I am so pleased to share with you our next guest post regarding your Favorite Handmade Item, from none other than one of the ladies that helped me get to where I am today: Miah Michaelsen. I’ll try not to wax eloquent too long on this soapbox about what and why Miah means so much to me, but I have to just a little. I first met Miah when she was Assistant Economic Development Director for the Arts for the City of Bloomington (which, for me, meant she ran the BEAD meetings downtown and networked and facilitated much of what went on in the art world in Bloomington). Miah believed in what I was doing, and inspired me to continue doing that, and for that, I will forever be grateful. Now Miah serves as the deputy director of Indiana Arts Commission where she continues to inspire and facilitate the arts not only in Bloomington, but in the state of Indiana as a whole. I’m honored to know Miah Michaelsen, and humbled that she would write this blog post for our series. Without further ado . . .
When Talia asked me for a few words about my favorite handmade object, I didn’t have to look far for it – it’s nestled in the sponge holder next to the kitchen sink: Granny’s Scrubbie. My grandmother, Cornelia Peacock Smith, was a maker to the core. Hired as a small town elementary school teacher at 18 years of age (she was the only applicant with a high school diploma), she eventually worked her way through college by playing piano in honky-tonks and during silent movies and eventually finished graduate school. Throughout her working life and well into her 90’s, she was creating something: whimsical stuffed animals with accompanying books (she was a first grade teacher for more than 40 years); ceramics; original musical compositions – you name it, she probably created at least one. Of all the creative pursuits she enjoyed in her life, the one I can most identify her with was knitting. She was a knitting fiend: sweaters, socks, hats, car seat covers; she was prodigious in design and production. As she got older, it became difficult for her to hold smaller needles, so larger needles and projects well-suited to them became necessary. In addition, time and advancing age meant a much-diminished need for baby sweaters, knitted toys and the like – thus the Scrubbie was born. The Scrubbie was her own design and created in a multitude of colors of hand-cut netting. Each Scrubbie came with an original poem packaged with a simple rubber band (recycled from the neighbor’s newspapers). A Scrubbie became her token of thanks in her later years: the bagger at the grocery store; the receptionist at the doctor’s office; my children’s teachers; anybody who had shown a kindness or she thought needed a lift. Probably at one time, half the town was scrubbing their dishes or floors with a Scrubbie. She’s been gone a dozen years now, but I’ve still got a stack of those Scrubbies, and as one wears out, a new one takes its place. I feel its gentle prickliness and admire its simple but effective design, and it brings a visceral connection with its maker which is more important to me than something store-bought and sterile. It’s not just a sponge, it’s Granny’s Scrubbie, and that makes all the difference in the world.