Monday, February 8, 2010

Arts and Crafts and Grandma

My parents called me up to a spare bedroom.  They were rummaging around, trying to find things, and figured it would be a good time for me to take whatever few items I had left there.  They opened a blanket chest and pulled out a shank of braided, auburn hair (almost honey colored), wrapped in a plastic bag.  "This was your grandmother's hair.  Do you want it?"  It took me a moment, but I said no.  

I knew my grandmother had been a model, which was not your average grandmother's calling.  She also had some pretensions to artistic endeavor and these pretensions expressed themselves in little crafts projects.  I offer two of them below:

This is a print which Grandma took the liberty of very lightly coloring in (so lightly that the camera couldn't pick it up).  She then signed it in a larger signature than the actual artist's, whose signature appears almost directly above hers nearer the neckline of the cowl.  It measures approximately 7.5" w x 9.5"h.


This is a vase which Grandma painted by hand.  It measures 5"d x 4"h.  As you can see in the full sized version (just click on it), the paint has worn away on a few of the outer buds, which I think is due to Grandma using paint that was too watered down.

 Why I like these pieces:

These are remembrances more than art, but I included them here because I think that they are exactly how art is in its simpler forms.  All art partakes of craft, but not all craft is art.  In the first example, my grandmother wouldn't endeavor to draw a young girl, but she would "gild the lily" and add color to improve, in her eyes, a worthy effort.  Art always competes with people's expectations of what art is.

The vase is my grandmother's and hers alone.  She perhaps copied the flower theme from some other item or work that she knew, but she knew how to mix the colors on the brush to obtain the desired effect.  I remember this vase placed on a bracket on the wall in her kitchen, holding a philodendron.  

What these pieces remind me of:

Of course, they remind me of my childhood.  My grandparents had a very nice 3 bedroom house with a good piece of land behind it.  Among all her other interests, gardening was my grandmother's passion, and she had fairly elaborate plantings, leading on a garden path down to a terrace which held a fireplace for grilling.  Further on were two trees where a hammock was usually hung in the summer.  Not bad for a suburban setting which today is very developed.

My grandmother was a stickler for good behavior.  There was to be no running or screaming or general roughhousing.  Speak only when spoken to, and always say "please" and "thank you."  This was quite different from my maternal grandparents, where kids were generally expected to be kids, which meant a little noise and/or conflict was par for the course. Each set of grandparents spoiled us in their own way.