If you’ve listened to Diane Gilleland’s Crafty Pod episodes or read her blog for any length of time, you can’t help but also get to know her mother, Pam Harris, of Gingerbread Snowflakes. I’d read about the elaborate gingerbread houses (and sometimes villages!) the two would make together, and when I listened to Crafty Pod Episode #65 in which her mom talked about making the gingerbread houses with Diane, I remember actually tearing up a little bit over their stories of crafting together. I recently had the chance to spend an afternoon crafting with Pam and Diane, and enjoyed getting to hear about how they have crafted together since Diane was a little girl.
Diane says her earliest memories of crafting with her mom tend to focus on Christmas, which she describes as a “very creative time” in their household. “I remember Mom cutting out felt shapes for the advent calendar she made me when I was two,” Diane says. “And I remember the absolute magic of sticking candy to my first gingerbread house a few years later.” Pam explains that while she was growing up, most of the crafting passed on to her by her mother and grandmother was of a more practical nature and involved life skills such as cooking, mending and gardening. “Crafting for no reason other than the pleasure of making something was not done,” says Pam.
She remembers, though, poring over her mom’s copies of Better Homes and Gardens and McCalls magazines and ripping out pages of special projects she hoped she could someday complete. “I was fascinated and inspired by all the craft projects – especially at Christmas time,” she says. But when Pam started her own home, she found herself practicing the same practical crafts her mother had passed on to her. She made her children’s clothes, draperies and home decor and most of her crafts had a very specific purpose. “Except for one thing – Christmas,” says Pam. “Christmas isn’t practical so why would my crafting be practical? I loved the freedom to make for the sheer pleasure of making!”
That joy of making meant that Pam kept her kids well-stocked on craft supplies and support. “Mom always made sure my brother and I had the tools and time to pursue any creative endeavor we expressed interest in,” Diane says. “Sometimes, we lost interest after a couple weeks, but that never kept her from helping us along to the next creative possibility. If I wanted to learn quilling, we’d make a trip to the craft store for supplies and books. If I used up all the salt in the house making salt dough, which happened a lot, she didn’t get mad, she just bought more salt. And as a result, I’ve learned to be comfortable in a whole lot of crafty media.” And once again, the relationship became reciprocal. “I tried to give [Diane] the freedom, wherewithal and opportunity to explore whatever interested her and it paid off,” says Pam. “I have never had to pay for a single craft class! There is almost nothing she can’t figure out and teach!”
As they learn and work together, Diane says that she appreciates the fact that they share a similar crafting personality. She describes herself and her mother as both being “big crafty omnivores” with a love for a myriad of craft media and no single craft devotion. “We both are inventive and can look at a given project or craft and see almost endless new applications,” Pam says. Their intense love of learning new things translates in to what each describes as very focused crafting time together. “It’s great when we get together to make things, because we can sit there for hours and be deep in concentration together, barely uttering a word and having a great time,” says Diane. “It’s funny, actually – when we craft with other people, we have to remember to talk!”
Pam remembers the pair working on advent calendar ornaments over the years, and says those projects stand out as some of the best times, because they were so immersed in creative fun together for long periods of time. “We can, and often do, sit together for an hour or more and not say a word, totally focused on the project at hand, but just being with her in that moment is complete joy and pleasure,” Pam says. Diane recalls another illustration of what “crafty overachievers” she and her mom can be. “Back when I was about 10, the regional Girl Scouts council brought a bunch of area troops together for some kind of skills fair,” says Diane. “There were a lot of categories, and you could enter a project you’d made and compete with other Girl Scouts for prizes. We committed to entering a project in every single category we could. So suddenly we were faced with producing a sewing project, a macrame piece, a painting, an embroidery sampler, a clay sculpture, a baked good, and way more – all on the same deadline.”
Not willing to back out of any projects, the duo hunkered down, “putting in days of hardcore crafting” to prepare,” including one episode that Diane says is referred to within their family as “The Night of the Apron.” She admits, though, that “Neither of us even remember the fair itself, or whether I won any prizes! We just remember that long, crafty journey. ” And rather than these massive crafty undertakings later seeming like a bad idea, Pam remembers them fondly. “Every single opportunity I have ever had to craft with my daughter has been my favorite,” she says. “Our minds are so closely attuned that there simply is no other experience crafting that can match it. When I craft by myself, I can’t wait to share with her!”