My happiest times as child were making elaborate cardboard mansions for my collection of troll dolls. My trolls had running water and upholstered furniture. They had beds with sheets and quilts, closets full of little troll dresses and suits. They had tiny kitchen tables that held even smaller flower vases. I made hooked rugs for the wooden floors. I will admit to one near disaster when I assumed that a layer of aluminum foil on a cardboard stove would hold up to a lit match. I was forced to use the garden hose on my pretty little troll house, but I did save the patio. I think my parents still blame my youngest brother for the burn marks (Sorry Andy.)
I never played with those trolls. I just made things for them. As I grew up, my need to make things grew with me. That was when the Masters showed up. My earliest teacher was my Grandma Lela. She had the patience to teach a toddler to stitch…it was on a doily with yarn on a closed safety pin, but I loved it. The culture I grew up in valued the work of the hand and I learned to sew and crochet. I made quilts for real beds and dolls for my sisters. My best friend’s mother taught me to sew on a machine. I learned to embroider at church and soon nearly everything I wore was embroidered.
I sat at the feet of masters, and I learned. Since then, I have learned to tat, knit, darn, do wire work, bead, make jewelry, macramé, hand dye fabric, make paper, screen print, block print, make hand made books, carve wood and lino, make chain maille, make felt. My friend Cindy Yost French and I invented an economical fiber loom that has no warp ends to finish and we self-published the book that went with the loom. I am proud to say that my daughter Gail has an amazing business called Bright Life Toys on Etsy. I like to think that I was an influence .
I owe those patient women who taught me so much. Because of them I can proudly say that I am a traditionally trained craftsman. One of the things I learned from the masters was that the gift they gave me obligated me to teach what I know to others. Fulfilling that obligation has turned out to be the greatest gift of all.