Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Nature or Nurture?

When it comes to creativity, is it something passed on to us in our genes or do we pick it up because creativity is part of our upbringing?

Last night, I was reading Mary Ann's post about her family and her creative grandmother. Then I thought about quilting friends who have said they first developed an interest in quilting because a mother or a grandmother quilted. I started thinking about creativity and wondering why it develops in some of us but not in others.

I was adopted at birth and never knew my birth parents, nor do I know anything about my genetic background, so I can't say whether I come from a long line of creative people. My adoptive mother, though, was involved with painting and art for a time, until alcoholism overwhelmed her desire to create. Still, during my formative years and until I was in my mid-teens, my mom would paint or sketch periodically, and she was always interested in home decorating, sewing, and making our home attractive. My mom's father was a fairly talented artist as well. On the other hand, my brother, who is my parents' biological child, appreciates art and creativity but has never seemed to have much of a desire to create anything himself. Still, when it came time to get a job, my brother went into commercial house paint sales, so he works with color regularly--is that his creativity coming out?

The other day, I was talking to my mom on the phone and she asked if I was still quilting. "Yes, of course," I replied. "Why do you want to keep making quilts?," she asked. "Don't you have enough?" "For the same reasons YOU painted pictures, Mom," I told her. At that point in the conversation, she told me she had to stop painting because framing was too expensive. We've been down that road before--next she would have complained that my father wouldn't let her paint because it cost too much money. So, of course, I changed the subject. But you know what? I think that if she had felt the same need to create that I feel, she would have found a way to continue with her art, even if it meant sketching in pencil and charcoal on a drawing pad. I'm not sure what led to her periodic spurts of artistic endeavors and whether it was the alcoholism alone that quenched her creative spark, but I don't think my mom ever truly felt a passion to create, because she doesn't recognize the motivation in others.

So where did I get it from? My early exposure to an artistic parent and a need--particularly as an adopted child--to be more like her in some way? Some gene passed down to me by ancestors I never knew? I don't suppose I'll ever know for certain, but maybe it's a combination of both. How about you? Where did you get your creativity from?

13 comments:

Vicky said...

My mom and dad were both from huge families, and as far as I know there were no quilters on either side. My dear aunt taught me needlework and to sew at a very early age. She was the influence in my life as far as browsing fabrics! We spent many happy hours in fabric stores. Mom was so encouraging, almost an enabler!, although she couldn't have sewn on a button to save her life! Maybe our quilty passion is acquired?

Thimbleanna said...

Wow. That's an interesting topic! Did you mom teach you to sew? Did you start creating while you still lived at home? Like you, I'm clueless. I've had plenty of inspiration, but I'm always amazed as how it "takes" in some and not in others. Out of 7 girls between my mom and her sister, I'm really the only one who sews. My mom doesn't sew nearly as much as my aunt, yet my aunt ended up with none of her girls who like to sew. And my mom ended up with me. ??? It's a mystery LOL!

Julia said...

I think that it is just like any of our other talents, they are God given. We all have something different to offer the world, our families and ourselves.
I am the only one in my family, that I know of, who quilts.

Su Bee said...

There's probably as many of us "unknowns" as there are generationals. My Gramma and mom sewed, but only clothes and only grudgingly. There's not another creative gene anywhere in my family as far as the eye can see. They appreciate the goodies but have no understanding of why someone would want to go to all that trouble when Mervyns has it for $40!

Crazy for Primitive Quilts & Gardens said...

I learned to craft out of GREED! In the third grade, one of my girlfriends had these crocheted, curly bow ties in her hair and I was soooo jealous! My mom couldn't sew a stitch, knit, etc. Absolutely no artistic talent. My dad actually knit himself a scarf on my "Knitting Jenny"! He also drew and made cartoons, so I think that is where I get my creativity. But I had to have those curly hair ties, so I taught myself to knit and my sister taught me to crochet. Never made the ties, but fell in love with knitting, then cross stitch, then eventually quilting. :o)

Tamara said...

Both of my grandma's quilted and did all sorts of other crafts too. My mom taught me too sew, but does not care to do anything crafty at all. She cannot understand how I like to quilt or knit, just takes to much time and patience she says. But she can spend hours decorating her office and it looks great. So I think we get our creativity a bit from our environments and just a smidging from our genes. The main thing is we do not lose focus of our own styles of creativity.

Richelle said...

This is an interesting topic. I myself was adopted also - along with my fraternal twin sister. My mom (adopted) was not crafty at all - she loved crafts but felt she should just help others and purchase from them. I on the other hand have wanted to quilt. My first sewing projects were around 8. As a teen I wanted to learn to quilt. At 21 I finally made my first quilt top. My sister has always been very artistic - drawing, painting, decorating, makes furniture etc. I finally met my bio Mother this last year. As far as I can tell she and her daughters don't seem too artsy. But we do share a passion for genealogy and family history. My best guess is that it is some of both.

Marcie said...

I think it must be some of both, plus a personality prone to addiction. Thank heavens it is quilts! My mom never sewed, but was very artistic--far more than I. My grandmother sewed and was expert. I know my interest came from her, and maybe a desire to please my mom. Whatever the reason, the addiction thing took over!

Shelina said...

This is a wonderful question. when I do genealogy research, I find particular branches that value certain things over others - crafts, sports, community service, even drugs and stealing. We're the crafty branch. Nobody else in the family quilts, that I know of, but we all have our specialty. I think a lot of it is taught - what the parents are willing to spend their money on - willing to let you stay up late to do, what will garner the most compliments, etc. I think your mother probably wants to go back to doing art, but doesn't give herself permission - low self worth, maybe?

DPUTiger said...

From my mom. For as long as I can remember, my mom has always done hand crafts. She'd come home from work (she was a lawyer), change out of her suit and sit down literally exactly where I'm sitting right this very minute. Embroidery. Knitting. Cross stitch. quilting. Yep. She did hand piecing and hand quilting.

My journey from cross stitch to quilting is detailed on my blog, here http://hpwt.blogspot.com/2007/03/chapter-closes.html

Greenmare said...

I think it is a bit of each, there has to be some talent in there, but then there has to be a passion to use it and keep creating. My parents were creative in their own talents, and I have always pursued some form of art. If we framed every painting or drawing I do we sure as heck wouldn't need any paint on the walls, which is why there are so many canvases piled against the walls in my storage room! Quilts are a bit more user friendly!! come on over and visit me, I was able to take the scrambled letters thingie off my comments section. I know how you ARE!!

yellowfarmhouse said...

Very interesting post Ms Kim. I had to think about this one. I have a Mom who sewed and did creative things for church bazaars and such but never for pleasure, more out of purpose. However she never encouraged or discouraged my endeavors or my sister when we would try our hand at sewing - weird now that I think about it. My sister and I did a lot of creative things together and apart. So I would probably say it was my sister who sparked my real creative juices and I'm the one who ran with it and her life for the last several years hasn't allowed the pleasure of that kind of time being a single mom with 2 jobs. However I've now taken her daughter down this path and I think I've created a monster, LOL - she wants to try everything. Thanks for giving me some thoughts to ponder. Great post

Hugs - Karen

Nan said...

What an amazing post, Kim! It has gotten me to thinking about my life, and why I have a very strong desire to create. My mother had a sewing machine, but only used it to sew patches on my clothes (ahem - I was a real tomboy), never for anything crafty. I took home ec in 7th grade, and had a semester of sewing, and even though I didn't do very well, I definitely felt the sewing bug bite. I continued to sew clothes for myself, and learned embroidery from my grandma and how to quilt from my aunt. I guess the creative genes were here and there in my family, but no one was really into it the way I am. Maybe it's just the way we came from the factory, do ya think?