Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Crafting and mental health...

(excert from an article I wrote for Mixtape zine recently).

Art and creativity have been long been considered therapeutic tools. Initially thoughts turn to conventional mediums such as painting and the act of painting or throwing pots as an act of catharsis in itself. But you can take it a lot further when you think about crafting.

Ways crafting make you feel better:

Meditative-The act of knitting can be likened to yoga as a rhythmic meditative activity. You may recall, Like Water for Chocolate(1992) where Tita knits a wedding blanket which grows and grows and gets longer and longer throughout the film symbolising her endless personal struggles and grief . There’s something relaxing about the act of knitting or cross stitching. You have to concentrate, yet you can also let your thoughts drift. Of course drifting thoughts can be slightly more problematic with other crafts as you embroider a cross stitch to your jumper accidentally or superglue your fingers together…

Tactility- There’s nothing like the feel of alpaca wool or velvet or doing something creative with feathers. It gives you a happy feeling inside.

The creative buzz-Inspiration is a wonderful thing to lift the spirits, and there’s nothing quite like the creativity of crafting, and the pleasure associated with looking through books, internet blogs, or nature for inspiration.

The search-Finding the perfect fabric or knitting needles at a neighbourhood garage sale, sorting through a stash of forgotten fabric you’ve had hidden under the bed… all of these can bring a sense of pleasure and achievement.

Achieving a goal- Creating an item of clothing or soft toy is a fine accomplishment. It involves, planning, getting supplies, cutting out and sewing and ending up with a completed object. When things seem rather pointless or relentless, even quicker crafts like badge making and pin cushions can make you feel like you’ve achieved something in your day. Having something in your hands that you’ve created from scratch is very tangible.

Risk taking- Everyone has that piece of fabric that they haven’t been able to bear cutting into in case they ‘ruin’ it. It’s an amazing feeling when you finally take the plunge!

Sharing your pleasure with others- Being crafty means there is never a shortage of gift giving ideas as a way of sharing your craftiness. And there’s nothing like socialising with other crafters! Through markets, blogs, knitting groups and online crafting communities you can get great pleasure in the sharing of ideas with people whose eyes don’t glaze when you talk about selvage.

Some resources that might interest you:

The Dax Cunningham Collection

Frances Reynolds (2000), “Managing depression through needlecraft creative activities: A qualitative study” in The Arts in Psychotherapy

Volume 27, Issue 2, 2000, Pages 107-114

Like Water for Chocolate


Tara John Manning

ps- I end up writing alot of things about crafting and mental health these days and can never come up with suitably pithy titles, hence my dull working title