Friday, January 30, 2009

Thinking It Over: I (long)

There are several things that have been nagging me for a while now and things seem to have come to a bit of a standstill with me so I think I need to address them.

They circle about why I choose the projects I do, what motivates me, why do I have so very many unfinished (or planned and unbegun) projects, on to bigger issues such as what do I value (and why) and how do I want to spend my time (and why). I’m trying to tackle it one "why" at a time. (of course it's all a bit more snarled up than that!)

I’m not generally an introspective sort of person and I’m finding this hard to sort out in my head and that’s partly why I’m writing it all out here. The other reason is I’d love to hear your thoughts on all of this. Things often get into a swirl in my head and one comment from someone else can really help sort it all out.

I'm going to include some images of antiques I purchased over the holidays to help break up what feels somewhat like a long whinge. (They are, top to bottom, antique ribbons, a lilac dresser scarf, a pink antique ribbon with a small piece of Teneriffe lace and a small piece of crochet on it, and part of a long band of exquisite Hardanger that I think may have been part of a sleeve.)

Some of this long post is part of Sharon B’s legacy from the TIF project year. The last challenge, which I haven’t completed, is on the concept of generosity. For many of us, especially at the holiday season, this includes gift giving. I’ve thought a lot about giving (and receiving). I try to be generous and I have a lot of wonderful examples out there to follow. It led me to thinking about giving handmade gifts, which I always try to give. Perhaps that’s not a good thing.

It struck me over the holidays that I don’t truly value what I make to give (not outwardly-I personally value it but I don’t behave as though I do), especially the things I make for others in my family. I realized that when I give a handmade gift, I also give a "real" gift like a book, cd, or dvd. I don’t quite feel that what I make is "enough."

One main concept regarding gifts that I keep coming back to is: Am I making the gift more for the recipient or more for me? I really like stitching, creating, making, trying new things. I feel I’m often giving gifts that are what I want to make-and not necessarily what the recipient might want to recieve. On the other side of this coin, making things that I’m not interested in just doesn’t work (witness some of those ufos).

I’ve been making my holiday gifts since at least the 1960s, so my family has had to put up with a lot for a long time. At one point my mom cautioned me "no more pillows." My nonbracelet-wearing sister owns a bunch of bracelets, because I really like making bracelets. My family tends on the whole to really understand and appreciate handmade gifts-we all do make and give them and always have. And I think I'm the only one who feels this need to supplement the handmade gifts with something else.

I must add in my defense I don’t go at it entirely willy-nilly. I do try to select things the recipient is likely to like and I don’t give things like a teacozy to a nontea drinker. (I used to not be quite so aware and I have improved on that front.) But, still, there’s a long span of years here and how many hats or scarves or bracelets or pillows can one person use? (We’re also not a throw-away family, things tend to last with us.)

So, in case I’ve chosen to make something the recipient might not be thrilled with or need, I give them another gift so they’ll still have a "real" gift to make up for it. And I get the enjoyment of making and giving things to them. I think I’m straight with that--it’a a choice I make.

I realized this year, though, that I’ve lost balance and am overcompensating. (Here, have this dvd for putting up with me giving you this felt doll.) Even when I’m sure the gift is something the recipient will really like, I still feel compelled to add on that other gift. And I think it’s not a good thing. The work of my hands and spirit is worth more than that.

I’m not sure what I want to do about this issue, other than be aware of what I’m chosing to do instead of compulsively buying-and compulsively making. Giving something I’ve made is important to me but perhaps I need to find other ways to show caring. Perhaps I need to take me out of the equation more and limit the gifts to those that fill both needs: what the recipient would like and what I would be interested in doing.


Paula Hewitt said...

would this be like sending someone a lovely pincushion and then adding a book, fabric etc as well? ;)
i often feel i am short changing someone when i make something for them. if they are a fellow embroiderer i worry about my work not being good enough (not that im embarassed by my skill level, but more that the recipient may think that I have given them something shoddy almost insulting to them - not quite that but i can't explain. And non-embroiderers never appreciate the amount of work or skill so they dont truly appreciate it - either from a skill point of view, or that it more special than a box of choccies and a book.
I really like stitching - but i find the sorts of things i like to stitch dont necessarily find a receptive audience within the gift-giving sector of my life. I like making things for Moo, because she likes anything i make, but everytime my mother 'inspects' my embroidery she purses up her lips and says nothing. needless to say i have not made her anything. and men dont appreciate embroidered anything. so i tend to buy gifts for everyone and keep the embroidery for myself. this comment is as long as your post (sorry)

jenny2write said...

If you give a handmade gift and a purchased one, there is no guarantee which the recipient will prefer - (maybe they already have the DVD and just adore the felt doll!)

You've given me beautiful hand made gifts Marjorie which make me think of you when I see them. I am always delighted with them because they are a sign of friendship. Sometimes, very occasionally, I can't use them, but I would never discard them unthinkingly.

This is different from how I feel about, say, a gift of a DVD that I already have. I appreciate the thought and the money spent on a purchased gift, but I do not wring my hands too much about letting a friend have the DVD - or even selling it! I have got the message of "the thought that counts" and who knows I may be able to multiply that good feeling by making a friend happy or obtaining money to buy a DVD that I don't have!!

We have a tradition of making handmade cards in our family. Nobody ever throws them away and in fact we often get them out and talk about and think about them. Perhaps when you see your crafted gifts displayed in others' houses you will remember yourself making them and the thoughts you had when you did, and I am sure that when your friends see them they will think of you.

Gina said...

It's my first visit to your blog and I love the question you have posed. Although I knit, crochet, embroider, quilt, and many other things, tatting is what I do the most of for the past 10 yrs. I'm getting a little bit of the opposite feeling from my family. I tend to take part in group and online exchanges more than I give tatted gifts to my family - because just how much can you give without being repetitive? And I wasn't sure 10 years ago just how much they really valued what I made.

I haven't really made handmade gifts for my family for a few years now mostly because of time restraints but I miss doing it and I'm hearing they miss getting them. Yeah, I do the same thing...include a purchased gift with the handmade one, more often than what I need to, I guess. I do try to match the item I make with something similar purchased - like decorating a little pouch with tatting for a gift card or a book to go along with a bookmark.

When I look back over the exchanges I've made with other tatters over the years, the ones that mean the most to me are the ones made by people I know, people I have met at conventions or lace days. I can appreciate the skill of someone I don't know, but knowing the giver adds a dimension that the best of skills doesn't quite match. I KNOW it's a gift from the heart and I KNOW they've spent some time thinking about it.

And yeah, if I don't like what I'm doing, it tends to end up being a UFO too.

Jane said...

Hi Marj, I have learned a lot about being generous from you. I'm afraid I would be very disappointed if Christmas came and went without a gift from you because your gifts are so thoughtful, and I have started making gifts I can give away because of your example. So I thank you for your generosity. I can't say what your family might feel. Gift-giving in my family has been dwindling over the past years. Mom and dad are disvesting from their home, so they don't want any more "things" and I don't see my brothers and sisters enough to know what they would or wouldn't like. I don't think my one sister-in-law would appreciate anything hand made by me, and how could I give things to everyone else, and not her? So I don't, to any of them. But I think during our next Christmas get-together I will bring enough Temari balls for everyone, and I will let people pick. (I should have enough for everyone by next October). LOL

Thank you for this discussion. It has really opened my eyes to some things.


Lelia said...

Thx for opening up & sharing in this post. I will have to have the topic roll around my brain before further commenting. Your brought up good food for thought!

I do admit not being very confident in my textile outcomes & tend to hoard. When I have made things for my SIL or MIL or my Mom, I purchased a design & supplies knowing it would be for them - I labored over making them nearly perfect. It wasn't enjoyable - just a chore.

When I have made smaller things, for NANI friends I would have them (friend) in mind and send positive thoughts the entire time I was creating a little something.

I still think I'm a needleworker in progress - enjoy learning the techniques. Maybe in another 10 years, I'll feel more accomplished : )

I swear tho, I had more fun making the inner child doll than anything I've done in the past few years. It was a great class, I learned a lot, and just messing around with the bits of this-n-that in a small tray was delightful!

Will ponder the other things in your post & get back to you.