We all know about the benefits of journaling and creative writing for your mental health, but what about the benefits of crafting? Did you know that taking up a craft can have therapeutic powers?
In this article, jewellery designer, Helen White, explores the mental health benefits of crafting and shares tips on how to get started.
At some point in our lives many of us will face mental health issues, such as depression. It often takes months, if not years, to recover. While talking therapy and medication can help, we should never underestimate the therapeutic powers of crafting.
Cath Janes, owner of Kraken Kreations, rediscovered her love for sewing when she suffered from severe Post Natal Depression and PTSD after the birth of her child. While it took her years to fully recover, she found that sewing helped her.
“When I started recovering I found that I needed something to do with my time. I felt a deep urge to be creative not least because it was the one thing that took me away from the suicidal thoughts that plagued me,” Cath says.
At the beginning of her craft journey she realised she had to start from scratch but this only added to her enjoyment. “My first trip to a fabric shop was utterly overwhelming. It replaced the heaviness of depression with a feeling of joy. It was fleeting, but enough to make me want to know and do more.”
Though she feels much better now, she still appreciates the therapeutic benefits that sewing still provides.
“Now that I am recovered to the point that I can function almost normally (apart from little relapses) sewing is what helps me keep my mind healthy. It is a constant pull to do something constructive and beautiful with my day. Even if the day is utterly awful and I’ve spent it in tears, I can still point to a tangible item that I’ve made that wasn’t there before. On the bad days my depression makes me believe that I am so worthless that even my death would not affect anyone. Sewing reminds me that there is colour even in the darkness.”
As a chronic pain sufferer I am also grappling with bouts of depression and while I didn’t take up jewellery designing as a source of therapy, I have noticed that it really helps my mood. When I am working on my creations I am ‘in the zone’ and totally focused. I concentrate on the process – which often involves experimenting and making mistakes – and when something goes wrong, I try to figure out a solution.
When things go right it makes me happy.
Sharing my creations online and receiving compliments about my jewellery is obviously an added bonus and it’s also good for the soul.
How to choose your craft
There are lots of crafts to choose from: lino cutting, pottery, silk painting, sewing, origami, paper cutting, sculpting, card making, knitting, needle felting, embroidery, making jewellery and many more.
The main things to consider when you choose your craft are costs and space.
While crafts like knitting and card making can be low cost, others, such as pottery or making glass beads require specialist equipment, like a kiln (though when you take up evening classes you won’t need much as everything is provided for you).
If you’re unsure whether you will enjoy a particular craft then start small – don’t spend lots of money.
In my experience, once you’ve found your craft and you enjoy it, you will naturally explore other related crafts, and accumulate tools. I started originally with silver smithing after I attended a City & Guilds evening class. Silver smithing it not a cheap hobby. Over the months I bought the necessary tools and even a work bench.
As silver is expensive I started beading for a while, but found it wasn’t challenging enough. That is until I discovered my favourite material: polymer clay. The good thing about working with polymer clay is that at the start you really don’t need many tools for this.
If you are interested in finding out about the tools I use and recommend, you can read this post – Making Jewellery with Polymer Clay – Part 1
How or where can you learn your craft?
There are many options available when it comes to learning a craft.
If you are well enough to attend local community classes, it’s worth finding out what your community is offering. The great thing about learning in a class is that you have a tutor on-hand who can answer questions and you also meet other people. The downside is that you also share that tutor with everyone in the class.
If you feel uncomfortable with learning in a group, you could do it the old- fashioned way and learn from a book. This is still my preferred method. Over the years my library of craft books has grown as my interests have widened and I continue to explore different materials and techniques. The downside is that sometimes the instructions can be badly written or there are just not enough photos. Another disadvantage is that books can also contain information that’s out of date.
If you prefer watching videos then the internet really is your oyster. Simply Google your chosen craft and you will find a lot of free YouTube tutorials. As with everything that’s free, the quality of these videos can be hit and miss. I currently don’t sell tutorials, but I have made an easy to follow free video on YouTube showing people how to make a pendant with polymer clay. You can find it here.
Facebook also offers a lot of free helpful craft groups, so it’s well worth searching for them. If you are prepared to pay for classes or a whole course, there are plenty of online craft course providers worth considering – check out Craftsy and Craft University to start.
It’s worth comparing providers to find out what they offer. Things to consider are: whether you get lifetime access to the course, direct access to the tutor and whether instructions are downloadable.
Whatever craft you choose make sure you enjoy the process and don’t get distracted by perfectionism.
Helen White is a jewellery designer & sculptor based in Wales. She also works as a German tutor, teaching young people and adults off- and online. You can find her work at www.helenkawhitedesign.co.uk and her German tuition website at www.hkpress.co.uk .