“Dark is a way and light is a place” Dylan Thomas
We all have ups and downs in our lives. If you are lucky (as I seem to be) you have people in your life who counterbalance the downs by their presence, character or complete weirdness. All of my counterbalances have one thing in common – something to do with the world of art and craft.
The run up to Christmas is a busy time for craftspeople. It’s when the great, buying public are likely to crank open their purses and wallets and actually part with some cash. That may sound a bit flippant but consider this: a recent study said that most professional artists and artisans are content if they are making £5000 a year. Given they are probably working at least 25 hours a week at their chosen discipline, that means they are actually earning less than £4 an hour. And lest we forget, out of that money they are buying raw materials, dealing with marketing and insurance costs and spending extra hours on thinking up ideas and experimenting with techniques. As one of the craftspeople who sits behind tables at Christmas Craft Fairs, let me into some of the comments which are guaranteed to dowse my seasonal spirit:
” I’ve seen them for sale at *insert the name of a bargain shop here* for *insert some ridiculous price here* ” .
My silent answer to this is “No, you haven’t. You have seen something which has been mass produced in a sweat shop where workers have no rights, no living wage and terrible working conditions.
“I could make that for you!”
My silent answer to this is “No, you couldn’t. Not unless you got taught to sew when you were 7 by my mother and have lived my life ever since.”
That is the sound of no comment at all. It is usually accompanied by a stare. There is no answer to it, silent or otherwise.
So, if you should go to a craft show – whether at Christmas or at any other time of year – let me assure you that most makers are in it for something other than the money (remember the less-than-£4-an-hour?). Most of them are there because they love what they are doing and most of them want to share it with other people. You have the chance to be the ‘up’ which counterbalances their ‘downs’ by stopping to talk, asking them about their craft and perhaps even buying something. On the other hand, feel free to pass by the ones who are not generous, chatty or enjoying themselves but give them a smile and a cheery “Hello” to show them what they are missing! You can find out which shows I’ll be at over on my events page.
My second counterbalance is the wonderful Textile Artist Melissa Warren. It was a joy this morning to spend time (and money) in her lovely craft shop and gallery, Lemon Blues. Melissa produces wonderful knitting & silk art work, runs a craft club for anyone who wants to drop in, is a role model and mentor for enterprising women anywhere but particularly in the South Wales valleys and is one of the founder members of Made in the Valleys – a collective of artists, artisans and creatives. Made in the Valleys are about to have their Christmas exhibition at the Giles Gallery in Pontyclun. You can see some of my work there as well as some of the best of what is being made in the South Wales valleys at the moment. Again there are details on my events page.
My third and last counterbalance to the downs of life are the delightfully named yarnbombing group, Lily’s Posse. Like most yarnbombing groups, the members of Lily’s Posse like to remain anonymous and interact with the world through an independent ‘Communications Officer’ – in this case, me.
Agents Balaclava, Burger, Chullo, Captain Beanie, Jaja, Le Bobble, Red Hat and 007 recently yarnbombed Bryngarw Country Park to celebrate autumn and Hallowe’en.
If you need an ‘up’ in your life, then forming a yarnbombing group will do the trick. Finally, there’s one other way to deal with the not so good things that go on in your life and that’s to remember the happier days. As Dylan Thomas says:
“Yet, though I cry with tumbledown tongue, Count my blessings aloud:”
Thanks for the memories, Myfanwy.