On the way to putting together a crafting studio in our ‘new’ house, which is sixty years old, I learned a lot about myself and a lot about writing. I spend as much, if not more, time collecting items to use in my crafts and organizing and reorganizing them, than I do in the actual creation of my artsy-craftsy items. I make handmade/hand-decorated greeting cards, gift tags, tin boxes, Victorian-style ornaments and jewelry. The items I collect and use are old and discarded cards, pretty paper and cardstock, vintage wrapping paper, broken and discarded jewelry, old watch parts, old buttons and vintage, often decayed lace and ribbon. I much prefer old things to new.
I think I spend so much time organizing and playing with my collections because I love the feel, the smell, the sight and yes, the aura of them. Almost all the things I use have belonged to someone. And when I handle the broken brooches, chains and pendants, or the old greeting cards with messages handwritten inside, or lace and ribbon that was once in a lady’s sewing room or even on a dress or blouse, there is an essence of that person that I believe becomes a part of the item I create. I often wonder about the woman who owned a beautiful pearl pendant and why the pretty, broken piece of jewelry ended up with me. I see an old piece of shattered lace at a thrift shop and I can’t resist buying it for 10 cents or a dollar. Its softness and fragility feel alive to me in a way that a brand new length of lace never does.
I think I write in the same way that I create handmade crafts and art from old and cast-off things. Maybe we all do. According to experts, somewhere in our brains is stored the memory of everything we’ve ever done or seen. I believe this. In my head are all the characters in all the books I’ve ever read, in all the movies and TV shows I’ve ever watched. When I write, I’m very visual and tactile. I experience what the characters are doing as if I were actually the hero or heroine. I can’t jot down dialogue or a quick description, planning to later come back and fill in the rest of the scene–setting, surroundings, weather, etc. My scenes unfold like a bolt of whole cloth. If the hero is angry at the heroine, he moves around the room, he pushes his fingers through his hair in frustration. The sound of a phone ringing interrupts him and irritates him. The heroine’s reaction may ramp up his anger or calm him down. And every single thing that happens, comes from a place inside my brain where in some sense, it has all happened before. My effort to describe a facial expression on an actor whose character is told his wife is dead can become a necessary embellishment in a pivotal scene in one of my books. My visceral reaction to a murder scene in a book by a favorite author can later be reimagined as my heroine’s horror and disgust at a crime she witnesses. Each of these tidbits swirling in my brain are as precious and beautiful and inspirational as holding that broken pearl pendant and watching the sunlight in my studio play off its surface.
So when do I take out my snippets of memory and play with them and reorganize them and just enjoy the sensations evoked in me by them? In that hazy neverland between waking and sleeping–one of my favorite times of each day. And in my dreams. I’ve attached a couple of photos of my craft studio and a photo of a tattered lace cuff bracelet I made.