Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Toronto Junction Arts & Crafts Neighbourhood: Wise Daughters' Story: Part 3

Screenshot: facebook: Wise Daughters Craft Market Toronto Junction Arts Crafts NeighbourhoodScreenshot: Wise Daughters has joined the new millennium with a Facebook page.

This article follows Part 1 – It’s the Story, posted March 31 and Part 2 – In the Zone, posted April 17.

Part 3 - A Genetic Predisposition

When the Junction-area Wise Daughters vendors and I got together in March to discuss our craftiness, many related their initial impulse to make things to what they saw their mothers, grandmothers, aunts and even one uncle doing. As with everything else, what we see modeled has a big influence. Those of us growing up in the 60s and 70s - the last, hippy-inspired wave of handicraft fever - were exposed to a lot of maternal macramé, and a great many projects involving gold and silver felt, sequins, podgy and other materials that strike us as quite tacky today. One of the artisans described her mother as "spray-painting the bejezus out of bulrushes". Remember all those latch hooked rugs of owls and embroidered floral arrangements from a kit? I worked at the now defunct Lewiscraft chain of craft supply shops and learned to make these and many more such homey items. To me, Lewiscraft was a candy store. I couldn’t believe my luck when I got paid to work there - $2.25 an hour!

My mother, a talented artist, wanted to be a fashion designer when she was young. Her father thought that was frivolous and frowned on the idea. At university in the 40s, a biology class happened to fill a spot in her schedule on Tuesday afternoons. The rest was history... she became one of a handful of women scientists at that time, graduating with an MSc in bacteriology and earning a great deal of respect in the lab at Sick Kids’ hospital for many years. Her beloved White sewing machine (weighing roughly 100 pounds, now on display at Wise Daughters) was relegated to the odd curtain project or the production of highly unusual and unappreciated dresses for me.

On our dining table, for special occasions, there were always hand-embroidered (and very difficult to iron) linens made by my various great and great-great aunts in England and sent along with my grandmother when she arrived to marry my grandfather in 1916. I have a set of china hand-painted by my Aunt Annie in 1913, who also produced exquisite painted cameos. Aunt Mary knit me a baby blanket even though she was well over 80 when I was born. Babies in our family always had intricately smocked dresses. Basically, none of the women in my family ever dared sit down without a needle of some sort in her hand – to sew, embroider, needlepoint or knit. This is pretty much still the case. Call it a genetic predisposition.

Two of my most prized possessions are samplers made by my great-great spinster aunts, Susan and Emma, in 1880. These and other heirlooms from my artistic foremothers will be on display at the Amalgamation Celebration this Friday night, where Wise Daughters volunteers will demonstrate a variety of century old crafts with a modern twist.

2009 © Mary Breen
Owner of the Wise Daughters Craft Market

Wise Daughters Craft Market
Local handicrafts and do-it-yourself workshops

3079B Dundas Street West, Toronto, ON, M5P 1Z9
(facing Quebec Ave, just south of Dundas, behind Crema Coffee)
There is ample street parking on Dundas and Quebec.
Via TTC: Junction bus from Dundas West Stn,
Lambton bus (or 15 min. walk) from High Park Stn.

Still to come... Part 4 - The Junction Vibe.

Part 1 - It’s the Story
Part 2 - In the Zone
Part 3 - A Genetic Predisposition
Part 4 - The Junction Vibe