Words, photos and podcast production by Jenni Mazaraki
We sit around the table. Our cups of tea start off warm but inevitably go cold because we are busy. We knit, we sew, we paint, we draw. We make stuff at Sophie’s house.
Whilst the older kids are at school, we meet at Sophie’s house with the younger kids. Jenny pulls out her delicately knitted mohair scarf and laughs when she tells us that she has been making it since 2009. I bring out some illustrations that I started 2 years ago, still unfinished. Ivy is adjusting a skirt, unpicking the stitches as she chats. Sooney has brought her gouache and sketchbook. Katrina makes a pom pom. Linda knits. And Sophie is working on a quilt.
“What time should I come?” I ask Sophie. She replies, “Anytime, I’ll be home all day.”
Most weeks, Sophie opens her house to her friends to join her as she works on her creative projects. Her house is warm and inviting, with original artwork by local and European artists on the walls. There is no formality or ceremony here. We help ourselves to cups of tea, we eat cake and sandwiches, bringing what we have from our own pantries to share. If we’re lucky, someone has stopped off at the bakery.
What Sophie offers is more than a friendly visit at her house. It’s an invitation to take time for ourselves. To create. Which is sometimes hard to do when you have young children.
Creative people need to make stuff
Elizabeth Gilbert, author of the book, ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ said,
“If you have a creative mind, it’s a bit like owning a border collie. You have to give it something to do or it will find something to do, and you will not like the thing it finds to do.”
If you have an urge to create, ignoring it will only make you miserable. It will become a dull nagging at the back of your thoughts, distracting you without you even realising it. If you ignore your urge to create, you will tempted to think that your creative ideas that seem small to others, actually are small.
Others might think that you’re just doing a bit of knitting, but I know what that knitting means to you. It means that your hands are busy, and that you feel productive. Your knitting helps calm you and stops your thoughts from racing. Your knitting slows your heart rate and forces you to sit still when you’ve been running around all day. You’re knitting to stop yourself from thinking about all of the million other things that you’re supposed to get done today that seem more important but actually are not. There is nothing more important than you sitting down and knitting. Or painting. Or sewing. Or making whatever it is that gives you that feeling of pause.
Creativity brings people together
Art and craft aren’t small things. Creativity brings people together. When we are making something, the conversation flows, we share skills and become part of each other’s story. Jenny shows us how to make pom poms and now when I talk about pom poms, I will say, “My friend Jenny showed me,” and I’ll remember the day at Sophie’s house. It becomes part of my story.
Sophie tells us about the quilt her mother made her and shares the importance of making quilts for her own daughters so that they have something solid and tangible to have as a memory. By making quilts, she rolemodels creativity.
Art and craft awakens the senses. It grounds us in the moment, right in the here and now, even if our children are running around demanding our attention, we have this moment.
Sometimes we’ve taken turns to meet at each other’s homes. Sometimes we intend to make something but we end up talking and drinking cups of tea. It’s given us that time to create something, rather than just make food and clean up after our kids. We are mothers and we also have things we want to do. It might seem like a small thing to some, but it’s about taking that time for yourself to do the thing that makes you feel most like you.
Why don’t we do this more often?
We ask ourselves why we don’t take more time for our creative pursuits. Ivy said it’s about space.
“My craft thing is like a nomadic thing.”
When Ivy works on her creative projects, she said, “The entire weekend, the dining room table is unusable because all my stuff is there.”
Ivy feels that not having a permanent space to work on projects can affect motivation.
“To sort of, stop, pack up, put everything in the cupboard after every night, then the next night I probably don’t feel like I want to pull it all out again.”
Make the time to make stuff
Having a space to create is so important. Having the time to create is important too. When you have young children, a great deal of what you do doesn’t seem to have a tangible outcome. When you sit down to make something, you have some physical evidence of what you’ve made. It externalises your inner world and makes it real.
Artist, Louise Bourgeois famously said, “Art is a guarantee of sanity. That is the most important thing I have said.”
Making time for creativity is no small thing. It’s prioritising something important for ourselves. That’s why making things at Sophie’s house is about more than just making stuff.