Lately I have begun to make lampshades.
I have no idea what I will do with them all; they are bulky objects and quickly fill the airing cupboard. Find a market one day? A market a million miles away. On the metaphorical moon.
I don’t know why lampshades. Why glass before that?
Because I needed something tangible to do when the words failed; you can give a shade away, or a bowl, but you can hardly present a person with a piece of writing that didn’t sell. Here. I wrote this for you. Oh. Thanks. They’d stammer, wondering what on earth they were going to do with 1200 words on Why Multitasking Isn’t Good for You. Writing that doesn’t sell is filed invisibly in the ether. Forgotten. A platter gathers dust on the sideboard until somebody says, ‘did you make that’. And your admission that you did proves you don’t just sit here in (not so) splendid isolation doing nothing.
You see, even in the absence of anybody to buy the accumulation of stuff I craft, it makes me feel useful: the doing.
Until I began to play at creating, using my hands, I had imagined I would only find satisfaction in the cerebral. In the poring over research and plucking from it the necessary to deliver copy to an editor, in the piecing together of prose. But over the years, as commissions dried up, as time weighed heavier on idle hands, I realized that writing, especially when there was apparently no market for that anyway, wasn’t going to be enough. Indeed it only endorsed the feeling of redundancy. I was somewhat startled to discover that I, no artist (I cannot draw or sew or paint), could find some fulfillment , some occupation, in colour and shape and texture.
And I have noticed that it is precisely in the careful working with my hands that solace comes. Ant knew it would, it’ll be therapeutic, he said, which I dismissed as a platitude at first (I ought to have known better: my husband does not spew platitudes).
This week has been especially difficult and long and the hours very, very heavy and so, because I need to tick off the seconds and the minutes that finally add up to a single day, I have disappeared to my studio (a lofty word: an afterthought, a once store, stuck gracelessly to the end of the house), my space, cluttered with kilns and tools and tiles of glass and bottle of glue and ambitious books about all the things I aspire to make and it is there, as I apply attention to cutting and measuring and concentrated folding and tucking so that my paper and fabric take shape as a shade, there that the peace descends. The focus on a line, a pattern, the blades of my scissors as I shear material just so and my head empties and the afternoon slips past. I only know it’s nearly gone when the dogs begin to snuffle impatiently at my feet because it’s time for a walk and I am astonished at the time; where did it go?. My making has massaged the difficult hours away and something like contentment is left; my husband was right. Therapy.
And I have something concrete to hold up to the light, to touch, to turn and examine for loose threads, something to show Ant when he comes home, look at what I made. And he will take the thing, a shade, a bowl, in his hands and scrutinize it for quality partly because he is a perfectionist like that but mostly because he knows that in the careful examination he will endorse my efforts as something that counts. Something important. Something that made my day matter.
Well done he says, and smiles.