Lindsay McGrath is an artist who creates things out of polymer clay and has a great love of science, technology, and “all things geeky.” Originally from Nova Scotia, on the east coast of Canada, and a self-described “geek” who likes finding “geek related things” to do, she enjoys spending time with her family, reading, watching movies and playing video games.
“I currently reside in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada with my geeky husband, twin daughters (geeks in training), and two cats. “
One “geek related thing” she likes to do is make things out of clay. She loves getting new and different requests for the custom ornaments that she crafts.
“I love getting requests for things that I am a fan of; it’s fun to try to capture the essence of things that I love. But, I also really like getting requests for things I don’t know much about.”
One recent custom ornament request was from a mother of a little boy with cochlear implants.
Lindsay posted about it on her blog, Handmade by Lindsay, and shortly after received a flood of inquiries regarding the ornament.
It’s a crafty time of year with people celebrating different holidays in many different ways, and being a crafty “geek” myself, I wanted to learn more about the artist and how this cochlear ornament came to be:
Q: How did you start making ornaments?
About three years ago my daughters were obsessed with a video game called Katamari Damacy (which is a fantastic game by the way). They really wanted action figures of the different characters, but the company didn’t produce any. Since I am a reasonably crafty person, I decided to try to make them myself out of polymer clay.
I’d played with Play Doh when I was a kid, but never done anything quite like this, and I was surprised at how easy it was to work with. And with how much fun it was!
Looking back, the first few things I made for the girls were pretty sad looking, but they were really happy with them and asked for more (and more, and more…). So I started researching tips and techniques on the Internet and continued to get better at it. I discovered that it was something that I really loved to do.
A couple of months later I made a few ornaments for some friends, and their feedback was really positive. Gradually, friends of mine started asking if I could make things for them and offered to barter for things like baked goods (which was a great deal in my opinion!). Eventually, people started offering to pay.
People started suggesting that I start a business, so I decided to give it a try in my spare time. I sold mostly to friends and family and then gradually to their friends through word-of-mouth. I started a simple blog as a way for strangers to see my work and contact me, and it just gradually grew from there. All the while, I have been continuing to research the craft on the Internet and continue to experiment with new techniques to improve my skills. I think I have come a long way in just three years, but I am still constantly learning new things.
Q: What do you like most about making custom ornaments for people?
I love the fact that I can make people so happy by helping them get something they otherwise might not have been able to. I’ve had some pretty specific, pretty obscure requests, and it is so rewarding to see people get excited about them.
Q: You created a custom ornament of a little boy with a cochlear implant for a customer, how did that come about?
A mother contacted me after I’d made an ornament of a comic book character that ended up being very popular, to order one for one of her sons.
Then, she just took a chance and asked if I did completely custom ones too.
She said she tries to get her children ornaments that relate to something they’ve done or loved in the past year, but hadn’t been able to find anything suitable for her son who had gotten cochlear implants.
I have a nephew that has a cochlear implant, and knew I wouldn’t have any trouble incorporating a simplified version into the ornament of a little boy. Once it was finished, she was very happy and asked if she could share it with some support groups that she participates in. I gave her a link to the blog post I wrote about it, and didn’t give it much thought.
Once she shared it, my inbox exploded with requests for similar ones from others who were happy to finally see something like it. There are loads of custom ornaments for just about anyone you can think of, but not children with cochlear implants or hearing aids. I am hoping to be able to expand into other underrepresented groups. It can mean so much to a child to see his/herself reflected in something that so many others take for granted.
Q: Why do you think it’s important for people to see themselves reflected in the world (whether it be in an ornament, art, or media)?
I think that everyone wants to feel that they belong, that there are other people out there like them facing the same challenges: children especially. They are growing, changing, figuring out who they are, and are very vulnerable. If they don’t see representation in the arts or media, they can feel like an outsider. By increasing the variety of representation in the arts/media, these children can see that they are not alone and that they truly are a part of the greater community. It benefits everyone, really.
The more diverse the media/art, the more it normalizes for people that there are so many differences in the world. If seeing such a wide variety of people becomes the norm, then I believe that bullying and discrimination can be greatly reduced.
Q: What do you like most about crafting ornaments for people?
I love the creativity! It is so much fun to experiment and try out new ideas, and I love that people keep asking me to make things I never would have even thought of. It keeps me on my toes, and I enjoy the challenge of figuring out how to make a new idea work.
Q: What’s one fun thing about you or your business that most people wouldn’t know unless they knew you?
I never would have guessed in a million years that I would become an artist! I studied engineering in school, but it never was the right fit for me, and through a series of chance circumstances I went on to be a photographer for a while. When my daughters were born I put that aside and became a stay-at-home mom, and it was my daughters’ love for an obscure Japanese video game that started me on the path that I am on now!
To learn more about Lindsay’s work and see more of her pieces, visit her blog: Handmade by Lindsay.
To contact Lindsay, email her at email@example.com
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