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The Charm of Handmade Items up for Bid

The Charm of Handmade Items up for Bid

March 18, 2021 By Christine Steele Conferences
With the 2021 national conference going virtual, the ACES Education Fund's Silent Auction is again on hold. However, we are excited to host the ACES Education Fund Eighth Annual Spelling Bee to kick off Refine & Refresh: ACES 2021 Online. 

One event that many of us look forward to at the ACES annual conference is the silent auction. It’s also one easy way to help benefit the ACES Education Fund. All proceeds from the auction pay for scholarships.

Some donations to the auction over the years have included the best editorial-themed items such as books, semicolon jewelry, language board games, T-shirts with funny sayings, coffee mugs, artwork painted by veteran journalists, tote bags, autographed items, and handmade gifts such as pillowcases and crossbody bags made out of punctuation fabric. (Yes, there’s fabric made for editors! What a nerdfest it is!)

So about those handmade gifts—they are pretty special. When they are up for bid, you better be prepared to watch that auction sheet as much as you can. It’s easy to be outbid. I’m speaking from experience, as I have lost out a few times, but I’ve also won. If only there were more handmade items to bid on, though. And that brings me to my story.

First, you must know that I love the ampersand. My mom, Margie Stanton, started making me a few items featuring my favorite symbol. She made “mug rugs”—mini place mats for your coffee, tea, and other beverages.

Christine’s mother, Margie Stanton, made 60 mug rugs for the ACES conference in Providence in 2019.

She enjoyed searching online for different and fun fabrics. She found ampersands in red, white, black, and gold. I started receiving my new mug rugs in the mail and got excited. They were perfect, and the colors were more vibrant in person. I couldn’t start my day without using one for my morning coffee. I had a feeling that other editors might like these, too, but I didn’t say anything to my mom. 

She asked me one day, “Would everyone at your Providence copyediting conference like one of these? What if I made them for the goody bags?” I said, “Absolutely, but more than 700 attended the prior conference, so that might be too many to make.” She decided to see how many she could do, but I suggested they might also be great for the silent auction.

My mom searched for other fabrics and found black commas and white ones, grawlixes, exclamation points, pencils, coffee cups, and cats with books—all things we editors love. She also ordered just plain cats and dogs, wineglasses, typewriter keys, music notes, paw prints, and US flags.

One day she was excited to find fabric with “NEWS” on it and said she ordered it. She texted me a photo, and we laughed when we realized it was a weathervane indicating the cardinal directions! Haha, maybe a copyeditor won’t notice? 

By the time the conference arrived, 60 mug rugs were ready. She had taken her time to make them (she’s detail-oriented, too), and we had an assembly line ritual. She’d make a few at a time and mail them to me to do a quality check. I’d cut off loose threads, make the tags, pin them on, and run the lint brush over each—we both have cats, and those cat hairs land on everything!

At the auction, all the mug rugs sold. Throughout the rest of the conference, winners approached me and said they were excited to have one of my mom’s mug rugs. See, I knew that my fellow editors had to experience this!

Since the conference, I still get emails and photos of happy mug rug owners telling me they can’t start their day without it. I wanted my mom to feel the gratitude and love that continued to come my way, so I included everyone’s photos in an album and gave it to her for Mother’s Day. The Mug Rug Club has been documented!

We would like to donate mug rugs to future auctions, but things are on hold for a little bit, as you know. However, she has made a few punctuation masks with leftover mug rug scraps. We also fell in love with a grawlix fabric and might have ordered the last of it, as it is sold out and no longer available. It’s the best fabric for a mask, as it seems to say, “I hate that %!#& coronavirus!”

Whatever you choose to donate to the silent auction next time, it doesn’t have to be handmade. What’s important is why we donate, and that’s to further the craft of editing. We can help students who have a passion and talent for editing and who deserve to continue their education. I’ll drink to that and then place my cup back on my ampersand mug rug.

The Charm of Handmade Items up for Bid was originally published in Tracking Changes (Winter 2021 edition). Members receive a PDF of the quarterly Tracking Changes newsletter by email.

Header image provided by Christine Steele: A mug rug is a mini place mat, just the right size for a cup, a spoon, and perhaps a little treat to enjoy.

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