a Gift of Colour and Encouragement
Handmade gifts are tricky things. A person can spend any length of time from minutes to years on a project without the recipient ever knowing how long it actually took. A technique can look deceptively simple and the recipient may never know how much thought and effort actually went into the gift. And unless you are capable of clearly articulating your thoughts, you never know if the gift is going to be truly appreciated or the motivation for creating and giving it understood.
The interaction between the creator (their tastes and interests) and their understanding of the person receiving the gift is a delicate balance. You risk your enthusiasm for a project overwhelming the personality of the gift, creating something that is totally wrong for the recipient. I personally have gotten so involved in the technique of a project that all practicality and style went straight out the window!
Journals, diaries, and notebooks make great gifts. They can be an extension of the giver, providing an ear to listen and a comforting presence when needed. They reinforce the fact that what the writer says is important, worth recording, and that their creativity is worth investing in. At their best, writing in them can be like an enthusiastic discussion or brainstorm session between the giver and receiver, any time, any day. Imagine being able to be there for a friend whenever they needed it, wherever they are!
They provide a reminder that even mundane daily events, recorded as grocery lists, to do lists, and appointments, are an important part of life too. I’ve looked over a grocery list recorded in my journal and been able to remember a great dinner that I was able to prepare and share with my family. Each journal page is a snapshot of life told from the recipient’s perspective. It’s an amazing gift, being able to look back over those scribbles and remember exactly who you were at that time and space and to see how you’ve changed and grown since then, even if all you’re looking at is a friend’s phone number, a sketched map, or… a grocery list.
I wanted the people receiving these journals to feel uplifted when they looked at them, so I used a bright, gentle wash technique for the canvas covers. I also used colours that I felt reflected the personality of each person. I’m often amazed at how much joy a blast of lovely colour can bring to me and I wanted in some way to pass that on to them.
The soft cover of each journal makes each of them feel like a living organism – soft and pliable on the outside with a more structured, yet still moldable interior. Being a very tactile person, I am thrilled that they are art that you can touch. Art that isn’t restricted to a wall or a glass display case, being caressed only by eyes. Art that can move with you, that you can bend and continue to contribute to. Interactive, collaborative, organic art. Not only that, but they are original art; one of a kind – like each person receiving them.
Journals have always held a mysterious potential for me. I think that’s why I used to have such trouble writing in them. I always felt like I had this block of perfect alabaster in front of me while my inexperienced hands awkwardly held a heavy mallet and a very sharp chisel. I didn’t know where to begin. I didn’t want to hold the tools wrong and with one strike mess everything up. I wanted every stroke to count, but I was afraid of what my writing might reveal. I was afraid of the permanence of writing in pen, but I wrote things in calligraphy, thinking that my words would hold more weight if written in fancy letters in green or black ink. I ripped out many a page of my early journals, harming the integrity of the binding, turning them into wobbly, thin little things.
I now write in pencil. I forcefully write my name and address in black felt pen in the front of all my journals. I claim them and make them mine. I scribble in them, and, only if I feel like it do I practice my calligraphy in them. I do not rip out pages no matter what I’ve written on them. My journals are now worn and unashamedly full of mundane tasks, but they’re also bursting with creativity, records of friends, and important events in my life. Best of all, their spines are straight and strong.
I wanted to give that encouragement. I wanted to let the people receiving these journals know that they are unique and colourful and wonderful, that what they say is important, that what they do is important, that I care about what they say and do, and that their life is a work of art.