pondering my role in a bigger story

Monday, August 21, 2006

my important thing

Friday night I had dinner with a new friend. Over the course of dinner, we talked about art, faith, and creativity. I had a difficult time articulating what I will call my journey of creativity, for lack of a better description. Lots of creative outlets as a kid, followed by a handful of years of rebellion and busyness, and now a season of what seems to be increasing creativity as time moves on.

I remember creating as a kid. We always had art and craft supplies around, and my mom was very creative. We did lots of projects, from homemade play dough to macramé to decoupage to painting. I can recall my favorite Christmas presents being stuff like glue, scissors, and construction paper. That’s not so different today!

This is a bowl – it also has a lid, which I made in kindergarten. The bowl is nothing special in and of itself. One look would tell you that it was fashioned by a child. Likely formed out of that homemade play dough that is made from salt, water, and flour, it is painted in bright colors. It has a handhold of sorts formed in the lid. Small enough to fit into my hand, I try not to move it around much, for fear that someday soon it will dissolve into a jillion pieces.

I don’t remember making the bowl so much as I remember it sitting on the top of my mom’s sewing machine console. She kept a few straight pins in it. Later it sat in a big oak bookcase with glass doors, along with a few other fragile but special items.

Sometime in the years after she died, I took it to my home in Birmingham. I tenderly wrapped the bowl in bubble wrap, put it in a Tupperware container and drove it south. When I moved to Denver I packed it very carefully, and would not trust the movers with it. Now it sits on a bookshelf in my living room.

From time to time I ponder why it is so special to me. A few years ago, as my creativity was called forth and began to pour out, the bowl was a gentle reminder of the creativity that was in me from a young age. It stands as a prompt that I am creative on those off days when I wonder if my creative juices have dried up.

Growing up in a family that valued practicality over creativity, we never talked about things that represented beauty. Yet this is a tangible sign that stuff I made with my own hands mattered to my mom. And that stirs something within me.

The first piece of original art I ever purchased was a black and white photograph by Melissa Springer, from a show called Important Things. For this series, she had a number of people bring their most treasured object to her studio. For the shoot, each person stood behind a black curtain and thrust their hands through an opening, holding their important thing. She did not set up the photos, but took them just as people presented their objects. A ring. A lock of hair. A pill box. Dog tags. The items folks hold near and dear.

This is my important thing. (Note: Technical difficulties will not let me load the photo. I'll keep trying...)


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