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Brittany: Early Work

The other day I was going through some old boxes, when I found these:


I have no idea how old I was when I made these, but it was probably during elementary school. I would guess second or third grade. During that time, my great-grandmother babysat me in the afternoons after school. She spent her afternoons sewing, and often I joined her. I always loved dollmaking, and Mama (pronounced mamaw) gave me full reign over her fabric scraps, yarns, buttons, etc.

Sometimes, I would make the doll pattern, cut out the fabric, and sew the doll together myself. Other times, she helped. I’m sure she embroidered the face on the pink doll, and probably helped me make her long-lost clothes as well. I’m pretty certain I made the sock Pickaninny on my own, probably inspired by the episodes of Our Gang I watched with my grandmother. I made dozens and dozens of dolls with my great-grandmother.  I can still hear her voice in my head right now. “Honey, you just use whatever… You do whatever you want.”

It was around this time that I started writing, too. I’ve enjoyed books my entire life, and in second grade it dawned on me that I could write books for myself. I remember cutting out pictures from a magazine, pasting them to construction paper, and then writing a simple story (having to do with Mary’s little lamb) to fit the pictures. In third grade, a reporter from the Asheville Citizen Times came to speak to my class about being a journalist and writing for a living. I thought to myself, “You can get paid for this stuff???” and remember knowing, with complete certainty, that writing was what I’d been born to do.

When I was eight or nine, it seemed like the grown-up thing to do to know my own mind. But now that I’m an adult, I marvel at my elementary-aged self, and my ability to zero in so early on two of the three creative pursuits that would bring me most joy.  (At eighteen, I discovered embroidery.)

I look at my boys in wonder as their interests begin to unravel. John is extremely tactile and loves to manipulate small objects. Sam loves nature–waterfalls, rain, trees, animals, insects. He loves trains. He loves music and dancing. He has plenty of time to discover his passion in life, but I try to encourage him whenever he finds a new love. I know how important a little encouragement was to me and how it has sustained me all my life. I hope I can do the same for my children.

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. wonderful great-grandmother you had there, just do whatever you want. i think we all need a little more of that kind of encouragement, adult and kids alike.

    i recall being about the same age as you when i discovered i might actually be good at that something called writing. my second grade teacher (i adored) had a haiku day or week, and i while i can’t recall the poem i wrote that garnered her praise, i remember the elements of it to this day, an owl, a branch, talons, hoot-hooting, blue night.i’ve tried to recreate it periodically, but i know i never quite get to the essence of what i wrote back then. i also recall feeling it was good even before her praise – that sense of poetry, of art, when it hits the pulse of the universe.

    July 6, 2009
  2. Grandmothers are spacial 🙂

    July 6, 2009
  3. Jen #

    Fascinating, Brittany! How lovely to have found some of your early works, and perhaps even more lovely to have the wonderful memories associated with them.

    July 6, 2009
  4. beautiful post, brittany. and how wonderful that you found those old dolls! i had a very similar situation with my nana. she was a very talented seamstress (as well as did ceramics and owned her own ceramics shop for years) and she taught me the basics. i remember her making me dress upon dress when i was little. now i wish i could find the time to make my girls some dresses in between all our other artistic pursuits!

    i love to encourage my girls’ latest passions as well. sarah is quite the little artist and likes to conduct “art class” for me and olivia. i’m finding that olivia may be an art journaler. a friend gave both girls a wonderful giant coloring book that reads like a kids version of ‘wreck this journal’. it’s fun to watch her play around in there and expand upon the directions for each page. she’s very random with it, which is good! just opens a random page and starts going (of course, i’m secretly coveting her book over my own ‘wreck this journal’ as it really seems much more fun. ;-))

    July 6, 2009

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