Just once this week, I challenge each of you to put down the laptop, the iPad, the smart phone….and make something with your hands. And don’t tell me you’ve forgotten how to do that. Remember in elementary school how we had art class at least once a week? We’d make paintings, chalk rubbings, little clay pots, crepe paper turkeys, paper mache globes…you name it, we made stuff with our hands. And it didn’t seem weird then, did it? Nope.
But somewhere along the lines, we grew up and started paying less attention to creating things. We became more focused on who our friends were, what our weekend plans looked like, how to get into college, where to apply for jobs, how to make more money….in short, we put down the glue stick, hung up our smocks, and joined the rat race. And along the way, most of us forgot how much we enjoyed making stuff out of clay, or sniffing the markers that were supposed to smell like fruit (what was the blue one supposed to be, anyway? It just smelled like pure sugar…) We re-shifted our focus onto the necessary and the immediate, and lost sight of doing simple things that help us get in touch with the kid inside- the stuff that helps us maintain balance and equilibrium in our lives.
Since you might be one of those people who has forgotten the joy of creating art, let me refresh your memory. There is something calming and therapeutic about getting busier with your hands and less busy with your brain.
Ryan and I went to the K-12 Gallery last Saturday for art class, and after an initial adjustment period (which is to be expected whenever you try something new), we both settled into our projects and gave our brains a break for a hot second. He was working on print making (transferring paint from a plastic sheet onto a piece of paper), while I learned the ropes of stained glass art. I cut my thumb within the first five minutes, which slowed me down for a few minutes, but once I got used to the cutting tools, clamps and copper wire and just let my creative side take over, I enjoyed it so much I didn’t want to leave at the end of the two hour class.
There was actually a palpable shift in my attitude after I stopped thinking and turned off the reflex that was making me feel inadequate and underqualified for stained glass window-making. At first I was anxious. I didn’t know what I was doing. I was afraid to make a mistake. But not giving myself a choice in the matter, I reached into the buckets of glass, settled on a color palette, and just started cutting angles in the glass.
After about a half hour, I actually felt myself relax. I started making conversation with the people at my table, I made myself at home in the gallery and just kept repeating the process, seeing real results as the pieces of blue and green glass started to fit the frame the way they were supposed to. And at the end of two hours, despite it being a work-in-progress, I felt satisfied. And I know in two weeks when my window is finished, no matter how it turns out, I’m going to hang it up and feel pride every time I look at it. It’s not about the end result, it’s about how you feel during the process. It’s about letting go of what’s eating at you, relaxing your brain, and just letting your creative side take over.
Whether it’s creating a unique invitation for a bride out of layers of metallic and textured card stock and ribbon, painting with my friend Nathan, or making a stained glass window at K-12, I find so much enjoyment and balance in using my hands to create something from nothing. While I’ve spent today blogging about the experience in the hopes that it’ll reach some of you (and inspire you!) there is nothing like creating art to get you back to basics, whether it’s in your work, your home, or your life. Try it…you might be surprised at the results.