Although it isn't the strangest gift I've ever assembled, the box I filled for my mother-in-law, Louise Lamar Fuller, was certainly odd.
An assortment of old rusted nuts and flathead nails, time-worn metal washers and knobs. Mismatched buttons. Costume jewelry with rhinestones missing. Earrings without matches, most without backs. A stack of old magazines and catalogs, some with pages torn out. A peculiar collection of odds and ends that most everyone would view as trash.
Except for Louise.
Louise sees the texture and shape of each piece, and sees in them the potential for art. For decades, Louise has been able to see potential in drab lumps of clay. A master potter, she turns those lumps into fantastic, hand-built vessels and finishes them with such deep, warm glazes they glow as if the fire remains.
Recently, though, Louise has been taken with the art of collage, combining everyday items into gift tags and bookmarks. Her work has a charming wistfulness about it, like she's combined jewelry and paper and an antique shop and a hardware store and your favorite page from a scrapbook all into one little thing.
The last time we visited them in Morgantown, she took me to her basement workshop and I watched as she put one together. She made it look so simple that later, back at home, I decided to try one myself.
I've seen preschool craft projects that looked more artistic.
Dog nose art on windows that seemed done with more skill.
It made me appreciate Louise's talent all the more. And made me grateful to have a mother-in-law I so genuinely like and unabashedly admire.
I'm guess I'm just lucky.