It's better to have gifts than receipts.

That title's an old joke my grandpa used to repeat to us every year on birthdays and Christmas. But I'm using it here with a twist, because I'm pleased to announce it's time for the
"Small Works Christmas Gifts Spectacular"
in which I show you some of the fun we had here in Hinckleyville with our annual homemade gift exchange. This is something we began about 5 years ago, although had I known it was going to be so amazing I would have started it much sooner. When my kids were little, of course they made us gifts at school. Some of these still adorn our tree. When they became young adults, (and poor) they wanted to get us gifts but I didn't want them to spend a penny of their precious money on things for their dad and me that we didn't need.

I do, of course, understand that all the joy of Christmas is centered on the giving, and therefore I sympathized with their desire to give us gifts. So I came up with the idea that we would all make gifts for each other, requiring effort but little or no money. The first year was simply amazing -- my husband and I had recently discovered our love of New Mexico, so he fashioned a Native American "dreamcatcher" for me by cutting the head off a badminton racket and embellishing it with all manner of beads, feathers, leather, arrowheads, etc. What could I do but cry when I opened it?

(sorry you have to see my in my Christmas pj's, but c'mon -- it's a great dreamcatcher, so it was worth it, right?)

Just the image of my husband going to a craft store for supplies was the most delightful gift I could imagine! Over the years he has become very adept at making earrings for his daughters (which they wear with much pride), and once he even did an iron-on sunset on the back of a western shirt for me. That required not only a trip to JoAnn Fabrics, but a long afternoon with a hot iron and some fusible web that he had no idea how to use.

Seriously -- Best. Idea. Ever. If your kids are old enough, I highly recommend it. Of all the presents we get (and give) at Christmas, these are everyone's favorites and are so highly anticipated and treasured.

So without further ado, here's the

"Smallworks 2008 Parade of Handmade Spectacularness":

okay, haven't mastered the camera yet -- stay with me, I'm working on it!

I made bracelets for the girls by painting wooden bracelets from the Michael's clearance bin and covering them with wool -- then I stitched on the designs (leaves for Chelsea, my environmental law student -- polka dots for Hannah and Lindsay). These turned out quite well so I made some for friends also, who, unfortunately, couldn't begin to fit them over their hands. I have suggested very large napkin rings? One ring for all the napkins at the table, perhaps? Oh well, it's the thought that counts . . .

For Russ I made a western bookmark to replace the one he left on the bus and lost this year (I had made that one for him some years ago, but it was much less fancy). This one has a cool "crackled paint" type finish on the leather (it came that way) and an "r" cut from an old flashcard. The button is chipboard and looks like weathered wood -- no idea where it came from, it just materialized in my button box in the nick of time. One of those inexplicable Christmas things.

Russ made me a lovely little horse watercolor. I did have to remind him that I'm a little sensitive about people who can draw horses (as explained in this previous post). We had a good laugh about that as he realized he walked right into being written about on my blog the minute he chose to draw me a horse. He hopes I'm not going to hang it up in the house, which of course I am. Prominently.

For the girls' gifts, Russ totally outdid himself. He took the idea of a jackalope (you've seen them, right? A mounted rabbit's head with antlers attached? Mythical creature of the western desert?) and made the girls some trophies for their walls. Lindsay got a "Beag-a-lope" which looked just like her beagle, Jack. Unfortunately, she took it home before we could snap a picture. Chelsea got a "Frog-a-lope" because she has collected frogs since she was a young girl.

Funny, right? We laughed OUT LOUD when these were opened. He used a florist-wire-and-tin-foil armature and covered it with casting plaster (the "broken-arm" kind) for the antlers. Very resourceful. Hannah got an "Old-English-Bulldog-a-lope", because that's the dog she (very vocally and often) wishes we had, even though she loves our Cooper.

Lindsay had the foresight to ask for a screenprinting kit for her birthday, so she would be prepared to make us fabulous screen-printed clothing, which we all adored. The girls all got the "artware" logo:

which we thought was extremely cool. During her test marketing (to her roommates), Lindsay's boyfriend informed her that he would never wear something that said "art." So for Russ, she shortened it to "a-ware" and put an eye -- I'd like one of those as well! Totally awesome.

Chelsea made me a "Vermont Maple Leaf" from wire and yarn.

During the construction process, she had informed me that my gift was "an epic failure". When I opened it, I declared it to be a "monumental success!" It is so creative, such a lovely personal reminder of her every day (I miss you, Chelsea) and full of such wonderful "vermonty goodness" -- just right for my studio wall, don't you think?

For Russ, Chelsea and Hannah collaborated on a truly special dog-walking sweatshirt, a tribute to his beloved chocolate-lab/son-he-never-had, Cooper:

front view

back view

From the rick-rack on the hood to the jingle bells on Cooper's leather collar, Russ will truly be walking the dog in both warmth and style this winter!

Last, but not least, Hannah made us each pads of paper personalized with things we love:

A giant pad of paper with Hannah's amazing drawings on every page? Splendid! Best use of Kinko's I've seen yet. And a handy pad of reminders of my favorite college sophomore, whose art projects I rarely get to see anymore because she's doing all her creating in a studio far, far away.

It was, once again, a Hinckley Christmas to remember. Thanks to my amazing fam for your love and your wonderful, thoughtful, homemade craziness tied up in ribbons and fancy paper, making for the best kind of Christmas morning in the world.


Crazy for Art said...

Oh, your Christmas sounds just wonderful! Love those gifts!

susan m hinckley said...

Hi, Crazy -- thanks for stopping by the blog. I checked out your blog post about switching from one craft to another and had to smile (there was a time I decreed that I could make papier-mache Santas every day until I died. And I believed it.) Now I definitely believe the journey is more meaningful than the product. Good luck with polymer clay!

Amelia and Justin said...

Fantastic. That's all I can say. :)

michelle allen said...

Wow! Your family is AMAZING at the creativity of handmade gifts. Love the paper pad thing. And the stuffed heads are hilarious! We exchanged handmade gifts but the caliber wasn't near what your's is.

I looked at your website. LOVE your work. Do you have any for sale?

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