One of the things I love about writing the blog is it's self sustaining nature. By writing one post, and responding to the comments, another post appears. As was the case for this post. The lovely Karen suggested that I look at an article that was published originally on The Conversation by Susan Luckman about the health benefits of craft. And I loved it. It is such a step forward in terms of the public dialog about what craft is, and what it offers. Who else here would love to never see "Not your nana's knitting...." in an article ever again.
Some of you might know that I've been trying to write a book for the last couple of years. A book in which I'm writing about "Craft As An Elevated Life"*. I try not to talk about it too much based on a Derek Sivers clip about how talking about something makes us feel like we have already achieved it**...... but my book is essentially about the connection between hand making and our wellbeing. It is about craft as a ongoing practice, and in part I'm writing it to rewrite our cultural story about what craft is..... because clearly, as so many articles about craft demonstrate, craft has a marketing problem.
As I was reading The Conversation article today I could suddenly see that part of the problem is the difference between how craft is perceived culturally, and what I know that it is. That difference is the difference between a craft project and a craft practice.
You see craft is often presented as a craft project. You "work on a craft project". There are articles about "10 craft projects you can do in 20 minutes". Many of those projects look and feel trivial. They are made as simple as possible as that is one of the restrictions of magazines. They need projects that are accessible and they think that accessible means quick and dumbed down. What many of these projects lack is meaning. Craft done in this manner can seem trivial. A little project to keep you busy if you've got a bit of time on your hands. A hobby.
That is not how I see craft. The craft I know is the craft that elevates my life no matter what is going on, no matter how shit things are or how great things are, is not project based. It's my craft practice that fills me up; an ongoing practice where I repeat the same process - idea, design, materials, making, completion and then utility - over and over again. It's the repetition of process that is what enhances my wellbeing and elevates my life.
There is a depth to a craft practice that is little understood outside our bubble of makers. How craft, creating things, making things makes us come alive. How craft offers us a way to sit with hard things, a portable boredom solution, self expression, everyday beauty. And how craft offers us artifacts of the process and the part we played in it; the things that we make, reminding us of our agency, our patience, our skills and capacity.
According to Dr Martin Seligman - the grandfather of positive psychology - enhancing our wellbeing has five key elements. They are positive emotion, meaning, good relationships, flow or engagement, and achievement.
A craft project taps into maybe three of these five, giving me some positive emotion, maybe some flow and a sense of achievement. However, it is only through my craft practice that I tap into all five elements of wellbeing in a deep and more meaningful way.
Craft as a practice taps into all five elements of wellbeing over and over again. As well as giving me access to positive emotion, flow and achievement, my craft practice improves my relationships - both with the people that I make for, and with the community that exists around our shared passion for hand making. And it adds so much meaning to our lives as it enables us to truly live our values and then live among the artifacts of the process.
A craft practice embodies wellbeing. Craft as wellbeing, craft as life support for the everyday hard. Wellbeing that I know I have access to whenever I need it.
Craft is a gift.
Craft as it's generally portrayed through mainstream media is one dimensional. It's a simple craft project done as a hobby by someone who enjoys making things.
What I can't wait to see more of, as our understanding of what craft offers increases, is articles depicting a craft practice as a holistic way to achieve wellbeing. Not in the moment, or for a moment, as a craft project does, but rather as an ongoing practice for a satisfied life.
Can't wait to read your comments.
*I originally wrote an article for the beautiful Making Magazine using this title.
**Please kick my ass if I don't!!