Remember that little ditty? We used to sing it on the bus, shout it on the playground and yell it out the car windows. It came in handy for spelling tests. I am recalling it now as I had a wonderful afternoon today in Hannibal, Missouri as I travel west to Homestead National Monument. Hannibal is perched on the banks of the mighty Missisip and home to Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain. I toured his home and those of his childhood friends who appeared in his books as Tom, Huck and Becky. I am reminded how his early experiences contributed to his creative process in later life I also just love his acerbic wit.
What has this got to do with quilting or anything else you might wonder? Well, obviously I have not turned out to be a paddlewheel captain, famous author, or bankrupt for that matter (thank goodness) like Mark Twain, but my childhood and some good genes has had a definite influence on my creativity. I come from a long line of artists, or perhaps more correctly, makers. We have wood workers, wood carvers, painters, sewers, knitters a canoe maker and a jewelry maker in the family. With the exception of my graphic designer son, all the rest of us are self taught. When you look up “outsider art,” on Wikipedia, our family portrait next to the definition.
Some of us have been more successful than others in our artistic endeavors. My dad made a living for many years making furniture, and my mother had the ability to knit intricate cable knit sweaters while watching television and without even looking at her hands. My English aunt on the other hand, knit herself a wool bathing suit during the 1920’s so she could be de rigeur. She did in fact make quite a fashion statement when the weight of the salt water caused the whole shebang to stretch down to her knees Typically the water temperature off the north coast of England does not lend itself to topless bathing.
My parents also endured my creative endeavors with great tolerance as I look back on it now. When I used gooey homemade flour paste to adhere images of Twiggy, the Beatles and Stones all over the basement (well cellar, really) walls, they never once said, ” Holy S***! Do you see that two ton coal burning furnace over there? Are you trying to start a conflagration that will burn the house down?” When my cousin and I thought it was a great idea to carry a thirty pound rock two miles out of the woods in order to extract the quartz crystals it contained, my Dad gave me a hammer. Note to self, that job really requires a diamond tipped industrial strength drill. Lastly, after reading Huck Finn, my brother, cousin and I constructed a raft worthy of the mighty Mississippi out of an old door, several Styrofoam coolers and some twine. My dad nonchalantly threw it in the back of his pick up truck, drove it 20 miles to throw it in a farm pond and watched it promptly sink the minute we boarded. Tom and Huck would have been greatly disappointed but my dad never said a word. Good thing my family was instrumental in developing my artistic abilities, because I never would have made it as an engineer.