A Year from Scratch with Chris Kay Fraser

Guest Post by Chris Kay Fraser for the Kind Kindred series.

52 Projects ~ A Year from Scratch
A story about kindness and homemade ginger ale.

First of all, I need to tell you that my sister is amazing.

She’s six years younger than me, and full of energy and light. When we get together, small miracles almost always occur.

Here’s one of my latest favourites.

It was a beautiful evening in early June last year. Elizabeth was still new to Toronto and didn’t have a full time job. My summer plans had recently drastically changed. We were sitting on my living room floor, eating Thai food and talking about how we were going to fill the months ahead.

“You like making stuff,” I said. “Why don’t you turn that into a project, maybe making one thing a week for the summer?”

I saw something begin to twinkle wildly in her eyes.

“Yeah!” she said, “or maybe, I could do it for a whole year…”

Looking back, that moment seems gloriously naïve. She had no idea what she would make. She didn’t know that she would end up blogging about it, and being asked to hang an exhibit about her year at the end. She didn’t know that she’d be on the radio talking about her project internationally, or that she’d be offered a full-time job just weeks after beginning the project, limiting her free time drastically. Mostly, she had no clue how much hard work was ahead of her.

But I could tell in that instant, there was no stopping her.

It’s a full year later now, and Elizabeth has completed almost all 52 of her projects. She’s made everything from a food dehydrator to butter, from shampoo to a washtub bass. I hopped in and helped with a few of the projects, but mostly, it was just her, my little sister, working away. She even came to the winter creativity retreat I run, and taught 21 people how to make sock monkeys. Pure magic.

Last night was the opening of the “52 Projects” show, and it was amazing to see the gallery filled with happy, curious faces. We drank her homemade ginger ale, we ate her marshmallows while reading about 10 of her favourite projects.

Watching how hard she’s worked this year, I can’t help thinking that in some ways, our industrialized society has it absolutely right. It’s incredibly hard to begin with raw ingredients every time. Elizabeth’s dedication to the project has been inspiring, but it’s not a prototype on how I want to live all the time. It can’t be.

On the other hand, it opened my eyes to the pure joy of making. I love washing my hair with the shampoo we whipped up in her kitchen, and I can’t even explain the weird thrill of shaking up a jar of cream until it turns, suddenly, into milk and butter. I’m sad to see the project end, and I’m brainstorming ways to keep the spirit of “making” alive in my own life.

Check out my sister’s amazing year here:
52 Projects : A Year from Scratch

Chris Kay Fraser loves words. She teaches short fiction, memoir-writing and poetry from her home in Toronto while running creative retreats around the country. In her spare time, she drinks tea, reads poems, gardens, and rides her loyal blue bike.


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