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Permission to Dabble

“Did you make that, sweetie? It’s so pretty! Why, it looks store bought!”

That was the standard that guided my artistic endeavors when I was a child. Whatever the medium — papier mache, pipe cleaner, modeling clay, painting, tissue paper flowers, magazine picture collage — it had to be Pretty. And if a grownup told me my creation looked Store Bought, that meant I had mastered the medium!

Six decades later, I have to admit I have never mastered any medium. But I have managed to stay curious, and somewhere between Childhood and Senior Citizenship I have made peace — No. I have embraced the reality that everything I make is wonky.

And I make a lot of stuff: Origami (above Origami Bascetta Star), 3-d mixed media assemblages; knitting, crochet, and embroidery; rag rugs woven on home made pin looms; Amish toothbrush knotting, with a customized chopstick in lieu of a toothbrush handle. Lately, as a way of embracing my second childhood, I have given myself permission to make pieces I call “pointless art.”

None of it looks store bought. If any of it is pretty, it is accidentally pretty. Because “pretty” isn’t the point. For my making, “comfort” is the point.

Last year (or was it year before last?) I remembered how meditative, how soothing spinning could be. So I dusted off my spinning wheel and gave it a good tuneup, and in no time my anxiety had fallen to manageable levels as I produced prodigious quantities of what is referred to among spinners as Novelty Yarn.

What is it about turning fluff into string? And, after you’ve created your string, what is it about turning string into fabric? For me, it’s metaphysical. It’s alchemy. Except instead of turning base metal into gold, you’re turning fluff into something that can actually keep you warm. If it’s cold and you’re naked and all you own is gold, your money is worthless unless someone who has turned fluff into fabric is willing to trade with you. Nobody is going to offer me gold for my hand-spun yarn or for anything I make from it. But it’s comforting me and keeping me warm as I knit it up into a hefty log cabin coverlet.

Another thing about string... You can draw with it.

embroidered bits and scraps, coptic book in marble paper, knitted fingerless mitts

My mom taught me some embroidery stitches when I was little, in hopes that I would go to town on pillowcase borders and luncheon napkins for my hope chest. I disappointed my mom. My embroidery wasn’t pretty. Certainly not store bought quality. But I was charmed by the way a few threads of bright color could transform a white linen square. And to this day, I am doubly charmed by the way small scraps of fabric play with embroidery stitches.

woven rag rug

I discovered that it’s a lot easier and more fun to use bright string to decorate the holes in your jeans and sweaters and favorite wool socks than it is to try to hide the fact that they ever needed mending. As with my embroidery, my darning is pretty wonky. But it’s colorful. And my merino socks will last another winter or two. And when the socks are, finally, well and truly worn beyond repair, I will cut them up into loops and weave them on my potholder loom.

The other day, during a guided meditation, I met up with Grandmother Spider. Whenever I meditate — guided or unguided — I always have to get past the inner voices that tell me what I’m doing is not REAL meditation. If I claim to experience anything outside the realm of day-to-day normality, those voices say, Obviously you’re just making it up.

So...I’m meditating, and here’s Grandmother Spider spinning a web in the corner of my big kitchen window. I’m watching her. She’s watching me. I’m watching her. She’s watching me. Finally she says, “You wanna ride? The breeze makes my web ripple, and it’s kind of fun.”

I roll my eyes at her and say, “C’mon. I’m just pulling this out of my ass.” And she says, “Yeah. I know. Me, too. You wanna ride?”

Megan not only creates art, she also performs throughout the United States and beyond.

Her awards include a Parents’ Choice® Silver for the CD, “What Was Civil About That War…” which was also a Finalist for an Audies® award in the category of Best Original Work. She received the Parents’ Guide to Children’s Media Award and Storytelling World Honor for “Groundhogs Meet Grimm,” a collection of her original parodies that was also tapped for Honors by NAPPA.

When she's not working on a new story she can be found knee deep in her art studio (which is a tinkerers dreamland). Find out more about Megan:

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I like the thought of comfort making. It never occurred to me that it could have a name – the thing we all do - whether it’s doodling, folding, studying, drawing, or anything for no reason other than the reason is me and I want to. I love that. Comfort making. Thanks for naming it 😊

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