If you’ve ever seen a pillow on our website, odds are that it came from one of the best hookers (RUG hookers) around – Beth Miller. She frequently teaches classes in the Mercantile, helping to pass on the 19th century craft. See how one of our favorite makers spends her holiday season.
For our next Q & Holid-AY: Elizabeth Miller, Parris House Wool Works
What is the first gift you remember ever making someone?
It would have to be something I made in elementary school for my parents. I remember, I think in second grade, making a good-sized cardstock two-dimensional Christmas tree, gluing different shaped uncooked pastas on to it, and then spray painting it silver. To be honest, I wouldn’t mind doing that again.
What is the most treasured gift you’ve ever received?
This is such a difficult question and my answer, while not lighthearted, demonstrates the power of “good neighbors.” We lost my brother to an accident in 1986 three weeks before Christmas. I have never forgotten the things friends, family, neighbors, and even people we really didn’t know did to try to bring what comfort they could to us that holiday season. That was a true gift in the spirit of Christmas. One of my aunts gave me a star ornament in my brother’s memory. I hang that star every year and it reminds me that people are fundamentally good. That reminder is a profound gift.
What holiday tradition do you most look forward to each year?
Every other year, at least for now, all four of my sons, their respective wife and girlfriends, my niece, and her boyfriend make our house in Paris, Maine their holiday headquarters for a week to ten days. Having everyone together is something my husband and I look forward to all year long. We cook, eat, play games, laugh, and watch terrible movies together (think bad science fiction). Last year all of the young women had matching onesie pajamas thanks to my niece. On Christmas Eve we always have our version of the traditional Italian Seven Fishes meal and on New Year’s Eve we make sushi. Our family is spread across four states and two countries, but every other year, we have this holiday time together.
Which holiday movie or tv special do you need to watch every year?
Hands down, “A Christmas Story.” I truly love everything about this movie. We have a leg lamp night light in our bathroom.
Is there an artisan or maker that you purchase gifts from?
We are so fortunate here in Maine to have a thriving community of makers and artists. Locally, some artisans I love are ceramic artist Martha Grover and her husband, potter Josh Rysted, fiber artist Kim Hamlin of Fiber & Vine, painter and poet Becky Robbins, and Deborah Uva of Grape Island Glass. My wishlist for Beekman 1802 artisans would include a fantastical wreath by Cackie McCarty (to go on our purple front door here at the Parris House), anything woven by Rabbit Goody, and ceramics by Jasmine Crowe.
Give some quick advice to any neighbor who is looking to perform a DIY holiday season.
Have fun with it. Don’t be your own harshest critic. I teach a design class called “Yes, You Are & Yes, You Can” because I hear so many people say, “I’m not talented or creative. I can’t draw or make things.” Yes, you are and yes, you can. With so many online tutorials now, DIY information is easier to find and follow than ever. On a practical level, use the best quality materials and tools you can find and afford. Sometimes the difference between fun and frustration is just whether or not the materials are well made. Above all, don’t stress and don’t judge.