By Hand

Our friends Peter and Sylvia stopped by briefly on Christmas Eve as we were preparing for our holiday celebration. They wanted to drop off our gift and Peter, being from Iowa City, was hoping to catch my Mom in some brief conversation as she spent a great deal of time there at various points throughout her life.

Peter is an interesting fellow. He is an architect by trade. Curious, intelligent, slightly pushy with an opinion but open to reason. That said, he is most likely to corner you in conversation at a dinner party and keep you from other engagements. But, at least, the trap will be one you will learn from.

But, to me, what makes Peter most interesting is his hobbies. He always has one. They always involve making something by hand. For a few years it was chairs. These chairs were beautifully crafted and were more like art than furniture. When he sold them they were priced more like art than a sitting utensil as well. Good for him.

His latest hobby is hats. These splendid felt hats. They look great on him. Well crafted, wide brimmed, and warm. Perfect in a light Minnesota snowfall. One could imagine him sitting on a cabin porch “up north” sipping from a handmade mug talking about the conversations of the birds. With that hat.

I recently ran into another acquaintance of ours. The father of one of the other girls at the Circus school Beatrix takes classes at. It was before Christmas and I asked how things were going. He responded honestly in saying they were pretty crazy and stressful. Not simply due to the nature of the season but because they made all of their presents. He explained that not only was it a fun idea and good family creative activity but it was a financial necessity. They were a one income family and simply could not afford to give what they wanted any other way.

I found this to be so cool that I have committed to do the same next year — in part at the least with a goal of in whole. And, if not in whole to commit to purchasing gifts that are hand made by others — preferably locally and direct from those that made them.

I’m really interested in this. Having a hobby where one makes things. Useful things. By hand. While I know it is almost a year away again, Christmas always seems to sneak up quickly. I better start making something soon. I have some ideas of things I’d like to try my hands at making.

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