Arts and Crafts

And now for another narrative detour, in which I attempt to explain several things about my home environment, day-to-day priorities, and general upbringing. Also, my bedroom.

The thing is, if someone were to attempt to assemble a clear picture of teenage-me using only my journal, they’d most likely assume that I never did anything but go to school, be at school, and think about school.

This is remarkably not true.

In actuality, I pretty much only ever bother with the journal when I’m at school, because at school, I’m very, very bored.

Because of this desperate need to entertain myself when I’m in class, the entries are often recorded in real-time and capture the at-school portion of my life fairly accurately, but they don’t really reflect my home life at all, since when I’m at home, I’m busy doing stuff.


*Except in this shot, where I am doing nothing

Home is eclectic, full of interesting things like baskets of miscellaneous bones, and animal skulls and vintage chemistry sets and forty-year-old dissection specimens in jars of formaldehyde.

Really, as far as bedrooms go, my bedroom is a very morbid one, and when I’m not watching hyper-violent crime movies, staying up all night, sewing beads and sequins on my clothes, or making buttermilk waffles, I spend a lot of time there.

To be perfectly clear, it’s not actually my room, because it’s also my sister’s room. And the animal room. And the craft room.


*You can’t really see, but the wall behind me is absolutely covered in homemade masks. Some are for Halloween. Most are Just Because.

The room is huge and drafty, with insanely high ceilings and terrible carpet, furnished with assorted bookshelves, a homemade work table, a store-bought tool bench, and a record player from the 1940’s. Also, two ladders, three aquariums, several hamsters, toads, salamanders, ferrets, and one rope swing.

It is basically the perfect environment—part cozy playhouse, part menagerie, part free fall.

The loft where my bed lives is really just a narrow shelf, high up along one wall and running the width of the room. You reach it by climbing a ladder and crawling through a trapdoor.

On the ground floor, there is one closet for clothes, to be shared between myself and Little Sister Yovanoff, and one closet for art supplies, full of tiny drawers filled with pens and paint brushes, and big drawers filled with bags of plaster and bolts of fabric.

My mother is not only a treasure trove of art-room knowhow and professional-grade adhesives, but also has very good craftsmanship. And since we have the conveniently open schedule of being homeschooled, she teaches us a good portion of what she knows. (Except for me and the craftsmanship. I don’t have that. But other things.)

Before I’m ten, she teaches me to stretch watercolor paper, cut stencils, and use paraffin wax to resistance-dye batik patterns onto pieces of muslin by soaking them in a five-gallon bucket full of Rit.

She teaches me how to use the very cranky sewing machine and how to tack in a hem, and unsuccessfully attempts to instill in me a love of embroidery. It’s a good effort, but ultimately fruitless. By the time high school rolls around, I’m still terrible, and she’s still stuck darning little hearts onto my winter tights every time I accidentally stick a finger through the heel trying to pull them on.

What I’m saying is, ours is a House of Activities.

When Little Sister Yovanoff and I aren’t pushing each other on the rope swing or leaping perilously back and forth between our lofts, we spend a lot of time in the downstairs part of the room, painting and drawing, making dolls out of polymer clay and homemade paper mache, drawing giant cityscapes on butcher paper, and building tiny wooden houses. But the idyllic state of things can’t last. Like most stages in life, it has to end eventually.

foot and sculpture

*The barefoot photos are all part of a series that Little Sister Yovanoff concocted by dragging the armchair into the middle of the bedroom and covering it with a big piece of satin. My job is to take direction, and pose with various pieces of my ceramics homework. (Facial features.) Also, it is cold, so I’m wearing a hat. But no socks.

This isn’t really a post about school. It’s kind of about all the other things that aren’t school, and how once I start tenth grade, I have to catch my balance and scramble around trying to hold onto the little pieces that used to be my whole life.

A big part of problem is simply that my house is fun, and school is not, and there’s really no graceful way to transition from one to the other. To that end, I spend most of tenth grade wishing the bell would ring so I could just go home.

heart sweater 2

*Here I am, posing by the TV and wearing one of my dad’s old sweaters, to which I have sewn a pink plastic heart, made for me by my cousin. Also, this is for one of Little Sister Yovanoff’s art assignments. Also, later she will cut me out and give me dragonfly wings. Which I like.

And a big part of why my junior year turns out to be kind of cool is that somewhere in the summer between 10th and 11th, I start to figure out all the ways I can bring parts of home with me everywhere I go. Mostly by decorating my clothes. (Also, the winter of junior year is ridiculously cold, and the heat at school is not only central, but full-blast. While the heat at home is one temperamental wood stove—occasionally full of birds.)

me on the chair

For this post, I really wish I had more pictures of my room, and specifically more (or any) pictures of my sister and me in the room working on stuff. But we kept the door closed a lot and our mom was really polite about it and mostly stayed out, so there is a notable lack of documentation of the Sisters Yovanoff in their natural habitat.

Instead, I’ve decorated the blog with various shots that Little Sister Yovanoff took of me at various times, usually for school projects, often when my tongue is blue from popsicles or I’m not wearing socks.


Do you have at-home hobbies? Things you love, but that don’t really bleed over into school? Do you ever wish they did? Are hobbies best left at home, or do you find ways to incorporate them in your school life?

7 thoughts on “Arts and Crafts

  1. Oh man, I would have loved to grow up in the House of Yovanoff. Sounds like such an awesome, creative place! And every time you mention your sister, I wish desperately for a sister to magically appear in my life. How fun. I have a brother, but he was always next door playing with the neighbor boys (their mom didn’t like that I punched one of them once, when I was small, so I wasn’t never allowed to play with them :P)

    I never really had a separation between house and school when it came to hobbies (with the exception of writing, which I always kept just for me – my closest friends knew I wanted to be a writer someday, but my writing felt too personal to share). My hobbies were basically anything creative or dramatic and from early on, I was encouraged by EVERYONE – family, friends, teachers, coaches – and it bled into everything. Even the school PTA knew I was the go-to girl when it came to making posters for fundraisers, or t-shirt designs, or mural painting, or whatever, and my mom wasn’t even in the PTA. I honestly loved it – very cool to know that when someone wanted something creative done, but they didn’t know how, they’d think of me first – even if they didn’t know me personally! (but I’ve also had to learn to grab hold of the people-pleasing side of me, because it’s hard to accomplish my own goals when all my energy and time goes for others’ projects)

    • It was seriously the best place—it was just so full of everything I liked!

      And we had a lot of neighbor boys and no neighbor girls, so was very glad to have a sister. Also, this sounds horribly familiar, and possibly like the story of my life:

      their mom didn’t like that I punched one of them once, when I was small

      I love that you developed a far-reaching reputation! My senior year, I was on a city-sponsored committee to paint a mural, but other than being strong-armed into doing some drawings for the school paper once, that was about the extent of my involvement (I was basically just not a joiner back then—can you tell?) Also, I’ve actually developed my people-pleasing side quite a bit over the years, but it was a long and arduous trek. Because as a kid, I pretty much only had an ice princess/hermit side. So. Moderation is best!

      • Cool. My sister used to be into photography in HS too. Only back then, she liked to take Abercrombie-esque photos in weird places, like big cardboard boxes of garbage or underneath school desks. We went to a Julia Marguerite Cameron exhibit once and I hoped that she’d be somewhat inspired. But she was rather attached to her homeless-in-the-mall aesthetic.

        She’s an anthropologist now and photography has been very, very useful.

        I always wished that I was good with my hands and could do more arts-related things. But when I try, they never seem to turn out well and the process actually makes me pretty tense. In high school, we only had one fine arts teacher and I thought she was a terrible excuse for a human being. She was so hated and so avoided by the student body, that I used to suspect that the physics and geometry and literature and history teachers consulted with her on ways to insert art into their lessons just to give her something to do.

        I think the fine arts also make me tense because our school bully/token mean girl had this complex where she’d make her victims look through her sketchbook and rave about her genius. If you weren’t convincing enough, God have mercy on your poor soul.

        Aside from reading and writing, I think most of my hobbies back then were pretty in-your-head. I liked logic puzzles and pretending to be 19th century transcendentalist and memorizing strange words and analyzing (to death) politics and economics and movies and the way people move their bodies. I also loved spectacles and crowds like the ones at Disneyland and in downtown LA and at scary looking swap meets. And there was a lot of skating and babysitting and community service. I didn’t spend a lot of time in my room because I grew up in a very, very small tract house, but my parents kept a nice garden with chickens and rabbits and fruit trees and tropical flowers. Now that I think of it, I don’t think anyone spent much time in the actual house.

        Man, this is long. Sorry about that.

  2. Two of my main hobbies were reading and writing. I read and wrote a lot at home, and I read at school, but the writing never seemed to translate. I just never felt comfortable writing there. I think it was because I was afraid people would read over my shoulder and make judgements before it was finished.

    I hate to say it but I really like to watch tv and movies. That’s pretty much what I do at home. I read, write, and watch tv and movies. I am a total geek for tv and movies, though I do have to say that there’s no rhyme or reason to what movies and tv shows I like. I mean I like animated movies and romantic comedies, but I also like indie and odd movies. I love to watch the commentaries on the movies and tv episodes. I also love to watch the bonus features, and I collect tv and movie bloopers. I also like to learn about the actors and directors that work on the tv shows and movies. That’s another hobby of mine I guess which didn’t really translate to school. I mean I would talk about the movies and tv shows I like but not as obsessively as I would and still do with my family at home.

    I also wanted to say that it sounds like you had a very fun and unique home life. Perfect growing up for a writer. And your sister is a great photographer. Hopefully she does it professionally now because she’s really good. I’m sure it’s great having professional looking pictures of you growing up to look at and remember what went on at that time.

    • Two of my main hobbies were reading and writing

      Those were honestly SO MUCH my hobbies that I didn’t really even recognize them as activities for awhile—I mean, it would be like listing eating breakfast as a hobby!

      At first I did worry a *lot* about people reading over my shoulder in school, but after awhile it started to seem like as long as they thought I was just taking class notes, they weren’t too bothered. Which is why I only ever wrote stories in my class binders, and then at the end of the day had to figure out what was school and what was fiction :D

      We got a TV and an old VCR (you know about those, right?) when I was 14, and I’ve been addicted to movies ever since! I love knowing the background on things too, all the little bits of trivia and the details. I just like knowing what little pieces are holding up the big finished part that you actually see.

      My sister did (among other things) get a fine arts degree in photography, but she mostly uses it for fun now, although sometimes it comes in very handy at her job, which involves a lot of spatial design and building-and-grounds planning. Which just goes to show that no matter what, it’s always a good idea to develop your strengths, even if they seem impractical or super-specific, because if you have those strengths, you can find all kinds of ways to use them.

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