This is the tale of my rise in childhood to become the most powerful art dictator of Hamilton, Virginia, population 800.
Well, no, it’s not quite like that.
One of my fondest childhood memories was setting up art projects for my younger siblings. I used to create “art stations” for them: each “station” would have a different project, and I’d assign each sibling to a different station, then switch them after a while, until everybody had completed each art project.
Many years later, I described childhood art stations to my husband, and his response was, “So you’d tell everybody else what to do, huh?”
“No, I was… well… I guess…” Okay, so yeah, I was bossing the other kids around. I didn’t see it that way at the time. Maybe I was the art dictator of the neighborhood. I’d like to think that I was at least a benevolent one.
I was completely arts-and-crafts obsessed growing up. My favorite gifts were the easel and watercolors Santa Claus brought me one year, and all the many pastels, acrylic paints, canvas boards, and brushes grandma gave me. I made everything into craft items – twigs from the trees in the backyard, scraps of yarn from grandma’s house, pieces of drywall, plywood, and finishing nails, drugstore nail polish in garish shades… I hoarded craft supplies like a dragon in a cave – buttons, beads, dyed feathers, fishing line, glitter, and tempera paints. These were my treasures.
I don’t know where I got the idea of art stations – it was probably at school or summer camp – but I liked the idea so much that I painted a grid with numbers on my bedroom floor in tempera paint. “Kara, you’re in Station 2, the pom-pom and pipe-cleaner station. Kevin, you’re in station 3 making lanyards…” The tempera paint was supposed to be water soluble and wash off the floor, but those fuchsia and purple lines were horrifyingly visible many years later.
I remember bringing my crafts projects with me when I was invited to other kids’ houses and doing crafts with pretty much everyone who came over. My dad built a long table and chairs out of plywood and 2x4s in the basement where we could sit to do art projects, and we even painted the table and chairs! He brought home reams and reams of computer paper and we wrote and drew on it all!
In the previous story of this series, I described my grandparents as living in their own world. I’m absolutely the same way. I think it’s a common characteristic of introverts. We create and live in our own worlds, and only invite a few in. I invited people into my little world by sharing my arts and crafts with them. What my husband viewed as me bossing other kids around was, for me, inviting them into my world in the only way I knew how. I hope they enjoyed it as much as I did.