Origin Story #1: Mom


July 17, 2017 Wendy and Susie

We've decided to blog weekly, and when we were thinking about what to share with you, we realized some of you might not know the origins of LucyBlueKnits. So, we're going back to the very beginning, a very good place to start, to tell you how we came to be mitten artisans. We are who we are, and Lucy Blue Knits is what it is, because of one person: our mom.

When people ask us how we came to operate a handmade mitten business, we usually end up telling them about our mom, Marge Gieser. We may not mention her name, but her influence permeates every story we tell about our creative journeys.

For us, creative expression is part of our daily lives because it was part of our mom's. In fact, we never knew her not to be creating something. She was an artist. They say beauty recognizes beauty, and our mom was a beautiful person, inside and out, who saw beauty everywhere. She painted, sculpted, photographed, sewed, welded (yes, welded), decorated, cooked, and designed. Although she went to college to be an elementary school teacher and taught briefly, art was her passion and calling. She earned her master's of fine arts from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago at 38 while we were in elementary school and was a prolific artist, putting her hands to whatever she felt inspired to create for nearly 40 years. 

When we were young, her goal was to beautify our home. There was very little money, so everything was inspired by creativity, not perfection. Our porch floor was ugly and in terrible shape, so she splatter painted it and invited us to help. There were cracks on the walls, so she painted flowers over them. The landing at the bottom of the stairs needed attention, so she made an intricate mosaic from broken, spare ceramic tiles. In fact, she recycled and upcycledbefore either was popular, furnishing our rented duplex in New York City with items from the junkyard in Queens. 

Our dolls needed clothes, so she taught us to sew. They needed furniture too, so she showed us how to use a jig saw and a hammer. Our rabbits needed a cage, so we learned how to shape chicken wire and use a staple gun. When Wendy needed a music stand, she wielded a blow torch and welded a life-size flamingo that held her music in its beak. Our childish creativity was never criticized or critiqued. This made making things fun.

As adults, we followed in her footsteps, furnishing our homes ourselves: sewing curtains, reupholstering furniture, refinishing tables and chairs, and painting murals for our children's bedroom walls, all because our mom had taught us that necessity was often the catalyst for creativity. She taught us that anything could be figured out if we gave ourselves enough grace to try, fail, and try again until we created what we had envisioned.

Mom tried her hand at every medium available to her, but in fiber art she found her calling. As a liturgical artist, she augmented worship by making magnificent banners from exquisite fabric. Dozens hang all over the world.  

When we began to think about how to earn money from our art, she was our number one cheerleader. No matter what crazy thing we considered, she encouraged us to try our hand at it. For a number of years, we made items to sell at an annual bazaar, which Mom hosted at her home. It was while we were working separately and wishing we could combine our efforts to mass-produce one product that the idea to create handmade mittens from recycled sweaters was born. 

Mom was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2010, and her abilities faded quickly. Although her drawings became scribbled and messy, her banners had misspellings, and she could not keep glue off her fingers, her vibrant spirit never waned. Her speech was reduced to a few words, and we missed her wisdom and advice. She passed away in 2011, but Mom's legacy of amazing creativity lives on in us, in our children, and in our children's children. (More on that next week.) 

We are forever grateful and thankful for the ways she included us in her work. Until she could do it with us, she created art around us. When we were old enough, she taught us, inviting us to experiment with our own creations. When we became proficient, those creative activities became shared time together. When we demonstrated an interest in being entrepreneurial artisans, she encouraged us and demonstrated her belief in our skills by entrusting her work to us. Now she is applauding us from heaven, and we are sharing with you what she instilled in us.

As you shop our mitten gallery, now you know the woman who influences every pair we create. Thanks, Mom. 

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