The other day, I saw a beautiful Capiz shell chandelier in a shop. Instead of just admiring its craftsmanship and moving on, I thought with sudden clarity, “I will make one of these.”
I pictured having a dinner party below my own version, my guests drinking wine while being bathed in its warm, dappled light. I imagined someone taking an interest in it and me modestly flapping my hand at them and saying, “Oh this? You like it? Last week I strung it up with a pile of shells and some fishing line I had lying around.” I fantasized that I would make friends with the woman who asked me about it while teaching her to make her own. I saw us eventually opening our own boutique filled with quirky lamps and elaborate paper cuttings. (I am, as I’ve mentioned before, quite alone here in Holland.)
I have many elaborate fantasies of myself as a crafty woman. I often like to go to a special place in my mind which looks a lot like a J.Crew catalogue from 1999. There I French Press my coffee in the kitchen while my husband, clad in flannel pajama bottoms and five o’clock shadow, reads the paper leaning against the countertop we made from repurposed Icelandic barn doors.
The desire to DIY is a trait passed down to me from the compact and resourceful midwestern women in my family. We have long been a people who dream of making everything we use. And why shouldn’t we? The women in my family can chop wood and can produce. Mysteriously though, this doesn’t mean we are good at crafts.
And though we are aware of this on some level, once we are inside stores holding handmade paper notecards and beaded lampshades our brains stop firing on all cylinders and we think with an embarrassing lack of self-awareness, “I could do that.”
I go through phases where I compulsively read cooking and design blogs. If someone asked me to list my hobbies, it is entirely possible I would include reupholstering furniture. Nevermind that I am afraid of staple guns and my own couch has had a gaping hole a foot in diameter.
This same deluded thought process made me think a Capiz shell chandelier would go well with my mismatched and broken furniture and led me to believe I would actually be able to create one of my own. Do really I have the patience and coordination let alone the physical tools to drill holes into paper-thin shell halves and hang them in a perfectly symmetrical radius from a hand-welded base in the shape of a nautilus? No. I do not.
And I know myself well enough by now to not run out and purchase the supplies just yet. I know this based on the unopened books on calligraphy, the ball of yarn attached to about 5 inches of scarf, the ravioli cutter, the piece of fabric from 1998 that is still pinned to a poorly cut out Butterick’s pattern. There are some things I won’t finish. There are some things I just shouldn’t finish.
I’ve come to discover the idea of being able to make the things I see hanging in shop windows is almost always based on imagining what occurs around that object and not as often on the act of actually producing it, which in this case I'm pretty positive would be a tedious and uncomfortable experience. I’ve realized that this fantasy version of myself as a longer-haired Martha Stewart, though not at all based in reality, somehow relaxes me.
So instead of rushing to the store for lamp-making supplies, I went to my computer and simply read instructions. If it had sounded like something I would actually enjoy making, I would have figured out what I needed. But it didn't. So I imagined myself putting it together.
Then I hung up my homemade chandelier in my imaginary country home while I relived my dinner party fantasy in great detail, all while sitting over the hole in the couch with my laptop and a coffee. And somehow when I was done I felt much better.