New Project: Telling a story

Etsy Admin have repeatedly suggested that the new direction of the Handmade Movement, especially as it relates to Etsy, will involve telling a story with whatever you make. Some people take this literally, creating silly and engaging stories behind each of their products...two excellent examples of this approach are Pretty Little Fings and Chasing My Star. There are other sellers who tell stories that help you imagine what you might feel like if you wear their products. Jewelry sellers invoke the mainstream fantasy that all women were girls who wanted to be princesses, and that the jewelry will take them back to whimsical and fantastical memories. Or they tell political stories, like KMStitchery, and weave a rich history of our feminist ancestors and foremothers combined with the process, which is (wo)man-made. I've tried extensively to figure out a story that I can tell with each piece of my jewelry, but to little avail. The pieces are all little parts of me...spicy, subdued, whimsical, effervescent, simple, traditional, colorful...which is why I just define my shop in the shop statement. I do make things, though, that have a story and this is one of them.

I've tweeted a few times about the "debut" of Cubicle Art, and even held an informal inquiry with my readers to see if they were something worth selling, but true to form I gave them all away before I could even add one to my shop. There are some really fantastic artists and crafters producing high quality embroidered wall art, including neawear and moxiedoll. I am too much like my grandmother though, when it comes to crafty projects, to engage my attention span for long enough to create something quite that fancy. So I elected to take something well worn and loved, a white button down shirt that I've had for years and years, and cut it into pieces. I used 3" embroidery hoops and bought a little bit of DMC floss. Vintage beads were used as "flowers" and "leaves" in some pieces, seed beads as "apples" and I chose colors that were eyecatching and vibrant. All of the flowers were done by eye/hand.

The story behind these little pieces is simple. My grandmother really never made anything that wasn't marginally practical. She made decorative magnets for the fridge, clothing, hair accessories. She grew up in the midst of the Depression where there was no opportunity to buy accessories or beautiful things. As I told my QCC friends yesterday, if she wanted her world to be anything but sad and gray, she had to make it herself. Using very inexpensive embroidery hoops, beads and thread I had on hand, and some simple designs I created myself, I've made simple, fun and affordable "art" for a place where it often feels like happiness and sunshine doesn't cubicle at work. There are a lot of crafters who still work full or part-time, some of us in humdrum gray offices, and why shouldn't we brighten up our work space with something small, inexpensive and bright!

This really strange woman snuck up behind me in line at the craft store yesterday, and inquired as to why I was buying so many tiny embroidery hoops. "What are you doing with all of those?" she sneered, as though it was any of her business. I told her I was making little tiny embroidered pictures so that people could hang them in their cubicles. She kind of huffed at me and grumbled, "well, heh, that's a lot of work" and then the cashier chuckled sweetly. She said, "well, you're not supposed to be happy at work!" We both giggled. Just like my Nanny's silly fridge magnets and poofy hair accessories, Cubicle Art is designed to bring the fun to functional things; we need not all be Dilbert and Office Space clones. The images are simple and pure, taken from things that ground me like home, apple trees and flowers. The upcycled and handmade nature of my Cubicle Art pieces are both an homage to my Nanny and a source of hope and fun for people like me...who work really hard in multiple facets of their lives and deserve a little bit of homemade sunshine now and then.

Cubicle Art will be available at the Handmade Mart on Sunday 5/31. They'll be $5 each.

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All content © Meaghan O'Malley, 2009-2012. Header image by Rebekka Seale.