A bit of writing about being neurodivergent, disabled, ethnic and a woman in Wales.
What value do you put on handmade gifts? This is a tricky one for me. As a kid I loved crafts, in fact you could say I collected skills. I learnt to sew, crochet, knit, work with clay, wire sculpt and use all types of fabric to create everything from pictures to garments, and that list doesn’t include paperwork and art.
So, when Christmas and birthdays came around, I would make gifts. I have never had a massive amount of money so the prospect of buying gifts for my family was not a possibility. I would simply make something.
Obviously as a child I was still learning, but these early creations were rejected, probably because they were clumsy. Don’t get me wrong, my parents encouraged me but everyone else was dismissive.
I remember one present I did for a younger cousin was a full one-story bungalow made from paper. We are talking a full three-dimensional model to the right scale in every room.
I guess for an eight-year-old it was a bit of a masterpiece, but, and this is a huge but. I was gifting it to a child three years my junior and, as we had no money, I have made it out of printing paper.
There was no card in this, the printing paper was designed for a dot matrix printer so was pale green and white striped with the holes for the mechanisms of the printer.
It was the wrong material for the wrong person at the wrong time, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t so damn excited to give it to my cousin.
She looked at it, put it down. They played tag whilst I watched, horrified at the noise, wanting to join in and hating that I didn’t know how. Autism is tough on a kid.
They charged into the room, soft toys under their arms, yells and screams and someone stumbled. A foot came down on my creation and it became to nothing more than crumpled paper.
I watched and I think in that moment I realised that your makings are only worthy if someone else places a price on them.
I made from that moment onwards, but I would rarely gift anything that wasn’t completely perfect. It had to look shop bought. If anything, to receive an imperfect gift is to know I see you as closest friends and family.
Recently I have noticed that the trend is to buy gifts that look homemade, and that the independent crafter is sought after. Of course, I didn’t necessarily notice this trend until it hit me that people had started to truly love what I was making.
That has been a revelation, and I am starting to think that it isn’t only the art that could be something I do for a living. It could be crafting as well, although I am in danger of specialising in too many skills. What if I used craft to make art though?
This year I decided to dry out some oranges and make bags. I used cross stitch and embroidery kits to make panels for basic cotton bags. The bags a bought online and then it was just a case of sewing them on.
The oranges, well those were easy but great to do. You have seen the decorations of dried orange slices with cinnamon tied to them? Well, I gave it a go.
I have a dehydrator so I thought it would be easy to simply dry out some slices. I checked out some recipes online and there are two ways of doing it in Wales.
The third is worth a mention but as we don’t have a hot dry season there is no way we can dry out the oranges in the sun. That left via the oven, a low oven will work, or a dehydrator. There is a difference though.
That massive orange colour that looks like the sun can only happen if they are dried in a dehydrator. If you use an oven, then they go dark, As I used the dehydrator, mine are bright orange. Once hung up they look like little suns.
They took 3 hours but would have been less if I had sliced them thinner. I would recommend making some. They are beautiful and smell is amazing.
Simply tie some cinnamon onto the slices and then add a ribbon and you have a beautiful decoration that simply smells of Christmas.
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