I’ve been a creative person all of my life. Not just in making things, but the way I seethe world. When I was six, I got a dollhouse and swapped the kitchen and bathroomaround. If the dolls were outside playing and wanted to come in to pee they could goto the toilet downstairs and go right back outside. The kitchen was upstairs so theycould make food and then go eat and read in bed. I used to entrance my teen-agedsiblings and their friends with stories about how our mom would drive home fromwork through the telephone or kitchen faucet.My mother Nell encouraged me to notice and appreciate the natural and culturalworld around me– such as it was in suburban Los Angeles. She’d often call meoutside to look at the sunset – gorgeous corals, reds and oranges, courtesy of L.A.smog. Another time we had just got home from my preschool and she said ‘Look atthose dandelions in the front yard’. I didn’t know they were flowers and was lookingfor some real lions!My mom was also a creative influence on me in the way she created ‘home’. A veryartistic flair for decorating our house and she was a great gardener. She was a verystylish dresser and sewed most of her own clothes. She used to paint a little bit andwe had a painting in our living room of hers. We had a big bureau and the bottomdrawer was full of art supplies – construction paper, glitter, crayons, paints, glue – and a craft book. When she had time, my mom and I would make projects out of thebook. I loved thatNell used to take me to art house cinemas, Kabuki theatre performances, plays,concerts, musicals, museums….. We didn’t have a TV until I was 9 and even after wegot one if I was watching it during the daytime she’d say, ‘Melinda, why don’t you dosomething constructive like read a book or paint a picture’.
The story of the ivory fish
When I was about eight I went to an arts and crafts class. One day the teacher gaveus each a bar of Ivory hand soap and a knife and asked us to make something out ofit. I carved a crude little fish which I was very proud of and brought it home and put iton top of the piano. A couple of days later a dog appeared next to my fish which my18 year old sister Susan had carved. It was perfect and looked like a real dog thathad been turned to soap and miniaturised. I was gutted and felt really ashamed ofmy fish. I never talked to my mom or sister about it, but I took my fish to thebathroom sink and scrubbed all of the fishness out of it. I wasn’t able to reason thatmy sister had 10 years of carving skill on me and different creative/artistic talents.She was very artistically talented and probably could have been a graphic designeror illustrator. The ‘Ivory Fish’ not really a huge incident, but it stayed with me for areally long time.So on one hand, even though I just
a creative person and had a quite rich andstimulating environment, my relationship with my older sister impacted on my creativeself esteem. Even now, at times when I make something or see someone else’s artwork, I struggle with feelings of inadequacy and thoughts like ‘This isn’t any good’ or‘Theirs’ is better’.