The Joy of Making

I interviewed 2 of my co-workers in the Alice C. Sabatini Art Gallery to get their views on the joy of making things by hand. Zan Popp is Collections Manager and Curator and has been with the library since 2003. Heather Kearns is an Associate Curator and has been with the library since 2001. I asked each of them 3 questions: What do you make? How/when did you start making? Why do you like to make things?

What do you make?

Christmas stockings, Zan Popp

ZP:I like to sew. I like to make things for my son and my family, likebackpacks, baby blankets, and Christmas stockings. After my son was born, I kept thinking of all these things that would make our lives easier and started sewing them. I started with a backpack so that my son wouldn’t come home with rocks in his socks.

HK: I like to make whatever I’m interested in at the moment, but drawing is my favorite thing to do. I started drawing on my phone when a drawing app came out. This still helps me keep my drawing skills fresh. I also like to work on a small scale with inexpensive materials. Those restrictions led me to wood burning. I can get some of the same effects with the wood burning tool as I get when I draw.

Phone drawing, Heather Kearns

When/how did you start making?
ZP: When I was little, my Dad sewed and my Mom was a seamstress. I started making Victorian doll dresses with their help. I loved going to the fabric store and seeing a palette of never-ending textures and colors, like a candy store without the calories.
HK: I’ve been drawing since I can remember and I’ve never stopped. I used to sit and draw with my Dad when I was 3 or 4. I still have those drawings. I also used to sit at the kitchen table and draw cartoons with my grandfather.

Why do you like to make things?
I make to see the joy on my family’s faces when I give them handmade gifts. I enjoy seeing my hand in the process and I like to think about who it’s for when I’m making it. It’s also “me time”. I give myself the gift of time to think of nothing but a project and what I’m doing in the moment. It makes me think differently because I have to focus on what I’m doing and can’t worry about anything else. It’s about me as a maker, that’s the joy.

Spray bottle cat on wood, Heather Kearns

HK: I love making something from nothing. I love observing my environment and capturing it. I like the fact that when I pick up a pencil it’s the same motions and the same techniques and tools that were used 700, 800 years ago. It makes me feel connected to history. It’s also my time to explore. Once you figure out what your voice is and how to use it, it becomes empowering.  I have something to say, my life experience is unique to me and I want to be able to leave something behind that tells that story.

What about you? Do you find joy in making things by hand? I’d love to hear what you think.

Brea Black is the Art Librarian and Book Arts Curator in the Alice C. Sabatini Gallery. Her favorite thing is to share the wonderful world of artists' books with the community. She also leads the Arts & Crafts team and teaches workshops on bookmaking, altered books, and a variety of crafty topics.