Lessons in the Art of Friendship
What I learned from foil art
The art of friendship is truly an art - something beautiful that we don't see every day. Something that takes real attentiveness and patience, and is a skill that grows over time. Some of the best lessons I have learned in the art of friendship came from my hobby of creating foil artwork from leftover candy wrappers.
The inspiration to start making foil artwork began with my older sister's piano students who would come to my home in the evenings. After their lessons, they would always get to pick out a chocolate candy from the big jar my sister kept next to the piano. I loved the bright, metallic shine of the foil wrappers and whenever I pilfered her candy jar, I would unwrap each piece ever so slowly and carefully and smooth out the foil in a perfect square. I even bribed the piano students to save their wrappers for me and taught them how to use a little patience to unwrap their candy without tearing the colored foil.
This brings me to the first friendship lesson my artwork taught me. At one time or another, we've all known those "friends" who expect us to fit the shape of their mold and melt like soft chocolate into the form of how they see the world. But a true friend is someone who will take the time to unwrap us patiently with authentically curious questions, and who values and celebrates the unique color of our wrappers and the unique shapes we hide within.
With an ever growing collection of colored foil wrappers, I began making simple bookmarks or cards for family and friends. Scissors in hand, I carefully cut out random shapes from multiple colors, arranged them into a simple design, and then glued them down. It was relaxing and effortless. But then I grew more ambitious and started tackling larger, more detailed projects. I started creating detailed plans and patterns, sometimes cutting them out first with plain paper, and then using those pieces as the guide to cut out the foil. When the pattern was complete, I would glue everything down exactly to its assigned spot. But I was never satisfied with the results of this process. Somehow, the finished project came out looking artificial and forced. Instead, I began cutting and glueing piece by piece, color by color, and learned to let the unique shape of each bit of foil guide the shape and placement of the next. Both the process and the finished results were much more satisfying. This taught me another lesson in the art of authentic friendship. The best moments spent with a friend, the ones that we will treasure in our memories forever, are serendipitous. They don't come from a rigid plan, but emerge authentically as we enjoy the adventure of spending time together.
My favorite art project I have made from candy wrapper foils, is called "Friendship Tree." It started with a twisted, intertwining trunk and branches. But the twists didn't come out quite right. It would take a stretch of the imagination to see the tree trunk as beautiful as I wanted it to be. So, I googled every quote I could find about trees and found one just the right length to cover every awkward join into something meaningful. That part actually went well. But then came the tedious monotony of cutting and glueing leaf after tiny leaf to fill out the branches. I almost gave up and added it to my box of unfinished art projects that maybe I'll finish one day. But this project mattered to me, and I kept at it until every leaf was finished. Here come two more lessons. Friendship isn't always easy. Sometimes it goes badly and there are rough spots. Or sometimes it gets really boring. But there's always a way to turn the rough spots into something meaningful. And it's always worth it to commit to friendship even when it's not exciting.
And the final lesson comes straight from Samuel Taylor Coleridge, "friendship is a sheltering tree." A good friendship is that sturdy structure you and your friend can lean against and share a laugh together or maybe even a glass of lemonade. It's a place in the shade to get away for a little while from the heat of life - a place where you can truly rest and just be yourself.