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Art and Gifting

For a long stretch of my life – from college past grad school – I did very little creative play. The primary exception was gifts: while I thought that art-making was frivolous and I was serious, I granted a sweeping exception to hand-painted cards or tee-shirts printed with potato stamps (my first adult venture into printmaking). During those years of creative drought, gift-making was truly a gift to me. It allowed me to connect to that glorious current of creative play, so that when I realized that this serious life didn’t feel worth living, I knew where to go to find my way back to joy. These days, making gifts gives me space to impulsively explore other materials – I blissfully blundered my way through a sewing project, content in the knowledge that my beloved would adore my hand-made runner and napkins regardless of lumpy corners. Inspired by my giftee, I’m more likely to try a new style, explore a new medium, venture outside my preferred palette. There's the joy of giving something made by my hands, and the fabulous built-in incentive of a deadline – a birthday or holiday by which the gift has to be finished, the time for creative play set aside. Rina Marfatia created this gorgeous print to gift at an upcoming family reunion. Her family tree spells out the word “Om” in Devanagari script, incorporating the names of ninety family members: four generations from her grandparents on down. The process of creating this gift brought unexpected emotions: “They ranged from love and happiness to sadness and some intense dislike. I thought of family stories that I had repressed, and was reminded of how much larger my actual family is than the people who usually come to mind.”

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