My Mom was born during World War II in Holland, and then immigrated to Canada with her family in 1947. Being part of an immigrant family that also knew the desperation of war meant being resourceful and not taking anything for granted. Food, water and money were carefully rationed, and clothes were handed down and reworked from sibling to sibling. This immigrant story is not unique to my Mom, of course. But her experience as an immigrant child has had an indelible impact on the way she has lived her life.
Wherever we lived, my Mom usually found a way to have a vegetable garden, and she took great joy (and still does) in caring for it and harvesting its yields. She canned and froze what she grew, and my family ate her harvest late into the winter. What she couldn't grow herself, she picked at local farms to preserve for the rest of the year. I always loved how my Mom's cold storage looked, with its neat rows of colourful jars and baskets of potatoes and apples.
She taught my brothers and I to be grateful for what we had and regularly reminded us not to waste. And she lived what she spoke. Before recycling was commonplace, my Mom tried to recycle in her own way by turning waste into something useful. In our house, bleach bottles were turned into trash cans, tin cans became containers or baking pans, bottles were reused as jars for her homemade jam, and paperboard from packaging was reused for recipe cards and crafts. We always had a kitchen drawer overflowing with every variety of plastic bag so they could be reused. (It made me very cranky to wash all those bags, but my Mom persisted.) She worked hard to make food go as far as possible. (The More with Less Cookbook by Doris Longacre was her culinary bible.)
Little did I know that all my Mom's choices would leave such a mark on me.
When I started making jewelry out of garbage items a few years ago, it never dawned on me that I was doing something my mother taught me. I knew I wanted to create conversation pieces that would make people think a little more about reducing waste. I knew I wanted to constantly challenge myself (and others) to find a purpose for trash rather than throw it away. Eventually I started to ask
Now, my Mom helps me at art and craft shows, and she's one of my best "garbage collectors". She always asks me, "Where do you get all these ideas?" I usually say, "I don't know." But really, it pretty much started with her.