I began MidLife Maché as a reaction to my divorce. Not so much a mindful response, as a knee-jerk reaction that seemed safer than excessive drinking or become Uber-Slut, both of which might have been options at the time. Divorce robs you temporarily of your sanity as you spin wildly amok in the brand new paradox of joyous freedom, and the terror of being free. I was married at 21, had four kids by the time I was 26, and was divorced at 40. I had missed several pivotal years of singlehood somewhere in that span, and maché seemed to fill the gap just nicely. Strange, yes, but I’ve never been much of a drinker and my divorce left me celebrating the fact that I would never have to have sex again… (until I met my darling furry lover… but that’s another story… Fifty Shades of Camo…) so alcoholism and promiscuity were safely off the list. And I still had kids at home. And so the maché began. Artistic pursuits, like yoga, like excessive drinking, like mache, are meditative practices that fill a void when you just don’t know if you’re going to lose your mind, or lose your house, or go to a Fire Hall dance and get laid by creepy guys waiting to take advantage of your weakened condition. I encourage you, my divorceé brethren, take up the flour and water instead of the box of condoms, or the bottle of bourbon. Find something you love to do, and do it.
This weekend I attended my first-ever craft fair, where, for the very first time, I asked nice people to give me their hard-earned cash for my little paper and paste creations. I was scared of this, and so I engaged the services of two of my spawn to accompany me. Hiding behind my children has carried me through many a frightening social occasion. I am a raging introvert. Crowds scare me. The Minor Hockey decade, with four kids, was a nightmare for anti-social me. So the three of us sat behind a table covered in maché… fishermen, cats, Santas, mermaids, copies of my three books… and my girls did all the adding for me, which was a blessing. My meagre math skills vanish in the face of public interaction. And I sold things. Lots of things. It was deeply satisfying to look at the long table of art items that I had made, and to watch them gradually diminish as the day went on. I am a deeply self-doubting person, and my children are wild at me when I talk about my books by saying things like “Oh, this one isn’t very good”, or “I didn’t know what I was doing when I wrote this one”, and they hate it when I give things away for free because I can’t imagine anyone paying money for them. It’s entirely because of the encouragement I receive from my children that I am able to do book signings and promote my sculptures at all. It makes me really glad I didn’t become Alcoholic Uber-Slut when they were still little. I doubt they would be as supportive of those indulgences.
At the craft fair, I was asked several times to take commissions. The following is a dramatization of a wonderful conversation, with a lovely man and his wife who were requesting a personalized sculpture of their gay friend and his partner. Names have been changed, as has the actual dialogue, because that’s what I do:
Jim: Do you do the naked form?
Me: (Thinking he’s talking about how I make the sculptures) Um… well… I make an armature, then I build on…
Jim: No, no… do you do naked?
Me: I’m not going to do you naked, Jim.
Jim: I want Tom naked.
Me: Many men do, Jim.
Jim: And his partner. I want them both. Naked.
Me: Oh. You want me to make a maché of Tom and his partner, naked?
(My two daughters are peeing themselves behind me. I can hear them making squeaking noises.)
Jim: Tom appreciates the naked form. It would be very artistic and unique. Gardening.
Me: You want penises?
Jim: Lots of penises. Well, only two really. Two penises, please.
Me: Two penises… in a garden?
(Lori… lovely, sane Lori, Jim’s wife, joins us.)
Lori: With hoes.
Me: You want me to make two naked gay guys playing with ho’s in the garden?
Lori: Maybe just shovels. And naked, because it’s all about the art, the human form, you know?
Me: I can do naked. Send me a photograph.
(My girls are having seizures. One of them kicks me under the table.)
Lori: Sure, we have lots. (pause) Maybe a picture just showing their faces.
Me: That’s probably best, yes. I’ll just imagine the rest.
Jim: Thanks, Libby. We want them to be realistic too. Lots of wrinkles and bumps. They’re kind of old; Tom is a bigger guy, and his partner is normal sized.
Me: Their penises?
Jim: Oh, I don’t know about that part. That would be kind of an awkward question, wouldn’t it?
Me: Apparently not for a maché artist, it isn’t. Yes. I’m on it.
I would never have had this moment of artistic interaction if I hadn’t found a creative release for my post-divorce anxiety, extinct libido, and general sense of terror that I would lose my house and my kids and my mind. My maché is becoming a quirky, silly little business that makes people smile. What a great feeling it is to watch people react to something I made, in my little introverted world, with smiles and giggles and pleasure. And then they give me money.
My advice to you, if you are wallowing in those holes we all fall into occasionally because of stress, or divorce, or unhappy jobs, or loss, or aging… follow your bliss.
Follow Your Bliss.
Even if you think your bliss is ridiculous, because it might just end up making you wildly happy, and it might make other people happy too. And then they will give you their money, and talk to you about penises, and your world will be complete.
Thanks for reading!