?). No-one who I would see all day at school then chat to on the phone all night. My all-girl school was very clique-y, and I fell out with my gang in the early years. Many an hour was spent on my own in the library, trying to hide from the teachers in a quiet classroom so I didn’t have to spend time outside with everyone else, trying to fit in. I won’t even go into the names I was called on the bus home from school! I was never sporty, and I was never terribly bright, so I really didn’t feel that I had an outlet. I do, however, vividly remember my Textiles GCSE lessons. I loved them. They cost my parents a fortune! But they taught me so much and I remember wondering what on earth I would use these new-found skills for. I imagined a future in an office, at a desk. If asked at the time, I wanted “to be someone’s boss”, “have a BMW before I was 30”.
Looking back now, I did those things. I was a few people’s boss. I had the BMW. It’s really not all it’s cracked up to be. I managed a Head Office and drove the BMW around from site to site feeling very proud of myself, at the ripe old age of 25. Then I met my now-husband. I remember driving home one day, in my lovely shiny BMW, and bursting into tears at the traffic lights. It occurred to me that I would never have children, or at least be a good, attentive mum, if I stayed in that job. I thought it was my life and I was proud of the team and systems I had built. I was working 60 hour weeks putting into practice all the “useful” skills I learned throughout my education (Maths with Mechanics, Physics and Business Studies at A Level, Business Studies at university). They meant nothing to “me”, the real me, not the person I thought everyone wanted me to be. I thought I would be letting my parents down … they’d scrimped and saved to pay for my education, how could I possibly let that go to waste?
I became an IT trainer for a short time. That was fun. I love IT; as I said, I’m a geek! I’m no expert, but I can get by more than most. Was this my calling?
Then I fell pregnant. I never imagined that the most important thing in my life would be to become a mother. A mummy. This, and only this, is my calling. Now, how can I possibly contrive to stay at home with my baby?
Clare’s Jewellery Box was born. I know, rubbish name hey? I made silver imprint jewellery for myself, hubby, a few relatives and friends. I did a few craft fairs then I went back to work after my maternity leave. Massive disappointment!
I took a promotion to a seriously geeky job with the NHS – all graphs and spreadsheets and budgets. It was fun for a couple of months. They’re just not my type of people. I need to make things. I made two babies … now I must make things for them! And so it began.
It’s soooo hard being a kid, a teenager and a twenty-something. You think you’ve found yourself, then the next week you’ve lost yourself and you have to start all over again. You feel like you should be having the time of your life … after all, the bills and the “proper” jobs and the housework are for the grown-ups, right? Well yes, that’s really tough. It’s rewarding, but it’s flipping tough. But don’t let anyone negate your feelings … growing up is hard work. And you don’t even get paid for it! There’ll be friends telling you what you should be doing, what you shouldn’t be doing, magazines and celebs telling you what you should wear, what you should eat, how much you should weigh, how you shouldn’t listen to people who are telling you what to wear, eat and weigh. If you thought about it too much, your head would explode.
You will hear a lot of advice during your formative years. You will most likely continue to hear that advice until your own children leave home. Unfortunately, some of the grown-up really do know what they’re talking about. Admittedly some of them don’t, but you won’t know that for a while!
You will make some bad decisions and do some silly things, love someone you shouldn’t and say things you shouldn’t. They’re all important experiences; “what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger” and all that. The clichés become clichés because they’re true. Be sure that you make choices that you’re proud of. As long as you love the person you beome after all that, you shouldn’t regret anything.
I now have a (relatively) successful keepsake business. I work from home, around my babies; I get to play with them, work when they sleep. I get to be there. They will remember that, like I remember my Mum being there. I also know how proud I am of both my parents, who both have their own business. I want my babies to feel that same pride and motivation. It’s stressful, it’s a lot of pressure, but it’s my calling. I get the best of all my worlds, combined in a beautiful converted mill in rural Scotland. Who’d’ve thunk it? I look back at the girls at school, the colleagues who gave me the “are you mad, you’ll never make it” look. I pity them in a way. I hope they’re happy, I truly do, but I couldn’t live my life how they think I should, just because that’s “normal”. I don’t want to be “normal”, I never have. I can be “me” now, and it still baffles me that people want to pay hundreds of pounds to buy what I love to make. So many people in fact, that my waiting list is around 5 months long. I’m so proud of the amazing feedback I receive regularly, I cry when I read through my Testimonials page on my website. I can make a real difference to people’s lives by doing what I love to do.
When the lovely Olivia’s mum e-mailed me I had a revelation. A light-bulb moment. Call it what you will … I had it, and this missive has been brewing in my happy little mind since then. I want just one of you to make something. Just try it, you might like it. Scour the internet for inspiration and supplier, and make. Craft. Draw. Sew. Write. Do something. Find your skill, your niche, and love it. Please.
I found my key to happiness … strive to do what you love, do not settle with learning to love what you do. Be more. Be you. And be proud of you.
Now go, find your happy place and build your castle there.