creative musings

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Photo courtesy of Peter Paradise Michaels of RavenWolfe Photography

When I was five years old, Mom gave me a pink plastic crochet hook and a ball of yarn, and showed me how to crochet a chain stitch. I sat quietly for many an hour repeating the stitch until I had a chain that seemed like a mile long. Mom showed me how to wrap the chain of uneven loops into a ball. I loved watching that ball grow. When I was a bit older, she taught me the single and double crochet stitches — all I needed to create gifts of scarves and afghans for friends and family.

I left my crochet hook behind when I moved into my first apartment as school and work, not to mention time with my then-boyfriend-now-husband, took precedence over needlework of any kind.

Ten years after falling in love with that boyfriend and married five years, I gave birth to our daughter. As a baby gift, his aunt crocheted a granny square afghan in soft pastels bordered in white, which was instantly my favorite gift. I’d carefully tuck it around Francesca in her stroller before we set out on our daily walks through the neighborhood in the colder months.

Not a day passed with her blanket protecting her, that shopkeepers and neighbors commented on the beautiful handiwork, asking if I’d made it. Each conversation of the uniqueness of handmade gifts, stirred my longing to once again create. As that first winter gave way to spring, I reluctantly put the blanket away, with thoughts of my daughter being wrapped in something made with love.

It was the cover photo of a toddler in a crocheted dress on a needlework magazine at the supermarket checkout that finally convinced me to recover my crochet skills. I bought that magazine, and even though I’d never made anything so complex, I was determined to make this dress in time for Francesca’s first Easter outfit that year. And I did –stitching on the last button as my husband hid the Easter eggs.

In the twenty-five years since, I’ve created items for both Francesca and her younger brother, Zack, challenging myself by learning new stitches or techniques with each piece. (I even crocheted our son’s christening gown,and won my first and only blue ribbon at the county fair!) I learned to knit along the way, too, as my children’s requests were not always for crocheted pieces. I often adapted garments seen in fashion magazines — from a shawl worn by Jennifer Lopez in Glamour, or a slouchy hat worn by a friend in my son’s yoga class that she had made herself.

Both Francesca and Zack are now studying tribal fusion belly dance, which uses a lot of specialty handcrafted costuming, including panel skirts and hip scarves that I have or will stitch for them.

This past October Francesca debuted in Montreal’s Danse Macabre wearing gauntlets that I crocheted. She told me that knowing she was wearing something I’d created for her not only calmed her nerves, but connected her with me so she wouldn’t feel alone on stage.

She said she would dance her first dance for me.

Watching Francesca step onto that stage as I sat in dark of the audience, I realized that while I had become her muse for that night, she was no longer the little girl in need of protection from the elements, but a powerful young woman stepping into her artistic expression.

(Heartfelt thanks to Peter Paradise Michaels for allowing me to include his photograph in this post. Peter, you have truly captured Francesca’s essence!)

3 thoughts on “creative musings

  1. Hi Donna!

    Francesca has probably already told you the story, but after our photo shoot in Boston, she contacted me to ask if one of her gloves had turned up. I checked the trunk of my car, and didn’t see it and gave her the bad news. Despite every effort to make sure that every item that comes to a shoot also makes it back from the shoot, every now and then, a hat, scarf, earring, glove, belt or some item will disappear.

    I was surprised at how upset Francesca was about losing the glove, so I prom ices to drive back the next day to the last spot where we worked and see if I could track down the missing garment.

    I was delighted to discover that the glove was exactly where we though it would be and I was able to return it to your excited and grateful daughter. The pair of gloves really meant a great deal to her and the love and effort you put into them was evident in her attachment to them, and how proudly she wore them on stage and during our shoot.

    It was a pleasure to work with her. You have certainly raised a remarkable young woman!

    1. Hi Peter,

      Cesca did share that story with me and I was/am so grateful for the effort you made and the extent that you went through to retrieve the glove/gauntlet. With all that was taking place on so many levels during the photo shoot, it’s amazing that was the only item left behind!

      (Thank you for your kind comments on my parenting skills, but I cannot claim ownership in how Francesca approaches life. There is the belief that we choose our parents, and I had the good fortune to have a wise soul choose me to be her mom.)

      The images you and Cesca created are breathtaking. I know the love and work you put into your art and am so grateful that you and she met when you did. As a parent, one’s secret wish is that my children will be seen for who they are, and for the gifts that they bring to everyone whose life they touch. You manage to not only see that through the lens of your camera, but coax it from those you work with in a way that is unique. You are truly an artist, and anyone who has the good fortune to work with you is blessed many times over.

      Shamanic photography at its finest!

      1. Donna,

        Thank you for the praise and kind words! Francesca certainly made my job easy. She worked hard on the homework and came properly prepared.

        With your permission I’d like to use some of your comments for my pending website revision in the testimonials section. Is it ok?

        I hope we get to meet some day!

        Best Regards,
        -Peter Paradise Michaels
        RavenWolfe Photography

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