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A Rant About Crafts

September 22, 2009

Why are Mormon women supposed to do crafts? Is there something inherently divine about the doing of crafts? This is something I am struggling with right now, because I’ve been asked to make a sale-worthy craft to donate.

Here’s the thing: I have never in my life made a craft that I would ever ask anyone to pay for. Even that blanket I took a picture of, which turned out pretty cute, is not saleable. Why? If you look at it, and you don’t have to look close, the stitching is crooked, and the corners aren’t quite right. I would make it and give it to someone, because the person I gave it to would say “Aww, Emily made this, and she doesn’t even sew very well. Bless her heart. It’s soft, and my baby won’t mind that it’s not perfect.” And I really would feel my heart being blessed.

But ask someone to shell out money for it? Heck no. And the same is true of every other craft I’ve ever made in my life. I don’t mind doing crafts at Enrichment nights. I like working on a project and chatting. But if I don’t get it done that night, I never finish it on my own. I threw away an old box of Enrichment crafts from the early nineties. When I do finish a project, it’s rarely good-looking enough that I would want to display it in my own home, let alone say “hey! pay money for this!” Besides, crafts get dated easily; in ten years all the vinyl lettering that’s so popular now will go the way of Relief Society glass grapes.

I admire and respect the women who made this request, which is why I will humiliate/humble myself in attempting to make a pathetic little contribution. But I guess I chafe at being forced into a craft-mold. I’m okay when other women do crafts. I am even okay doing them myself, as long as someone else figures out the project and shows me how and doesn’t evaluate the final result. I just struggle with mandatory sale-worthy crafts.

I spent two minutes searching for a blog mocking bad crafts, but I couldn’t find the one I was looking for, so I gave it up (the internet has shortened my attention span). But here is my kind of maudlin blog from Segullah about mean girls and charity.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. NotMolly permalink
    September 22, 2009 7:01 am

    May I offer a suggestion? It’s one I use a lot.

    Say “No, that won’t be possible. I’ll be glad to help in another way.”

    I’ve used that multiple times, and though it takes a bit of bravery at first, drawing those boundaries is really freeing, and I can serve joyously in so many other ways. The trick is offering no additional explanation–they don’t get to know WHY it won’t be possible. It just won’t be possible. You can even give a little smile and sad head shake, and be sorry that it won’t be possible, if you’re really wanting to cushion the blow they will feel in not being graced with your crafting efforts.

    But usually, just say, “No, thanks, it won’t be possible for me to do that. Could you use some help doing up a promo flyer instead? Or, if everyone is getting together to work on the donation crafts, I would be glad to bring some cupcakes to share.”

    Besides, the look on their faces when they finally start to realize you really are serious, and really won’t be crafting for charity, is pretty funny. Try not to giggle victoriously until you’re in the privacy of your own home.

  2. September 22, 2009 7:19 am

    Uh, Emily?

    You WRITE. You craft words into things of beauty. I have a quote from an essay of yours going onto my bedroom wall. It is beautiful and inspires me – whaddya mean you don’t craft?

    In your position, I’d give them an issue of Irreantum or Segullah that you had published in. I really would. It fits the criteria (you made it, it is sellable), and completes the request. Or I’d smile while I said “Sorry, I don’t craft like you do. Can I help with something else?”

    Each to their own crafty talents, and the differences that result!

  3. September 22, 2009 12:01 pm

    First off, what Selwyn said. Women have an urge to create, like Elder Uchdorff has said. For a lot of women, it’s in tangible things like quilts and the like. For others, it’s in words, and that’s just as legitimate. So we writers can admire others’ blankets and nod and then go back to our keyboards.

    Second, you’d get a kick out of the Glitter Gone Bad blog. It’s REALLY bad craft projects. It rocks.

  4. Emily permalink*
    September 22, 2009 7:44 pm

    Not Molly, I think that I might do that in a different circumstance. Really, this is more about my pride than anything. It’s about me not liking to do stuff that makes me look bad.

    Selwyn, wow, I am flattered. I worry a little, though, about saying that I don’t need to do crafts because I Am A Writer. That seems snobby to me, and as I think about it, it’s more a pride issue than anything else. If I had written a whole book, I might bring that, though. Good idea.

    Annette, oh my. Glitter Gone Bad is hysterical. One day in a few years I will be you and I’ll be able to donate a book to this kind of event, instead of stewing over a mediocre craft. I hope…

    Something interesting about this Glitter Gone Bad site is that she found a bunch of the crafts on Etsy! That means that people were selling them! On purpose! So maybe my problem is I just need a little more chutzpah with my crafts.

  5. September 22, 2009 7:45 pm

    I completely agree with the suggestions above. We don’t have to love making physical crafts and most of them aren’t worthy of selling.

    My favorite anti-craft scripture: “And they worship the work of their own hands.” Somewhere in Isaiah/2 Nephi.

  6. NotMolly permalink
    September 22, 2009 8:21 pm

    I really like that scripture, Wendy. Hmmm… would that be a really sarcastic thing to do in needlepoint on a pillow? If so… well, I might be up for THAT sort of craft.

    Do any of us like to do things poorly? I sure don’t. If I can manage it competently, then I’ll share in public, even if it’s not entirely perfect. But if I’m lacking in competency, then it’s staying a private endeavor until I’ve worked at it! Mix in that pride with a tiny bit of rebellion, and it stiffens my spine enough to turn down dubious opportunities. 🙂

  7. September 22, 2009 8:35 pm

    Emily, I hadn’t read your comment when I wrote mine above. I get what you’re saying.

    When I first found that scripture, I was very anti-craft, but I’ve realized I actually enjoy making things; I don’t like to clutter my house with a lot of it, though, and most of it doesn’t fit into my budget. If you are looking for ideas, Scrabble Tile necklaces are really easy and cute and sellable. I’ve seen some cutesy versions and some very elegant versions. Whatever you do, good luck!

    Not Molly, I admit I quoted that scripture with a little too much pride in my anti-craft days!!

  8. September 23, 2009 1:51 am

    I generally avoid crafts, for many of the same reasons. My fine-motor skills are terrible and have been all my life. I also don’t like the way most of them look in my house and choose not to decorate with stuff like that, so I don’t see a reason to do them. If Enrichment is craft-based, then I usually go and just chat/hang out. I will admit that I actually really like counted cross-stich, but haven’t done very many projects lately because framing is expensive and I often don’t know how to fit them into my decor (like I know how to decorate-hah!). Anyways, in many circumstances I would probably just find a polite way to decline or to find some other way to contribute to the cause. A few years ago our RS was doing some sort of ‘international night’ and they really, really wanted me to sing in Spanish. I don’t sing in public, never have, and never will. It was hard to say ‘no’, but I had to because there is no way I could get up and sing. It was awkward. Anyways, you are not alone in your uncraftiness. Maybe we should start a Utah County knowledge bowl club?

  9. September 23, 2009 2:11 am

    Do you like to make jewelry? I don’t mind making jewelry with my girls, but I refuse to make another craft that will gather dust in a corner 🙂

  10. Emily permalink*
    September 23, 2009 3:08 am

    Wendy, great scripture!
    FoxyJ, there are some things I would just have to say no to as well. Like coaching YW athletics. I would have to say, if you need a warm body there, okay, but I cannot possibly assist in any meaningful way.
    Heather, I actually made jewelry in high school a little. And… it was fun, but it looks homemade. Again, not something I would put up for sale.

    It’s all about the pride, I guess. But I bought myself some vinyl Nativity thingies and Matt is going to cut some wood from a giant log thingie we bought at Home Depot and I’m going to put that vinyl on and call it a craft, even if no one else does.

  11. September 23, 2009 4:41 am

    Couldn’t resist adding this quote:

    “…And my creations are not limited to children. I have strung beaded words together and felt the weight of them, perfect and round, settle against my heart.” (You, yourself, “Beauty for Ashes”)

    I don’t “craft” like others do. So much so that people see what I make at any craft class in Enrichment and just say “uh….. WOW.” Different appears to be my craft style. Thankfully they love me anyway, hot glue gun or not =)

    Hope the stall goes well!

  12. Emily permalink*
    September 23, 2009 3:19 pm

    Selwyn, you are kind. And thank you for the reminder…

    I have a confession to make, though: that particular line is mostly Angela Hallstrom. I forget what it said before she helped me tweak it, but now it’s lovely. The power of a good editor; writers get to take credit for their work on occasion. I think “strung beaded words” is mine and “felt the weight of them…” is hers.

    I think you’re like one of ten people who has read that essay, so I’m very flattered. It’s funny because it applies so well to this situation, I could practically write the whole thing again. I think I’ve processed something because I’ve written about it, but the same issues keep cropping up.

    Sending you a virtual hug. 🙂

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