About 25 years ago, I began painting a series of sock monkey portraits.
Yep. Sock monkey portraits.
The series of paintings began as a tribute to my late mother. Not long after she passed, I found the threadbare monkey among her belongings. He was missing a pom-pom, and his little body needed shoring up, but his big wide red grin was engaging! I knew I had to take him home with me.
A few years passed before I began to create the tribute painting. As I decided what items to gather for a still-life painting competition, I remembered Mom’s sock monkey. I laughed and knew that he was the perfect item to add to the still-life.
It turned out that the sock monkey was a great choice! It embodied Mom’s playful, loving spirit. The painting was infused with her energy, and I was happy to discover that people could feel it when they encountered my work.
I painted and painted and painted and painted. Did I tell you I painted? Over the course of 25 years, I have created 50 sock monkey portraits. It was a great way to process my grief. The artwork has been licensed on several products. I once had a painting teacher that remarked, “You’re the type of person who believes if a little bit is good, a lot is better.” I’ll admit I lean in that direction, and it’s been a fun journey.
Oddly enough, until recently, I never successfully sewed a sock monkey of my own.
I attempted to create a sock monkey in the early years of this venture, but it sure wasn’t pretty! First, the seams were wonky, and much stuffing escaped. Then, the monkey unraveled when I tried to remove the stitching and rework it.
I admit I was frustrated, and a bit unraveled myself! I quickly lost interest in the project. In the end, I threw what was left of the poor monkey into the trash. From then on, I figured I wasn’t up to sock monkey-making and that I should stick to painting.
Recently, I was compelled to try again. My creative life and business revolve around sock monkeys, and I felt that I needed to make one from scratch to be authentic with my work. So, I gathered all the supplies and made a play date with my twin sister. (Yeah, I’m 63 and still have play dates with my sister.)
I’m not sure if it’s a twin thing or a sibling thing, but we seemed to revert to our childhood ways during the merry monkey-making. We giggled. We shared insight. We competed. It was a day well spent. Here’s what I learned along the way:
Just because I couldn’t do something in the past doesn’t mean I cannot do it in the future.
Sharing challenges lightens the load. We offered encouragement and insight to one another.
We marveled that, like life, sometimes you need to tear things apart and reinvent them in a brand-new way.
Patience and careful planning truly are a virtue. That old saying “measure twice, cut once” was passed along for a reason.
Infuse play into the project and quit taking myself so seriously.
Have a plan but remain flexible. Things will happen along the way that requires Plan B, C, or even Z! Embrace the challenges and learn to trust that the diversion is the right path.
Meet brothers Michele and Leonato. They are named after two of our ancestors. Michele was made by my sister Cheryl, and I created Leonato. They are joyful proof that if you change your thoughts about what you think you can’t do, you might just create something wonderful.
If you’d like to make a sock monkey of your own, visit How To Make A Sock Monkey.
Photos are by Shannon Grissom – All Rights Reserved