It started with a scarf. I had a dozen or so fleece scarves sitting in a plastic bin, remnants from when I had an embroidery machine. Some I tore apart and turned into rugs. I didn’t have it in my to destroy the others, though. One in particular, soft green sporting an embroidered spiral goddess, deserved to be worn rather than trampled on. On a whim, I mailed the scarf to a friend, a pagan who hated the winter cold as much as I do. I didn’t tell her it was coming. I didn’t even know if she had received it until she posted a picture to Facebook. The sight of her smiling face struck a chord deep down inside of me. This was right.
I have always liked giving gifts. As an introvert dealing with anxiety issues, it’s a way of expressing love that is safe. I especially enjoy making gifts: something beautiful, something soft, something that will last and raise a smile every time it is used. Giving a handmade gift is giving a piece of myself to someone, a permanent way to say “I love you.”*
But when you are trying to make a living through your handiwork it can be hard to divorce your creative efforts from the dollar sign. Every hour you aren’t making inventory, you aren’t making money. Every day you aren’t working on a commission you are failing by capitalistic standards. I love you’s don’t put food on the table, after all.
The push back, however, is that we aren’t just meat-robots. Humans need to feed more than our bodies. Especially those who deal wit depression and self-loathing. Creating for the sake of it, gifting to others, is more than a rebellion against art as a commodity, it is an act of self-preservation. It is a way to balance the current, often crushing expectation for every aspect of our lives to have a monetary value with the absolutely essential need to establish that people are priceless. Human creativity doesn’t come with a price tag.
It was a couple of months after I mailed off the scarf that the idea of Random Acts of Craftiness gelled. I posted a picture of the Eighteen Panel Skirt on Facebook and a couple of friends brought up the idea of a trade. Their crafted goods for my own. Then later, I posted the Majestic Fucking Unicorn cross stitch pattern and two more friends requested completed works. I said yes in both cases. Yes to engaging in a craft exchange. Yes to sewing a message of support and love for people I care about with no expectation of anything in return.
Granted, saying yes was easier than the follow-through, at least at first. The balancing act between money and love has tipped more often than not in the favor of money. I’ve had to steal time from myself to finish projects. But with each one completed, I have felt how right it is to do so. There are kinks in the system, of course. Finishing works and getting them out the door has proven a stumbling blocks as well. Getting out of the house to the post office can be extremely difficult. Slowly, though, love is leaving this house in parcels.
And in return, love is coming into this house. A crocheted turtle sits in my workshop now. Every time I see it I smile, think of my friend, and feel that I am loved. I will fill this house with books and family and reminders that there are those out there who believe their time is worth more than money, their creativity has no price tag.
*I am not the only one in my family who does this. My sister sends semi-regular packages to me filled with cookies and other goodies she has baked.