This is my mother's phrase. And her mother's.

It is usually not a compliment. Even though my mother was an artist and loved many crafts, she was a serious artist. A fine artist. She would make gifts every Christmas, but still, she used this phrase usually to disparage something that was made or added on to or was poorly constructed or that she thought was ugly. We were encouraged and supported in making things and art, but art was critiqued as well.

We moved to Alexandria, Virginia from Johnson City, New York when I started ninth grade. My mother became part of Gallery West, an artist run cooperative gallery. We often went to gallery openings. There was one gallery where we usually disliked the art. The food was fabulous. We understood that the trade off for the strawberries and the salmon was that we did need to look at the art. We also looked at the prices and the people present. We thought the prices were ridiculous.

My mother thought that anyone could make art but that many people made bad art. And bad crafts. She disliked the people who took on the artist angst but practiced very little and mostly looked tortured. She thought that was lazy and she worked on art all the time. A sketchbook accompanied her almost everywhere and she was immensely productive.

In Junior High I had to do a sewing class. I made a pair of overalls but I chose an orange fabric with multicolored flowers. Very mid-1970s. They had a bib that could snap off. I did a reasonable job and they fit... but I did not wear them. Eventually they went to Goodwill. And I can hear my mother's voice finding them, "Made by loving hands at home....."


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