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Time to get out the glue

POSTED January 7, 2011 9:29 p.m.

The art of crafts is slowing dying. I realized this Thursday night at a service club meeting when our group discussed delivering Valentine’s Day cards to residents of local nursing homes.

This simple, yet personal gesture is a common service project in February. At one point in my life, I worked in the activities department of two long-term care facilities. During my time there, I saw first-hand how much residents in nursing homes appreciate receiving cards for any reason.

I immediately volunteered to bring in card stock paper, glue and outdated calendars and used greeting cards for decorating our Valentine’s Day cards. Everyone in my service club thought I was kidding.

They went on to assign one of our more artistic members the job of designing the cards and another member the job of printing them out and bringing them to the next meeting to be folded. However, I was not to be brushed off so easily.

I made the argument that the cards could not possibly be as special if they were printed out rather than handmade. My club members thought they were mollifying my concerns by making sure there would be multiple card designs, giving them an element of uniqueness.

They obviously don’t know the meaning of unique:

u·nique[yoo-neek][[–adjective

1. Existing as the only one or as the sole example; single; solitary in type or characteristics.

2. Having no like or equal; unparalleled; incomparable.

I lost the battle of the Valentine’s Day cards with my service club members. I’m sure the seniors will appreciate the cards despite their utter lack of uniqueness. But this whole incident made me wonder how much longer the term “arts and crafts” will be part of our language.

We all were indoctrinated into the art of crafts in elementary school. Making cotton ball snowmen and macaroni pictures are standard activities in any kindergarten classroom. I have to wonder, however, with the ever increasing budget cuts and the obsessive focus on testing — and testing only — will the next generation of children even know how to string beads onto yarn?

This anti-craft trend does not just affect our youth. I remember a time when the cool thing to do was make your own Christmas gifts. I still remember spending hours every night after work constructing decorative baskets out of paper grocery bags, a little quilt backing and colored raffia (ribbon made from the leaves of the raffia palm, for all those non-crafters).

This make-it-yourself trend has come around a few times, sometimes in the form of candle making, or designer soap making or even pajamas. There are other benefits to crafting, other than being able to take part in the newest fad.

Everyone I have ever given a handmade gift to still has it. Crafting is the answer to the gift regret returns. There is nothing more annoying after the holidays than having to stand in the mile-long lines at the return counters.

Buying clothes or electronics or collectibles for adults is a little pointless. As adults, if we see something we want, we buy it. Trying to find the perfect store-bought item for someone who has been shopping the same stores you have all holiday season is a lost cause.

But giving someone a handmade craft item guarantees a unique gift. And no matter how amateurish the craft item is, if you are special to that person, then your gift will be also.

We need to keep our crafting heritage alive. I urge everyone reading this to make a late New Year’s resolution to hand make at least one gift in 2011. Who knows? You could be the next Martha Stewart.

To contact Kristina Hacker, e-mail khacker@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2004.

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