During a recent weekend in the woods, my sister and mom huddled over a table with brushes in hand. My Mom’s brush danced between mini blobs of paint squirted onto the lid of a cottage cheese container and her unconventional canvas, a handmade rawhide rattle head. My sister’s brush quietly smothered water into her pancake watercolors before smoothly spreading the wetness onto the dry, receptive watercolor paper. I painted at my canvas which rested on a chair turned easel. My sister-in-law steadily maneuvered yarn with her crochette hook-manipulating a single strand into a scarf. This was her first attempt having just learned from my sister. The weekend offered a break from the unceasing demands of caring for our families. We had the freedom, space, and time to create while nurturing and supporting each other.
Growing up my Mom and Grandma buzzed around the house scrubbing, dusting, washing, and feeding. The work was never done, and they were happy to do it. Being resourceful these women infused creativity into their chores and work never failing to love and care for us. My Grandma hemmed dresses by hand, darned socks so magically filling in the holes, and stitched the runs in her pantyhose creating sculptural ridges. She baked to perfection and gardened soulfully always reminding me to save the water from the down spouts because the plants preferred the rainwater.
My Mom adopted this ability to transform work in beauty. She enjoyed the challenge of creating a delicious meal from the scraps in the pantry or making a floral arrangement gathered from the yard. I would marvel at her ability to wrap a present so uniquely from various bits and pieces of paper, ribbon, and artificial flowers which we kept stuffed in the drawer of our dining room buffet.
Having been denied the piano lessons she had begged for, my Mom resolved to expose us to the arts and culture. She loved listening to us play the piano as she prepared dinner, sent us around the corner to draw wild flowers in Rena Church’s garden, and faithfully deposited us at dance and theatre rehearsals. We went to museums, traveled, and attended concerts, ballets, and plays. My Mom worked hard cleaning houses for us to have these experiences. She gave us the space to become who we are without asking much in return.
It is now such a pleasure to witness her creative growth in the arts. She is a gifted artist and Spiritual Director who fabricates rattles out of deer hide, feathers, and sticks. She then adorns them with beads and paint. My Grandma, in her last years, would sit by her daughter helping her to stuff and unstuff rattles, praising and playing each one. My Mom also facilitates Soul Collage workshops which is a spiritual process that incorporates making collages from magazine images. Like Soul Collage she has united spiritual growth in the making of art and often remarks that my sister and I are her teachers now. It feels good to return some of what she has given us.
Today, my sister and I are both professional artists. My sister makes art and teaches out of her own studio, Nido Art Studio in Aurora. She has her own clothing line, is a member of the Dot to Dot Art Collective, and facilitates birthday parties. In addition to watercolor, she hand builds with ceramics, works with dyeing, appliquéing textiles, quilting, crocheting and knitting, but ultimately she weaves together communities through various programming at her studio always generous with creativity and inspiration.
Having learned everything from sister, I make and sell art (paintings, weavings, stitched textiles) in Oak Park, blog about it, and do my best instill the creative impulse in my own children. We are truly blessed that we can support each other learning and teaching as we evolve as artists.