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Editorial: Giving of Yourself and Getting in Return

With the holidays of gift giving recently passed, I take a moment to reflect on gifts received.

As a society, for the most part, we have what we need. About this time each year many of us succumb to the command “thou shalt shop for all!” While the tradition may be well intended it no longer resonates, but leaves me feeling a bit empty.

My favorite gifts are those made by family and friends. Knitted socks, crocheted potholders and washcloths, ceramic ornaments, home baked cookies and breads, delicious wine, jam from the past summer’s berries, and jewelry are some of the meaningful handcrafted gifts exchanged by family and friends this season.

When using items made by someone else, I think of that person. I imagine the person enjoying time spent creating. Using something made by someone I know is intensely satisfying and when it is beautiful there is an added bonus!

Creating is a centering, focusing exercise. Self-made items offer individuals an opportunity to explore their alternative potentials with tangible, relatively immediate results. When we disregard the expectation for machined perfection, we can value hand made gifts by observing that the maker has given of her or himself through the creative process, and that self-made items bear a uniqueness of the community, region and culture in which the maker resides. We would be hard pressed to identify these qualities in a mass produced item.

At a time when we are wrestling with big economic and environmental ideas, I have a suggestion. Give the gift of creativity. Spend some time enjoying the process of learning something new. Or make the opportunity available to someone else. Patronizing local artists and craftspeople is another way to enhance the vitality of our community. We have many opportunities to give, beyond the month of December. Let us give thoughtfully. 

(Mia Levin is a ceramic artist with more than 20 years of experience. She has taught in Oyster Bay since 2004.)