I’m a maker. I DIY. I pin project ideas on Pinterest. I adore gorgeous custom-made creations on Instagram. I sell homemade clothing on Etsy. I admit it: I love to craft and create.
I should introduce myself: I’m English, a mother of two girls, and wife to the ever-patient Mr ‘O’. We live in a bright happy-mess of an apartment in Manhattan along with 47 tubes of glitter glue, an upholsterers staple gun and hundreds of yards of brightly printed fabrics I’ve amassed over many years. I studied fashion design at Central Saint Martins in London, apprenticed in Paris before designing in Milan and then New York. Whilst my children are young I’m lucky to be home with them and I’m currently working on launching my label Little O Clothing.
Why do I DIY? The truth is I enjoy it –I enjoy the process of daydreaming and creating. I find it incredibly relaxing to knit or sew and it’s the perfect antidote to the fast paced world outside. It’s my therapeutic moment of calm. Raised by parents who had the attitude that anything worth having is worth trying to make ourselves, I’ve always been creative and now that I have children I’ve found many new avenues to explore – knitting baby clothes, designing items for their nursery, sewing clothes, crib sheets and tutus for my older daughters 3rd birthday. (DIY to follow!)
Knitting, for example, forces me to think not only about the rhythm of movement but also reflect on my day, things I’ve read, information I’ve absorbed.
Crafting gives me precious time with my eldest daughter. We often make cards, create dresses for her doll or simply chop up yarn and colored paper, whatever she fancies doing. Often the point is to realize a specific vision she’s had but other times its just about being present. I find I’m able to have sweet, honest conversations with her if we’re occupied doing something crafty – she can talk freely and openly (sometimes) where she might be evasive or distracted otherwise.
My finest DIY moment came when I moved to the States, a single girl with only a small suitcase of clothes and a box of an apartment in Brooklyn. I did a patchy job of putting up simple floating shelving in my kitchen –using my favorite YSL mascara (Faux Cils, black – a splurge but so good) as a spirit level. The thrill of doing something so out of my comfort zone – all by myself – was addictive.
But like many mamas, I have a love/hate relationship with Pinterest and Instagram. While they are both inspiring resources and pragmatic for my business I am also aware of the pitfalls. How on earth does one keep a monochrome Scandinavian nursery looking minimalist and stylish when a cacophony of clashing, colorful toys takes over the room? My guilty secret: I’ve lost sleep over this. Definitely.
Here’s the truth: Yes, there are homes that are somehow (miraculously!) able to maintain a high level of order that is both aesthetically pleasing and functional (not mine) – but I suspect they are few and far between. The second and more damning truth is that these pictures are often styled and edited to within an inch of their Pinterest-lives. To wit–If you look at photos from nearly any home tour featured in a magazine, the editors will often tell you who the stylist was at the end, in small print. Read: they hid a ton of stuff in cupboards before the photographer turned up and bought some stylish ranunculus to add a pop of color.
Its not to say that these images and articles aren’t worth their weight in inspiration-gold; I love nothing more than to pour over interior blogs and social media for DIY inspiration, but I just have to keep reminding myself to limit my expectations in my own home and to repeat my mantra: Keep it real. There is so much seemingly “perfect” content available to us at the click of a button that it’s all too easy to feel overwhelmed and inadequate.
Here’s what I try to remember when I’m feeling insecure in the face of those Pinterest-perfect lives, and instead find myself feeling overwhelmed by the broken toys, the piles of glitter, the endless to-do lists: A messy home can be a sign of a full, happy life. Of lives well-lived, together.
I DIY because I love the ritual of creating. I love to hold meaning in my hands. I love the moments with my child as we craft and color, paint and create. I DIY not because I’m some sort of perfect homemaker, but because I love the imperfect beauty of this homemade life.