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As I sometimes say when people ask about my job, it’s usually bad news when I show up.
I’m a reporter at The Globe and Mail based in Edmonton. Though I do report on a variety of subjects, the bulk of my career has been focused on writing about crime and justice-related issues and covering breaking news, usually around violence or other disasters.
In the past year I’ve written about a young man from Alberta who is in prison for murder in the United States and the trial of a serial sexual predator in Alberta. I have jumped into coverage of serious news events, including the Nova Scotia shootings last April and the Capitol attacks in Washington this month.
Along with that work, in the next few months, I’m also going to make cheese. And soap. And some other stuff, too.
I’ve always loved making things. Maybe it came from being an only child in a house with no TV, finding ways to amuse myself at a time before computers, video games and smartphones offered such easy and ready distractions.
Or maybe I learned the joy of making from people in my life, from the earliest age, seeing my grandmothers knitting and stitching and baking. One grandmother knit me an entire wardrobe of doll clothes. The other took a carpentry class and, among other projects, built me a dollhouse.
Or, maybe we all like to be creative and make and build things, and I was just lucky enough to have an environment that encouraged me.
Whatever it is, making things has been a habit throughout my life. Through the years, I’ve taken on too many hobbies and projects to list. Things I’ve tried have included – but are not at all limited to – ceramics, knitting, sewing, candle-making, leather tooling, making snow globes and terrariums, gardening, model-making, paper mache sculpture and furniture refinishing.
Some of these projects worked and took me on long forays into that particular form of craft.
Others weren’t so successful. (The leather tooling kit was a particularly poor investment.)
A few years ago, I tried to make a paper mache Christmas ornament for my uncle, in the likeness of a ring of Ukrainian garlic sausage. It turned out, um, not great. Still, I wrapped it up and mailed it to him that year along with its origin story, entitled “How a Christmas Kielbasa Turned into a Holiday Turd.” We all had a good laugh, and it still hangs on their Christmas tree every year. It took me a while – and a lot of frustration in what I like to call my “Martha Stewart years” – to realize perfection really isn’t the goal.
For me, it is all about the act of making. I like the idea that something doesn’t exist, and then you put some time and effort into it, and it does. I like how you can create new things, sometimes almost from scratch. I like what happens as you draw a needle and thread through fabric, or pull a paintbrush across a piece of paper. Limitless possibility. I like to step away from my reporter’s notebooks and paper, my computer and keyboard, the crime and violence, to see and think about something different in the world.
As I touched on in this piece announcing The Globe’s Craft Club, the positive effects of crafting have been studied and are well-documented. And the more challenging our lives or our work or the news around us gets, the more important these kinds of tangible, real life activities can be.
Natalie Pepin, who will be teaching soap-making to the Craft Club on Feb. 2, says she uses arts and traditional craft to connect to her Indigenous culture and history and to keep these skills and this knowledge alive.
Scott Nolan, a Winnipeg musician who has been making collages out of old magazines every day of the pandemic and will share his technique with the club on Feb. 16, told me the practice has been key to controlling his anxiety these past months. Many other friends have also turned to projects of their own for distraction, relaxation and community (at a distance, of course).
It has been a pleasure to see and sometimes receive these handmade items from people. To find at my doorstep the bread and cookies, the homemade gifts and cards. Just tonight, a friend dropped off a beautiful container of moisturizing cream she’d made, scented with orange and peppermint.
I can smell it now, as I type. A gift from her hands to mine.
What else we’re thinking about:
Everyone knows that women don’t earn as much as men. But a new investigative series published by The Globe this week reveals that the disparity far exceeds wages. Investigative reporter Robyn Doolittle (you know her from her work covering the Rob Ford scandals and the award-winning Unfounded series) and data journalist Chen Wang spent two-and-a-half years looking at salary data from public-sector employees. What they found was that women are stalling out in the work place long before they even have a chance to get to the top. In fact, women are absent from many of the decision-making roles that shape Canadian life as we know it. This is galvanizing journalism, whether you’re a man or woman. Read about it here: tgam.ca/powergap - Lara Pingue
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