As an homage to the coming Father’s Day, Etsy Admin collaborated on this post to reflect on the creativity passed down from generation to generation. I may not have grown up with a father tinkering in any garage, but the patriarchal blood in my line traces back to milliners in the Old Country. Embroidered heirlooms in my family’s closet come not from feminine quilting circles, but instead from the men who worked the seams with calloused fingers. My grandfathers and great-grandfathers labored on the Lower East Side in parallel, coat-makers who carried their union cards in their right pockets. Yes, Etsy is largely a community of empowered, artistic women, but I like to see my crafty heritage as coming from these quiet figures of proletarian masculinity, my own fingertips stained and torn from the industry of making.
Jason, a.k.a. jasonmseger: “My dad grew up working the family tobacco farm. He built the log cabin house we grew up in and made just about everything we ever wanted or needed. I guess some people may refer to him as a handyman or a carpenter, but I like to think Jimbo just gets it done.
“Our science fair projects weren’t mounted on store-bought cardboard, but rather ply wood and hinged backboards he threw together. A large and ridiculous picnic table sat in our kitchen where we’d gather for homework or dinner. My brother and I got very seriously into baseball so Jimbo built us a batting cage, but it didn’t last long. He built an indoor hitting facility over it. And when I moved into my own apartment after college, Jimbo arrived with a large shelf to house my growing record collection. Now I find him re-gripping golf clubs.
“Jimbo is a master of framework. When he was building homes or decks, he’d bring me along to job sites at various stages of completion. He handled a tape measure like cowboys handle a lasso. His belt held hammer, nails, and chalking devices instead of Colt 45’s. Though I am not resourceful in the same ways as him, his character and drive are monumental to me. Each time I return home, something has been converted or opened, and become a new thing. I’m convinced that my dad enjoys the chaos in creation.”
Vanessa: “My grandfather, Urban ‘Beanie’ Bean, sailed on tall ships around the world as a young merchant marine. He was an incredibly creative person in an unconventional way. Beanie expressed it mainly through telling stories and collecting odds and ends that he would display in his bedroom and the clubhouse he built in the backyard. Every wall had things like ship models, photos, see-no-evil-speak-no-evil monkey figurines — he even had a stuffed armadillo hanging in lobster netting from the rafters. After he passed away, when we were sorting his things, we discovered the inside lid of his treasure chest — covered with his macrame knots and family photographs. This very eclectic nautical decor must have sparked memories for him — a way for him feel like he was on a boat, where he felt at home.”
Sarah, a.k.a. rockstarpoli: “I am lucky enough to have both a crafty dad and a crafty stepdad to celebrate this Father’s Day.
“My dad, Chris, started to draw and paint as soon as he could pick up a pencil. I remember with particular fondness the various art lessons he would give me as I grew up — charcoal shading!, watercolors!, lettering! — I’m still not entirely sure I followed the lessons, I just loved any excuse to make a mess. One of his great landscape oil paintings hung in our living room and I remember the day I climbed a chair and decided to add to it with a bottle of pink nail polish. It was not my finest hour, but that pink blob still shines out from the center of the piece where it hangs in my mom’s house (I’m lobbying for ownership). A trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art with my dad, who was an early student at the School of Visual Arts in NYC, is an exercise in pure joy and art appreciation. My dad continues to paint and also craft incredible music as a professional jazz musician and his art lives with me daily in various ways. He sends me a pumpkin that he painstakingly paints with my portrait every Halloween. Hand-drawn birthday cards that I’ll never part with outline a year in my life — including drawings of X-ed out faces of exes, renderings of me sitting at a desk at work, and strange outfits I may have graced him with throughout the year. When eating out, we continue to choose restaurants that have paper placemats so that we can spend our meals drawing. I sadly did not really inherit his drawing gifts, but I’m never without a selection of Dad-approved pens in my bag should I find myself with idle hands.
“My stepdad, Joe, came into my life about ten years ago and with him came a master woodworker who also makes beautiful stained glass lamps, knows how to electrically wire an entire house, can feed the neighborhood with homemade sausages and bread, and is able to sew a button or patch onto any shirt I decide to destroy. His woodworking skills are the ones I want to brag about here, as I’ve gained an incredible appreciation for the skill required for such beautiful work thanks to him. Every visit (which is thankfully pretty often since all of my parents only live about two hours away) brings with it a new understanding of the work he does — from turning gifts for eagerly expectant family members to restoration work for a local church. My personal favorites are his wood-turned salt and pepper shaker sets that look like Russian cathedrals made of wood. I chose my current apartment based on its ability to house the beautiful wooden farm table I grew up with that Joe restored. It’s in Manhattan now, so it’s pretty much the only furniture I have, but it brings me comfort every time I sit down at it. That table came into my life originally through my dad and remains with me due to my stepdad. The influence of both of my dads leads me to pause any time I need something new for my home or for the office — I wonder how can this be handmade? How can this object I need have more meaning? They both have a natural gift for figuring these answers out. I honestly can’t say enough about these two forces in my life, and for that I am eternally thankful — especially to my mom who certainly has some great taste!”
Heather, a.k.a. hebo: “The stereotypical artsy genes flow on my maternal side, with talented seamstresses, interior decorators and a painter among her kin. My dad isn’t an artist — he’s a practical man, very much a do-it-yourselfer. He inherited from my grandpa a knack for doing a lot with very little, and the talent for saving everything — even down to bent nails.
“While not artistic, my dad is creative. He built my brother and me an amazing treehouse — with two floors and an escape rope! — from partially salvaged materials. At my last apartment he created a custom loft bed so I could still fit my enormous dresser into my tiny bedroom. His problem solving has rubbed off on me — I now scour flea markets and Craigslist to see if someone’s cast-off possession can become my budget-conscience design renovation.
“My dad has taught me that money is not a boundary — with enough creativity, hard work and resourcefulness, anything is possible. This lesson gives me more freedom and confidence than I know. Now if only they would let me salvage my own firewood from Central Park…”
Julie, a.k.a. julieincharge: “As long as I’ve known my dad, he’s never had much hair, but he has always wielded a persistent and understated wit and an uncanny knack for puns and wordplay. (Friends, you can thank my dad for that skill that I seem to have acquired!) All throughout my life, my dad has always cooked up the most delicious meals and encouraged me to read the best books. My parents’ home is literally lined with books from floor to ceiling, so it is really no shock that I emerged the book-loving lady that I am.
“As a young adult book reviewer, writer, member of many book award committees, 7th and 8th grade English teacher, and all around champion of reading and writing, my father has had an impact on the lives of many young readers and writers, and I am no exception. My dad instilled in me a love of writing by setting me up with journals from the time I could hold a pencil, and recording my stories for me to illustrate before I could even write. Every night as a kid, my dad would read to my brother and me, and we made our way through stories that have stuck with me to this day, including all 14 books of The Wizard of Oz series.
“In college, when I was having anxieties that my art major track would lead me to a life of unemployment and miserable destitution, my dad cheered me on to stay on track and stick to pursuing an education and a future that I truly loved. I have always been infinitely grateful for my dad’s encouragement, and keep his book recommendations, cooking tips, and all around support at heart every day.”
Has your father or grandfather inspired you? Share in the comments below!
Vanessa Bertozzi is a Senior Manager for Etsy Wholesale, a private, juried section of the Etsy marketplace. Since starting at Etsy in 2007, she has launched the Etsy Blog and led teams focused on seller education and community.