I first drafted this blog post a few weeks ago, and as I quickly re-read it today, I thought the first sentence read “I have been thinking with my hands for as long as I can remember..”. It actually read “..making things with my hands…” but it struck me that “thinking with my hands” was actually a much apter description of what I do! And that is a pretty big part of the story, but perhaps I should start at the beginning…
I have been making things (thinking 🙂 ) with my hands for as long as I can remember. My childhood was punctuated with a succession of craft activities. My Mum introduced my sister and I to huck stitching, crochet, knitting, cross stitch, embroidery, making candles, macrame, making clothes (first for our dolls and then for ourselves), painting plaster moulds, making stuffed toys, collage and more. And these are just the ones I remember – there were almost certainly more!
I simply can’t imagine my world without making something with my hands. It was such an absolutely fundamental part of my childhood. So, why was it so important then?
Well, we moved a lot when I was a child. My Dad worked in the mining industry and thirty years ago there was no such thing as fly-in/fly-out. When Dad changed mines, we all went with him. In retrospect this was an amazing experience. But at the time every new move meant farewell to one group of friends and all the hard work of carving out our niche in a new home. Making things with my family provided a continuous thread through all these changes (did you notice my unintended pun there?). No matter what happened, there was always the excitement of pursuing a new handmade activity. And the satisfaction of creating something with our own hands. Our moves took us a long way from family, but every year our relations were treated to a new range of Christmas gifts from our home workshop. I’m not sure what they thought – but we loved it :). Every piece we made was imbued with an extra sense of purpose when it was destined for a treasured grandparent.
As an adult, wife and mother, my life has continued to be punctuated by a series of moves around Australia and the world. Wherever I am living, making things with my hands (especially sewing as it turned out), brings exactly the same sense of satisfaction that I had as a child. I feel that same joy of disappearing into my own creative world for a few hours.
So, why is handmade so important to me now? I think it is because I know that wherever I am, I can find a measure of peace and security when I sit down to create. And then when a project is completed, I experience such a wonderful sense of satisfaction and joy. It really doesn’t matter whether anyone else likes my creation, because the process has already brought so much pleasure into my life.
But perhaps more importantly, I have come to realise that I do a lot of thinking when I am creating. Working with my hands is such a peaceful and secure place for me, so I relax and think more clearly. And as much as I love modern technology – playing games on my iPad; catching up with friends on Facebook; browsing on Pinterest; or learning from TED – it is not a place where I can free my mind to think clearly. My creative time provides a real sanctuary in which to relax, think, and emerge refreshed.
So go ahead and make some creative time for yourself. It might be something you have been doing for years or a brand new hobby that you have only just discovered. I guarantee that making time to “think with your hands” will bring an extra measure of pleasure to your life.