Like most craftsters, I was crafty from the start. When I was six years old and asked the ubiquitous question "what do you want to be when you grow up", it was the first time I declared myself an artist. I was strongly influenced by my parents, both of whom were makers by hobby and necessity. My dad is a gifted gardener and home fix-it guy; we had the most beautiful backyard space of all, thanks to his work building a wooden deck and gazebo, laying down hundreds of patio stones, and landscaping with a bounty of colourful plants. My mother stretched the few dollars we had and crafted our childhood wardrobe through her sewing skills and self-taught knitting and crochet. Even my grandparents and aunts encouraged me to pursue artistic hobbies by gifting me with colouring books, paint sets, and kits for rug-hooking and stained glass.
Food was my first love. The adults in my life loved how I would try anything, and their praise helped me form a healthy relationship with food from an early age. Drawing was my second love. I knew I was better than the average eight year old kid when my crude cat drawing won me a place in a local art and poetry publication. My parents enrolled me in summer art camp and weekend drawing classes to keep me happy and busy, until the onslaught of puberty, when peer pressure and popularity became my new priority. Being a rather awkward, self-concious teen with shoddy clothes, I was labelled as the runt of the litter, forever to be chosen last on any sports team and looked down upon by my New-Kids-on-the-Block-loving peers. I even purposefully flunked Home Ec class to prove I wasn't a nerd after all.
But I secretly loved Home Ec, and the lessons I learned on how to use a sewing machine stuck with me forever. When I reached university, self-esteem was no longer an issue, but balancing cash with lifestyle was. I wanted to look fashionable, but without cheap knockoff shops like H&M available in Toronto at the time, I turned to sewing to try to recreate some of my ideas without breaking the bank. The resulting garments and accessories were pretty sloppy, and I got only a few wears out of them. After graduating from school, my unemployed months were filled with late nights watching the Food Network and using my parents' kitchen to try out new recipes and cooking techniques. Once I was employed, I found myself a food lover and with extra money to spare. So a close friend and I started the now defunct Tasty Toronto Tour, sampling a wide range of local restaurants on a regular basis, and writing up reviews for our website.
A few years later, a new found curiosity of nature and environmentalism mashed up with my food hobby to form food activism. I started my first blog, Pots and Jars, and wrote about growing edibles on my balcony and other aspects of the locavore movement. The farm-to-fork process piqued my interest in making other things from scratch, and supporting indie makers. I learned to crochet and knit using online instruction, attended salve and soap making workshops, and used internet recipes to make everyday household cleaning products. Turns out my food blog's boundaries were too restrictive, and so I started Craft Bandit in 2012 to publicly commit myself to craft. I will continue to try new things, write about my successes and failures, provide instruction and support, avoid fancy or unnecessary gadgets, and post the best photos I can take with my trusty but ageing digital point-and-shoot camera.
Still reading? How very kind of you. Before I finish, I think it is important to mention why I craft. Like most craftsters, I take pleasure in the feeling of empowerment when creating something new, getting back to basics, channeling creativity and ideas, seeing a project from start to end, and working with materials with my hands. But I also love the political stand I take every time I make something. Crafting is about building community, slow consumption, and turning away from faceless, cheap industrial manufactured goods. It can also be about taking back public spaces and bringing humour and colour into your neighborhood. I hope I can inspire myself and others to start crafting, craft more often, and craft everywhere.
Long live craft.