I have always loved to make and create, but strangely I seem to have made more time for it as my life has got busier. By that, I mean, after children, when life changes in ways you had never imagined, and the upshot is less time for you. For me, the link is simple. As the things you have to do, but don’t really want to – like laundry and the general business of running a household – present a never-ending list of chores (not to mention going out to work to earn a living), switch-off time is vital. For me, that is when I make. I clear my head, and think about nothing but the job in hand. Whether it’s knitting, sewing, painting, drilling, cutting, glueing… making anything. I know, I could just go off and watch TV, and of course I do that too, but making means you end up with something tangible and useful at the end, which is another important part of the attraction.
I stepped up my home making after children arrived, as a means to an end – to save having to pay someone else to do something I could do myself. But I quickly realised how – rather than being a chore – I was getting so much more out of it than the obvious bonus of saving money. It’s my time to breathe and just be. I will turn my hand to pretty much anything practical or creative around the home – from making tassels for keys to painting a room and making furniture. But it’s all about KEEPING IT SIMPLE…
“Minimum Effort, Maximum Return”
Making useful things is key to what I do. When time is precious, it must be well-spent, and for me, sitting down and making something that will just sit and gather dust, is simply not worth the effort. I make things that will be used. Whether it’s a practical solution to a storage problem, or something pretty to wear or use, it has to have been worth the effort.
That’s why my mantra is “minimum effort, maximum return.” Everything I make has to be quick and easy to do, and that guides me when I am thinking about how to create anything. Fast and smart, no special skills or knowledge required.
So, for instance, I love to knit, but have never followed a pattern in my life, and to me it seems like life is too short to try to master the secret code of knitting patterns. So I knit simple squares and rectangles and they become the building blocks of very simple, but stylish creations.
I am not precious about anything I make. Too much fussiness and perfectionism means things are stopped before they’re even started, because of a fear of not being able to do it. So it’s all about rough edges and not worrying about precision measurements. Isn’t it better to keep it simple and get something done, rather than never try at all?
I also like to make use of the packaging that shop-bought things come in. I think of it as the free bonus that comes with what you buy. With a little bit of effort and creativity, the everyday can be turned into something really useful and covetable. Wooden wine boxes (free or very cheap from wine stores) and jam jars are my basic stalwarts. There’s no room in my house where I haven’t made use of them in some way. Jam jars have become match strikers, toy containers, night lights, candle holders and more. With a splash of paint, wine boxes are turned into storage on wheels, wall-hung bookcases, a desktop filing box, and on and on.
“Necessity is the mother of invention”
I create my makes by thinking of what will work most effectively in a particular space, or for a particular use, and I translate it into the simplest way to make it. Nine times out of ten, I find it easier to make what I want than to trawl around trying to find something that never quite matches what’s in my head. For instance, I wanted a funky low coffee table for my sitting room. Anything I liked was way too expensive. So I painted a wooden pallet I picked up in the street, put castors on it, and I got just what I’d been looking for, almost for free.
In our busy lives, it’s easy to do away with anything that doesn’t have to be done. No-one has to make anything. Most things can be sourced pretty (or very) cheaply – flatpack and throwaway fashion. But when you take the time to make something, it’s as if the world has stopped for a while. Going out shopping – enjoyable as it can be – can be frenetic. It’s certainly not relaxing. When you’ve sat for a while and made something, you’ve not just got your lovely “I did that” creation to show for your effort, but the quiet time it’s given you is a bonus that improves your well-being in so many ways. It’s good for the mind and soul. Simple satisfaction. That’s why I make. And that’s why I am passionate about passing it on. To adults and to kids.
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