Like Mother

Ever since I can remember my mother has been making things. When we lived in Saint-Jean, Quebec, she painted my canopy bed and tallboy with Pennsylvania Dutch motifs. Perhaps sleeping under a canopy of red and turquoise hand-painted flowers had something to do with my becoming an artist.

In the basement she painted a paneled pine door that led to a rarely used guest room. The door was green with big red hearts, painted with glossy enamel paint. Inside were two twin beds, a small table in-between, and a linoleum floor with an engraved bubble motif that looked a lot like a print I made in art class several years later. That little table was where my mother piled her finished wall hangings. She made these decorative pieces by gluing felt animals onto burlap backgrounds with LePage’s white glue. I liked spreading a thin layer of glue on my palm and peeling it off when it dried, all my lifelines clearly imprinted on the film. I was also intrigued by the glass evil eye beads that my mother used for the animals’ eyes.

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Eventually Mom would haul the wall hangings to the big city, Montreal, to leave them on consignment in stores. I always looked forward to her next batch so that I could escape to that hushed chamber behind the door of hearts, to inspect her handicrafts that still smelled of LePage’s glue.

In the unfinished section in our basement, lay an ominous rust colored oil tank that gave me the creeps. The other end featured a ceiling-high mountain of household clutter that included an electric floor polisher that I never saw put to use. It was a beige and olive contraption that had a detailed drawing of a Viking ship on it. My neighbor Lori-Ann’s mother put her polisher to work daily. Their kitchen floor looked like a freshly Zambonied skating rink. Whenever Lori-Ann and I pranced across it on the way to the playroom, usually toting Barbie and mini suitcases full of her clothes (items which my parents refused to buy for me) her mother, in her perpetual beehive hairdo, would warn us girls not to slip and fall. My favorite item in our heap of stuff was a leather suitcase, plastered with stickers from Niagara Falls, Lake George, and Coney Island. Next to the mound of domesticity, my mother had a table where she painted wooden decoy ducks.

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I liked looking at her paint cans and brushes and the haphazard formation of unpainted ducks on the cement floor, waiting for their beautifying ritual. Mom would scavenge antique stores that dotted the country roads of the Richelieu valley and buy ducks, flocks of them. Today my bedroom door is held open by one of her ducks. Under it’s tail it is written MIMI.

Mimi’s creative energy motivated me to embark on similar creative enterprises. When I was attending CEGEP, I borrowed my stepmother, Brigitte’s lime-green Renault 5 and hit the dairy zone of Saint-Hyacyinthe, Quebec. I’d spot farmhouses, scan for ferocious unleashed dogs, and if the coast was clear, knock on screen doors, asking people if they could sell me metal milk cans. When I explained that I painted the cans with decorative designs, these folk were sympathetic to my cause and often sold me a can or two for anywhere from five to eight dollars a piece.

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Driving home down the dirt road that late afternoon, with the car crammed with milk cans that clanged with each bump, I felt happy. That day I discovered how elated one could feel in the early stages of a creative project. I also learned the how to say, “bidon de lait.”

The following year I made a series of crib patchwork quilts with my mother’s Singer sewing machine that whined whenever the thread got tangled. I used scraps from Mom’s sewing projects.

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I’d leave the quilts on consignment at the Canadian Guild of Handicrafts on Peel Street, my mother showing me the ropes, and threads, every step of the way. When my son was born twenty years later he slept in one of these quilts. Now he’s almost as tall as I am but he still uses his yellow and orange quilt, not to sleep in, but to line a basket in the living room for Shira, the neighbor’s cat that visits us daily.

When I was in high school my mother organized a craft show at Victoria Hall in Westmount, Montreal. At the time I was making candles and figurines out of salt dough. My mother offered me a table at the show. Next to her elaborate display of hand-sewn belts and purses I sold my little candles and little people on a big table that made me feel very artsy. There I was with jewelers, ceramists, hat-makers, wood-carvers, weavers… They had long hair, wore funky clothes and easy smiles. I felt connected with this crowd and their creative energy.

I remember what my mother said to me after the show was over, “Now I know what you like, you like people.” Not just people, Mom, artists. Not that artists aren’t people but they are, as I discovered years later when I joined a community printmaking studio, a breed apart, a band where I belonged.

Today, after a successful career as a fashion designer, my mother makes one-of-a-kind beaded jewelry and sells her work at craft shows around Montreal. I recently took her jewelry for a jury selection for one of these shows. A jeweler complimented me lavishly on the unique quality of the necklaces and bracelets that I had carefully set up for the jury to inspect the following day. I was proud to admit that I was not the artisan and to give full credit where it was due, to my mother.

Talleen Hacikyan

3 Réponses à “Like Mother”


  • Johanne la banane

    bravo talleen! tu as mis des images toute seule , toi qui avait peur…tu deviens une vraie webmaster, tu pourras maintenant fair ele blog de yayo….

  • Johanne la banane

    J’ai lu tes deux textes et ça m’a beaucoup touché, tu écris tellement bien.

  • Salut Talleen,

    So your childhood was in Saint-Jean? The same city where my girlfriend come from??? How nice looking at you as a young girl. I really laught when I saw Chiquita Banana… But unfortunately I have to admit, I did’nt read much. I’ll come back to read more torroughly.I just made a glance. Meanwhile, have a nice bloging adventure! See you soon.

    Bruno le nono

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