“Stella is the kind of pinny who should be lying in a rowboat on a still and beautiful lake, trailing her long fingers in the water as the afternoon passes her by. Her laugh is languorous, her imagination a delight, her conversational tangents legendary…”
Beginning a conversation with Janine Hamilton-Wells was rather like embarking upon one of her short stories about her rescued pinnies. We were one sentence in and I wanted to know more.
We were talking about the day ahead. It was Janine’s ‘day off’ and following our interview she would be going to sit with someone in the last weeks or months of their life. They were going to sit together and talk about that person’s life; a conversation, which Janine would record and then take home to transcribe and turn into that person’s biography or life story for them and their family.
Interestingly enough, it was this process of sitting with people and drawing out the stories of their lives as a volunteer biography writer for Hospice that was one of the major inspirations for Janine’s creative enterprise Pinny for Your Thoughts.
‘People often say ‘I really haven’t done much’ or ‘I’m not that interesting’ before going on to share fascinating stories’ Janine says. It is in these every day and often domestic scenes, where hopes, dreams and relationships are played out, that Janine believes the essence of ‘being human’ often dwells. She was compelled to try and capture these simple moments and sentiments in her own storytelling.
“What Ruby does love is pressing flowers. She has elevated this hobby to a true art form. There is something about preserving the beauty of a perfect bloom and capturing that moment of perfection that Ruby adores”
A year or so ago Janine was also thinking a lot about the impacts of fast fashion and its effect on the planet and also feeling that the time had come to try some new things; things that she found a bit scary. She thought it would be useful to learn how to create and maintain a website, learn about marketing, and run a small business. Add to mix this Janine’s abiding love of op shopping and a growing passion for writing, and a business rehoming vintage pinnies with personalities came into being.
“Although small in size and stature she still packs a punch and is the kind of friend you think carefully about where to seat at a dinner party”.
Janine’s appreciation for women’s craft as a skilled art shines through in the characters she creates for the pinnies, or aprons as you might call them, which she finds and then takes home for some tender loving care and a spot of studied anthropomorphism.
Janine’s description of the process of how she tends to her subjects is very much one of ritual and reconnection with the ways of the past; she treats her pinnies to the kind of care that many of them would well remember from their former lives. By the time Janine has put them to soak in warm water, soapy with sunlight soap grated into the bucket, given them a wash and hung them out to dry in the sunshine she has usually settled on a name. Mabel, Lillian, Laura, Thelma, Bea, Effie..
“Effie has the kind of brain that can add, subtract, multiply and work out complex percentages in her head. This makes Effie a very popular pinny to have on a fundraising committee..”
But it is when she irons her pinnies that she really starts to notice the little characteristics of her subjects and their stories begin to form in her head. A jam stain might allude to her subject’s fun and friendly nature; conjuring up an image of her character sitting on the back steps chatting away to a friend while the jam burns on the stove inside. Sometimes the pinny might have a little tear or a bit of wear, giving Janine a sense of the kind of life she might have led; of her thoughts and dreams..
As Janine hones her writing and storytelling craft through her Pinny stories, she rates the rehoming or sale of a ‘rather plain pinny’ as the ‘ultimate success’ as it suggests that someone has identified with the story as opposed to just falling in love with a very lovely piece of handiwork.
Pinny for Your Thoughts seems like a pretty fabulous creative enterprise to cut one’s teeth on to me. Bringing together a raft of life-enhancing practices like creative writing, op shopping and slow approaches to living, I find myself inspired to also add a bit more anthropomorphism into my life.
- No Janine, my bike doesn’t have a name, and until now I haven’t given much thought to the personalities of my indoor plants, even when I am yes, aware of their obvious likes and dislikes, but I suspect that may be about to change..
Given our very human tendency to relate more easily to people we understand ie. people who are pretty similar to ourselves, surely the framing of other things we share space with in human terms would extrapolate into more empathy, more care and less waste when it comes to the stuff of our lives?
Check Janine’s work out for yourself www.pinnyforyourthoughts.com
“Labelling pantry goods is Mabel’s favourite way to relax and a shelf full of perfectly labelled Tupperware is her happy place. If you like a pinny with a kind and orderly vibe Mabel could be the girl for you..”