when our children inspire us

February 6, 2013 |  Category:   craft life remembering


My high school art teacher, who was the most awesome teacher to have during those formative teenage years, would often tell me that the one of the best parts of being a teacher was being inspired by his students. He once thanked me for making him a better artist. I never forgot that. Even back then I pondered what that statement meant, an adult who was nearly twice my age thanking me, a kid, for inspiring him to be a better artist.


I get that now though. I know what he meant.
Mia brought home this little weaving that she made at a birthday party held at the Textile Arts Center and it sort of blew me away. Not in that, “oh look how precious this drawing of our family is”, but more in a “wow, this is a really interesting textile piece and I love the colors that she chose” kind of way. I don’t know anything about weaving on a loom, so my unfamiliarity about weaving fabrics totally heightened the mystery of how she was able to make this in 2 hours. I was really proud of her and she was obviously proud of her work. I also wanted to learn how to weave something myself immediately, and this is what made me think of my high school art teacher.
I’m not a crafty person, which is a bit ironic considering how I used to spend my childhood days. Designing paper dolls with outfits and creating elaborate dioramas were my absolute favorite activity (and I cringe to admit that my 10 year old self was pretty competitive about dioramas at school). Sometimes I feel regretful that I’m not THAT mom. You know, the one who whips out the craft box on rainy days and can lead their kids into hours of “crafting” (I really dislike the verb usage of words like that) and come out the other end with puppets made out of old sweaters and bird feeders from milk cartons. I mean, damn. Sometimes I really wish I were that mom. I have the potential and know how to be, but I will ashamedly admit…I am just too lazy (how awful to reveal that). But this weaving that Mia brought home might mark a new beginning because I’m realizing that the kids’ ability to comprehend and handle activities that require dexterity and patience opens up a new world of art projects. I think I underestimated their abilities because they were “still kids”. I was wrong.
One of the more vivid memories from my childhood is taking painting classes with my mom. I must have been 9 or 10. Our teacher was a big Romanian woman with a husky voice who held small open studio classes in her attic art studio in her house in Queens. She was a chain smoker and had a big black labrador whose tail would wack against the closed door as she patiently sat outside the art studio, wanting to be let in. My mom and I would paint side by side on our respective paintings, hers in oils and mine in acrylics, every Saturday with our Romanian teacher giving us critiques and helping us with our technique. It’s a memory that I think back on fondly and it would be cool to share a similar experience with the girls one day.
Incidentally, I signed the kids up for a week long camp session during the summer at the same Textile Arts Studio where Mia learned how to weave (yes, that’s right. In NYC, many families will have registered for camp already by January. Craziness!). It’s really great to have so many different specialized camps right here in the neighborhood – rock climbing, robotics, skateboarding, video making, textiles. It’s a far cry from the camps that I remember going to in the 80s, where the only thing I can remember was making sure I had the right Jordache jeans and choreographing a musical routine to “Hey, Big Spender” with 20 other girls (um, what?). It makes me want to sign up for a class myself too. And so it comes full circle – the girls are inspiring me to want to create things again, to take classes and have fun while doing it. But more importantly than that, they’re inspiring me to let go of some of the fear of failure that has prevented me from doing so in the past.

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  • annie February 6, 2013 at 3:40 pm

    How inspiring indeed! I too love the colors she choose and that she made that in an hour! Wow! I heard once that if you ask a child if they are an artist or can paint, draw etc they will on average say “yes”. At some point we become adults and our response becomes “no”. That conversation was equipped with percentages and stats that I’ve since forgotten but wow. I’m sure there are tons of reasons both good and bad for why this is the case; kids are expected to be creative/have more opportunities. Adults learn that drawing is a skill and if they don’t practice that skill or have it naturally they are therefore not good. Even still, I find there is so much importance in creating and carving out creativity in our lives. I went to school to be a doctor because studying theater seemed frivolous! I later switched to Physical Therapy and just before I went to graduate school decided to take an adventurous year off to travel, read…I eventually lived in another country. It took me ten years after graduating college to finally be comfortable with the idea that creating is so important and that I wanted it to be a major part of my life. And, also to believe that creativity takes smarts. Now I have a tiny vintage/upcycled shop on etsy and am a budding photographer. I love it, and now I wish I would have started sooner because I feel behind the curve of others in my same situation! I loved this entry. Perhaps your children will be more crafty with the upbringing you provide. It seems that creativity; writing, photography and baking are just a part of your and their lives, not a special detour. How nice to think of creating as utilitarian too!

    I have only started following you just this month but you speak my language. Perhaps that is your inspiration for others, maybe words are your creative craft. Thank you for that.


  • Faith @ Ordinary Mommy Design February 6, 2013 at 4:52 pm

    Right there with you on this! I often feel bad that I’m not that “crafty mom”. I want to be, but it just seems so overwhelming. There is definitely that tendency to underestimate what these kids are capable of. I mean, look! Look at that weaving! It’s beautiful.

  • Audrie February 6, 2013 at 5:41 pm

    I wouldn’t feel bad if I were you. My mum was never crafty and didn’t like us doing anything that’d make a mess. And when I went to university, my parents didn’t let me do anything that I wanted to do (I wanted to study textile, fashion or photography), so I studied accounting and finance, then later into journalism and public relations. I had a short career in the corporate world, but now I’m a quilter and an author of quilting books, and dabble in photography. At first my parents were baffled but they’re so proud now. Your girls are clearly creative sorts… just keep encouraging and they’ll be just fine 🙂

  • elf February 6, 2013 at 9:01 pm

    Hi, longtime reader, not usually a commenter. I took Weaving 101 at the Textile Arts Center–and it was great. 🙂 The adult classes are just as good as their classes for kids and teens. If you can make the time, I highly recommend it. Classes are small –and my instructor was more than happy to work with me when I wanted to try something a little outside of the box.

  • betsy February 6, 2013 at 9:37 pm

    I really really love this post!!

  • jen February 7, 2013 at 2:28 am

    haha,that’s awesome. yup, not the crafty mom here. i sometimes think it’s because i spend all my creativity at work, i really have none left for the home. gawd, that sounds terrible. same here, camp locked down already for summer here.

  • Mariella February 7, 2013 at 10:29 am

    Thnks Jenna! I also don’t consider myself a crafty person and sometimes I do suffer from guilt (and lazyness) attacks for not spending enough time crafting with my son
    Although he’s quite young still…but I wonder if I will ever be That mum..

  • Britta February 7, 2013 at 10:29 am

    I really loved this post – and I completely understood your statement about letting your girls develop their own story and you’d focus on yours here on the blog. And I think this is a perfect example of how you do that. The girls are obviously still there in your life and here is a wonderful story with a hint of M but more about you.

    Thank you for sharing your memories, your pushes. I love seeing glimpses and having more to inspire than those crafty moms with the giant box of crafts. I am still in love with your blog, 2 years after my first read. Real. Honest. Well-written.

  • elaineG February 7, 2013 at 10:36 am

    I too would be wowed by her creative piece! Like you i’m not a creative mum, every now and then I’ll google ideas to teach my toddler into craft mode, thankfully she’s barely 2 yrs old which makes it easier for me as anything new she touches, sees is part of ‘craft’, lol.

  • Lauren February 7, 2013 at 11:14 am

    What a beautiful post! And yes, Mia really reminded us all of the limitless creative freedom we possess in our youth. So very inspiring!

  • Sophia February 7, 2013 at 12:34 pm

    I recently signed up for Lisa Solomon and Katrina Rodabaugh’s online class, Interwoven. it’s the first time I’ve taken an online class and I really didn’t know what to expect. (I’ve always felt like I was from the camp of learners where i learned better being in a physical class) We are on day four (entire course is for 4 weeks) and I am truly enjoying being introduced to a craft/medium that is somewhat foreign to me. I love and appreciate both the structure and flexibility (to go at your own pace is a godsend for a parent) that allows me to enjoy the course outline that both Lisa and Katrina have thoughtfully planned out. It’s exciting for me to learn a new craft, plus it is definitely challenging this old brain again;) (I’m not really that old…44 today!!)
    And in regards to you feeling like you are “just too lazy,” I think you are too hard on yourself Jenna. I think in general, having genuine interests in the things and time you spend with your family goes a long way as opposed to just filling up time with activites and so forth. So that is great that you are excited about weaving!

  • Jenna February 7, 2013 at 12:39 pm

    @Sophia I always wonder about online classes and this might be the way to go for me in terms of time. And I love Lisa Solomon! I got to know her a bit now through social media but have been a fan of her work for years. How exciting!

  • Sophia February 7, 2013 at 1:09 pm

    @jenna I first met Lisa through her blog, we eventually met in person (we both live in the bay area) and are now friends. She is so kind, thoughtful, generous…not to mention a fantastic artist and teacher…I adore her!
    Good luck with your new adventure in learning!

  • ashley english February 7, 2013 at 4:23 pm

    once again, jenna, i truly appreciate your candor. i don’t think of myself as a crafter, either, at least not in the sew/knit/quilt/glue gun way. i like crafting “lite”, easy, simple projects to do, both for myself and with huxley. as he grows, though, i really hope to challenge myself by exploring whatever he expresses an affinity towards.

    thanks for being so open about your experiences in mothering! i know you mentioned a desire to write less about the girls here, and i totally respect that. i have to admit, though, they’re one of my favorite parts of your blog, because you always, always, always express what is happening truthfully, without trying to put a shiny, happy veneer over life’s challenges. much appreciated!!!

  • Jenna February 7, 2013 at 5:00 pm

    Hi Ashley and Britta! I appreciate your comment and observation about the way I’m handling writing about the girls now. I think this is the way that I’m working around that now, as I hoped that I would when I wrote that post. I think it would be very hard not to mention the kids in any kind of capacity here – parenting is such a huge part of our lives, so again, it’s just trying to be a little more sensitive in the way I approach it while still being respectful.

  • Ayetwobee February 8, 2013 at 7:23 am

    I love this. it looks very sophisticated. I remember taking a silk painting class when I was a kid. I loved it and painted a silk scarf that I think my mother still has. I love crafting. I make cheesy salt dough stuff at christmas, occasionally knit a scarf or hat and sometimes sew. My favourite memories of being young were sitting at the big kitchen table with my mom and brother, listening to the weekend opera on the radio and making crafts. We spent hours and hours doing it.

  • Peggy February 9, 2013 at 11:34 pm

    Being a weaver myself I am very happy to see a child interested in weaving!……many guilds across the US are trying to interest young people in weaving so the art is not lost!!……a fantastic first piece!!!!….Go Mia!…..