Looking at Jennifer Edwards’ home today, you’d never guess there was a time in her life when she wasn’t creating. From her handmade sweater to her art studio to the wall decor, bursts of color are everywhere — watercolor and acrylic paintings, tapestries, embroideries, weavings, and sketch books. She even has lamps that hold yarn in their bases.
But after college, while her children were still young, Edwards wasn’t creating. She convinced herself that her responsibilities as a pastor’s wife, mother, and volunteer meant no time for art.
A dinner invitation changed all of that.
After a youth group meeting one night at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Winston-Salem, where Edwards’ husband Randy once served as the youth pastor, she met artist Margaret Harrison. Harrison sensed there was something up with the pastor’s wife, and as a therapist, she thought she could help. So she extended a dinner invitation to Edwards.
Harrison asked some hard questions: “What does God want you to do? What would you do if all of life’s responsibilities were removed?”
“I told her, ‘I would want to paint and write and make things with my hands,’” Edwards remembers. “And Margaret said, ‘That’s exactly what God wants you to do. You’re a blocked creative.’
“It was very eye-opening for me,” Edwards says, “and I thought, ‘This is a pivotal moment in my life.’”
Edwards grew up in Boone, spending summers on stage performing in “Horn in the West” under the direction of her father, Ed Pilkington, a drama professor at Appalachian State University. Her mom, Pat, is an avid knitter and painter.
“I was a kid who always did art kinds of things. I didn’t think anything about it at the time, and I lost touch with that in college and afterward, focusing on being more practical,” Edwards says.
As a stay-at-home mom, Edwards admits that at 32, with two small children, she was feeling unfulfilled. After realizing that creative time was missing from her life, she approached Randy, who today serves as senior pastor at Grace Presbyterian Church in Kernersville. She needed one night a week to go to the bookstore to study painting techniques. Then, during other snippets of time she could find, she began to create.
“If there were dishes in the sink or toys on floor, I told myself, ‘It can wait. This is my time to paint,’ and I felt like a completely different person after that,” she says. “As a mom, it’s easy to feel like you’re being selfish for claiming time for yourself. I believe it made me a better mother and fulfilled me as an individual who has artistic gifts.”
Teaching and creating
When her children got older, Edwards looked for a part-time job to help cover extra expenses. She taught art at Redeemer Presbyterian for years until an illness forced her to leave. One day she was shopping at Knit One Smock Too on Country Club Road when Shirley Snow, the shop’s co-owner, noticed Edwards’ sweater and asked if she had crocheted it.
That led to Edwards becoming an art instructor.
“The thing I love about teaching is sharing that excitement with others who like making things with their hands. When we create in isolation we can die on the vine, but when we have community we’re always inspired,” she says.
Whether she’s drawing in a sketch book while sitting on the sidelines during soccer practice or crocheting while watching television, Edwards finds time for artistic pursuits, and she encourages others who want to be creative to do the same.
“Try to find the margins in life, the pieces of time that are there, and claim them as creative time,” she says. “I got really good at fitting creativity into those margins.”
Jennifer Edwards’ work is available at Southwinds Gallery in Kernersville. Her Etsy.com store (Knitterly Arts) has crocheting and knitting patterns to download, and at FineArtsAmerica.com, her paintings can be printed on tote bags, stationery, pillows, and more.