Cupid, draw back your (homemade) bow
Ben Abbott with his girlfriend Kate and the homemade Valentine's felt roses. Photo: Melanie Faith Dove.
Last year Lewis Steele left buying a Valentine’s Day gift for his girlfriend Jess to the last minute. He ended up buying her what he describes as ‘‘the ultimate cliched gift’’ - roses, chocolates and a teddy bear. This year he feels he has some making up to do.
Steele, 28, from Sydney, is one of the growing number men who are digging out the paint and craft glue and will give their partners handmade gifts on February 14.
It seems the crafting craze, which has been popular with Australian women for several years, has hit Aussie men, who are realising that making gifts can be fun, cheap, creatively satisfying and mean a lot more to their partners.
Lewis Steele made Jess McCarthy a message in a bottle necklace for Valentine's Day. Photo: Sahlan Hayes.
Five years ago, 90 per cent of Valentine’s Day craft was designed for women to make for men. This year, 50 per cent of Riot Art & Craft’s Valentine’s Day range is aimed at creatively-inclined men.
Steele has made Jess a ‘‘message in a bottle’’ necklace. He purchased a small glass bottle and a chain from a local market, and has fashioned them into a necklace. He has also written a poem which he has hidden inside the two centimetre tall bottle. The writing is so tiny he jokes he might need to also give her a magnifying glass on a bracelet.
Julia Stephens, Riot Art and Craft Creative Consultant, says that handmade craft projects are very much on trend.
Lewis Steele and Jess McCarthy. Photo: Sahlan Hayes.
‘‘Handmade is so popular now, it’s everywhere, and I think guys realise there’s no reason they can’t join in and put a personal spin on things,’’ she said.
Ben Abbott, 34, from Melbourne, who has made his girlfriend Kate a hand-crafted felt rose, thinks it is great that men are embracing their thoughtful and artistic sides.
‘‘I’d like to think I’m sort of a blokey bloke, and I’m doing it, so there’s no reason why other people can’t,’’ said Abbott. ‘‘I think it means more to your girlfriend or your partner if you do put that extra bit of effort in. And anyone can do it, you don’t need to be super-creative.’’
Gregory Hall, 25, from Melbourne has been guilty of buying the odd clichéd gifts – bunches of flowers, chocolates and champagne - especially on his girlfriend’s birthday, or after they have had a fight. But he has discovered that handmade gifts go down “100%” better.
This Valentine’s Day, his girlfriend Louise requested a box of chocolates. Hall bought a love-heart shaped box which he decorated with personal touches, including sketching a picture of the two of them on the back. Though he adds, ‘‘I probably won’t make the chocolates, that would be a disaster.’’
The men all agree that there is truth in the truism: it really is the thought that counts.
‘‘The thing is with guys, when you get something for your girlfriend, or your mum, or your sister, a lot of the time they probably think you got it on the way home at the last minute. [When you make something yourself] it’s almost proof that you didn’t forget and you’ve taken time to think about it and do something special for them,’’ said Hall.
Steele adds: ‘‘I just feel like Valentine’s Day is so commercial and these days everything’s so accessible. Every gift you can get you can buy it from some online shop, sitting on the couch on your phone. So I feel like when you make something yourself it’s just a lot more meaningful.’’
Steele also says that people who are not very artistic should not be put off, saying that the thoughtfulness of the gift compensates for any deficiencies of skill.
‘‘I think if it’s handmade and you make it really well, it’s fantastic and she’ll love it. And if it’s handmade and it’s really shoddy, she’ll still love it, because it’s cute in a failed kind of way,’’ he said.