These pillows are family heirlooms that were touched by the hands of my grandmother who passed away when I was sixteen, my mother, and myself. Also, they were made last year.
How is that possible, you ask (especially because I was sixteen quite a while ago)?
Let me fill in some back-story. My grandmother was an artist who was totally ahead of her time. She was making work sixty years ago that would kill on Etsy today. Before she was a housewife, she was a total badass. She grew up in Hawaii, swam two miles out into the ocean every morning, learned to fly planes, and worked in intelligence during World War II. After marrying my grandfather and having four kids she had to find adventures in new ways, so she started making things. She was a prolific ceramics artist and an awesome illustrator, but she never showed anyone her work. She handmade thousands (seriously, thousands) of cards, pieces of jewelry, sculptures, ornaments, everything, but she never thought she was good enough to show anyone.
For part of my college thesis, I took a bunch of her cards and digitally scanned them. I cropped out small pieces of them and repeated those tiles to make a pattern, and displayed those as a reinvention of her art. I thought about using those patterns to make other objects, but ultimately moved in another direction with my thesis. I did, however, order fabric printed with a few of these patterns for my mom for Christmas, thinking she would enjoy the history of it could make an apron or something for herself.
When I moved into my last apartment, my mom showed up with these pillows as a surprise. This pattern started its life as a card that my Nana gave to me via inheritance, which I then turned into a patterned fabric to give to my mom, which she then sewed into a pillow and gave back to me. Each person in that chain received this as a gift, added something to it, and passed it on.
I’m so used to these now, and they’re a part of my everyday life. I love that they bring a splash of color into an otherwise neutral room. They’re also fantastic reading pillows, I might add. And every so the realization of what a cool symbol of family and creativity these are catches me by surprise and I get totally boggled by the fact that I made this, but so did my grandmother, and so did my mom.
When I struggle with cutting through the noise in my mind, or finding creativity or inspiration, I think about my Nana. She experienced that fear and self-doubt that any creative person, especially one with an entrepreneurial inclination, experiences, but there was no internet or community for her to turn to for encouragement and inspiration. She didn’t think what she made would make a difference in the world, so she put it in a box. I often look at her work and realize how similar we are in taste and use of color, and I like to think she’s working through me a little.
So I’d love to hear from you— what is something you made that you could reinvent and give new life? How do you combat that kind of creative fear and move through it?