Friday, May 10, 2013

Why Handmade: Made with Love

by Lynn Mohney of Prunella's Workshop

As a professional artist, I am usually focused on how to make my art appeal to paying customers. I have a family that needs food and a roof over their heads; however, from time to time I do like to make something special for a loved one. It is a different experience when you know the person, and you are planning something extra special just for them. The current fad need not apply unless your loved one is into the latest trend. The creation is as much about the love you have for that person as the love you have for your craft. This is a particularly potent topic to me this week, with Mother’s Day around the corner.

My mother is an engineer with a degree in physics. She was in the first class of women at Worcester Polytechnical Institute (WPI), for which I am very proud. We have joked my whole life regarding how funny it is that her daughter is an artist who despises numbers. However, my mother is also an artist when it comes to sewing. She creates beautiful practical little girl’s clothing in such a way that you would think sewing was a piece of cake. My mother makes dresses that make you feel like a pink little girl who can climb a tree to see the world with no worries that she is showing off her underpants. She is a woman who thought she could be anything she wanted and still be feminine, and this is reflected in the clothes she makes for my daughter today.

Though very practical, my mother has no interest in making a business with her sewing ability. She sews for the people that she loves, stating that it’s too hard to put a price tag on the work she has put into her creations. When she sews for my daughter, she can make what she wants, and customize it to my daughter’s face. My mother equates it to having her very own living moving breathing doll. The colors of the fabrics she chooses brings out my daughter’s bright blue eyes, rosy pink skin and golden hair to perfection, so that my baby becomes a piece of art in and of herself.

The relationship between mothers and daughters is particularly special in that your daughter may some day know the same joy of motherhood. In a way, my daughter is a joint project in that she will learn from her mother and her grandmothers what she needs to know to be a strong capable woman. Recently, my mother and I took on a joint project in which I created turtle brooches loosely based upon ancient Viking turtle shell brooches, and my mother designed the Viking apron dress that would have been worn with them. While we worked separately, a few towns apart, the finished product was indeed perfect.

I do not know yet whether my daughter is going to like turtles when she obtains the language skills necessary to tell me. I know that making the brooches was an act of love, as I imagined her wearing them for the first time. I made a brass prototype through a technique known as chasing and repousse, in which metal is secured in a bowl of pitch, and then hammered with various shaped punches and dies until I had a turtle. This was then cast into bronze, and cleaned up for the perfect master. Several turtles were then cast and hardware was attached underneath the turtle shell.  Duplicates are a limited run item for sale at my Etsy shop.

Bronze Viking Turtle Brooches by Prunella's Workshop

The dress was made from red cotton corduroy and off white linen. My mother drafted the pattern utilizing other patterns for sizing and shape. The embroidered turtles on the dress and the embroidery on the off white shift are machine done to give the entire outfit durability. The entire dress is 100% washable and one of a kind.  

Due to the success of this project, as well as so many others, we are discussing other handmade projects to do together. My mother recently made a fused glass cabochon that I am turning into a pendant. I am creating a fabric design that we will have printed, and my mother will sew the final product. Our scathingly brilliant plans are endless.

What do you like to create with your mother?


  1. That dress is adorable and a beautiful collaboration of your two talents! I don't remember the last time my mom and I making anything together, but over the years I have made her many presents, most of which she still has and uses today! Even though my mom probably would not consider herself very artistic, I have some items she has made for me over the years, including a beautiful needlepoint she worked very hard on for my Bat Mitzvah.

  2. Thank you! We love collaborating together.


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