Saturday, November 12, 2011

Ode to a staple gun

I just bought myself a fantastic present: a brand new Power Shot staple gun!

It’s luxurious to use. You barely have to press the handle to make the staples come out, and the staples shoot in all the way, so you don’t have to hammer them in the rest of the way, like I did with my old Arrow staple gun. Much easier on the hand muscles, much easier to stretch a nice tight canvas, and much faster going as well.

But this does not mean I will be disposing of my old Arrow staple gun. Believe it or not, the old gun has great sentimental value. Because it was the first present my husband (then my boy friend) bought for me, and it proved to me that he loved me.

At the time he bought it (1989), I had dropped out of art school and wasn’t painting at all. I was working at a variety of secretarial jobs, exhausted by boredom and long unfulfilled hours of sitting at a desk, frustrated that I was giving my precious time away for a paycheck that barely covered the bills from my not-at-all-extravagant lifestyle. (City living will do that to you; rent alone eats up most of your income.)

Kevin had first met me when I was taking art classes, and he saw the difference in my demeanor, my spirit, when I was engaged in creating art vs. when I was not creating art. He realized, even when I was denying it to myself, that I needed to live a creative lifestyle in order to be wholly human, to be who I was, to fulfill my destiny.

But Kevin is a gentle, non-pushy person. Even when he saw I was floundering and he knew why, he was too kind to confront me directly with the big mistake I was making. But he did want to help me. So he bought me a staple gun.

And as soon as I saw it, I realized he loved me. With this gift, he was giving me permission to be myself. In a gentle, quiet way. It wasn’t a big push; it was a kind invitation.

Up until then, I had used store-bought canvases, which meant I was limited to the store’s pre-made sizes. (There were far fewer sizes available in those days; now you can buy pre-made canvases in almost any size.) Sure, I had tried removing the staples and restretching store-bought canvases, but it was beastly hard. With my new staple gun, I could buy stretcher bars in any size I wanted. It really gave me freedom to work small, large, and in any dimension. It was a big opportunity in a small package.

The rest is history! With my staple gun in hand, I went back to school, got two degrees, and began to show and sell my paintings. That staple gun was the first step; it represented freedom for me. It was this gift, this gentle nudge from the man who loved me, that allowed me to become an artist.

So no matter how much easier and faster the new staple gun works, I will always keep the old one in my studio to remind me of how I got where I am today.

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