"Here, I made this for you." I love those words. I love that someone would take the time to make something for me. It's one of the few actions in the world that actually make me feel appreciated and special - among a raise, visits from my family, and a real letter in my mailbox.
The art of making things seems to be a lost one. I can make cards, applesauce, mediocre curtains and a mean pan of brownies. But that might be all. I can't make a house from a stack of lumber. I can't make a blanket from a ball of yarn. I can't make yarn from the wool of a sheep. I can't make a lot. My dad can make stuff. He can disappear into the basement, one that is chock full of stuff, and make incredible things. Useful things. Things that always make me smile, because of their uniqueness, craftsmanship, and the fact that my dad made it.
Using your hands to create something from a raw material is a gift and skill, but can be learned. I learned how to make applesauce from my mother. Patiently, year after year, it was the same process. When I left for college, I knew how to make applesauce, and did - in a dorm room with an electric burner, sauce pan and empty wine bottle. It was the best applesauce I ever tasted because I made it, all by myself. Yes, I confess, I was proud of that pan of applesauce.
Photo by Jennifer Schlick
Above: Spending time with your family might be the best gift. At left: A young girl works on a bracelet at Homemade Holidays.
People tend to treasure things that were made for them by hand more than store-bought gifts. When there is an emotional connection, there is more value. I still keep, in a box of memories, clothes that my grandmother sewed for me when I was a little kid. I have a box of letters written to me from my parents. I have needlepoint pictures on my wall that my mother made from me years ago. Little things, even useless now, I hesitate to let go - like an axe handle an old family friend made, not for me, but for another relative.
Homemade. Handmade. These words mean comfort and quality. They mean love and attention and sustenance wrapped into the folds of a quilt, contained in a quart jar of peaches, or residing in the latch on my kitchen pantry. Those words mean durable, well-made, and tough when applied to tools, a set of garage stairs, or a porch. I have things that no one else in the world has because they were made by the hands of my relatives out of a piece of junk turned tool turned keepsake. When I cradle those one-of-a-kind things in my hands, I know the patience, perseverance and confidence from which they were born.
Innovation and creativity are two of the driving forces between handmade items. Throw some necessity in there and you've got a tool. A little love and you have a keepsake. Maybe a pinch of malice and you get a weapon. Handfuls of gratitude and you make a gift. Each handmade thing is different. It has to be. We are incapable of making the same things twice if using only our hands and heads. We strive to make it better, prettier, more purposeful, efficient or bigger. A handmade gift captures a mood, an idea, a thought. It is as close to giving someone a piece of you as possible.
In that same spirit, Audubon hosts Homemade Holidays every year. We use recycled, reused or natural materials to create little keepsakes to give to family and friends for the holiday. It's a day to make something with your own two hands, with your thoughts and creativity. And it's a day to spend in the company of the people you treasure. This day is a great event for families to come and explore the exhibit and stop in and make a few gifts to take away.
This year, the date is Nov. 28 and it's the Friday after Thanksgiving, as always. Admission is regular - adults pay $5 dollars and children and members enter for free. There is a small donation for each craft, but nothing excessive. The center is open from 10 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. that day, so come and walk off a little of the turkey and stuffing on our five miles of trails. They will be decorated with winterberry and rose hips with a soundtrack of chickadees and rustling grasses for a truly wonderful walk. The trails stay open until dark. And don't forget to visit Liberty!
For more information about the event, visit our Web site at www.jamestownaudubon.org or call 569-2345. Audubon is located on Riverside Road just off Route 62 between Warren and Jamestown. Our regular winter hours are Saturday and Monday, 10 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., and Sunday from 1 to 4:30 p.m. We are open some holiday hours. Feel free to call and ask.
Sarah Hatfield is a naturalist at Audubon and loves homemade things, especially food.