A few weeks ago I woke up in the middle of the night and could not fall back asleep. I was tired, really tired, after a day of wrangling a spirited toddler, who I knew would be up and ready to go in just a few short hours. I looked at the clock, tossed and turned. Suspended in the idle hour of 3:00 AM, I began to think about things I needed to do. Then I opened my computer and wrote:
Do you ever find that by the end of the to-do list, the dishes, the errands, the bills there is little mental room left for anything more than scanning Facebook and thinking about what needs to be done tomorrow? Do you ever feel like you do not have time to actually live? That life is more blur than beauty, more confusion than clarity?
As F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “In a real dark night of the soul it is always three o’clock in the morning.” By breakfast my thinking wasn’t as serious, but the thought of how to get more living out of life remained. I know that making things is an escape for me. Cooking, crocheting, food styling, photography, writing are all ways I have sought the zen of creating. So I began to look into the connection between making things and happiness.
In his popular TED talk positive psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi talked about how total immersion in a creative activity (see: flow) is the secret to happiness: “When we are involved in creativity, we feel that we are living more fully than during the rest of life,” he said, “You know that what you need to do is possible to do, even though difficult, and sense of time disappears. You forget yourself. You feel part of something larger.”
The current maker and DIY culture reflects how we innately understand this. In these challenging, over-connected times, we seek the respite of working with our hands. While the Maker Movement refers primarily to technology-driven tinkering and inventing (for example, using a 3-D printer to create a new product), it also extends to crafting and the handmade trends fueled by Etsy and Pinterest. People are learning and mastering skills, from woodworking and weaving to home brewing and baking and the internet gives them a platform for sharing their work. The act of creating, no matter how simple, makes people feel truly alive and truly human; connected to self and to others.
We are also learning more about the creative mind and its promises and challenges. One study shared in this Atlantic article found authors (a group that spends a great deal of time alone in their own minds) to be twice as likely to commit suicide than others with creative careers. But at the opposite, more hopeful end of the spectrum, numerous studies have shown the health benefits of crafting. As this article from Psychology Today so clearly summed up: “Purposeful hand use [i.e. crafting] enhances well-being in a technologically saturated culture.” Making things by hand—sewing, gardening, cooking—not only creates one-of-a-kind items that you can appreciate or share, but joy as well.
Which brings this essay back to that sleepless night a few weeks ago. It seems that life is so often on autopilot, a never ending check list, which I know is necessary to a point. But here is what I also know: Making things by hand is living. Cooking is living. Creating and sharing what we create with others is living. The new Makery Series will include all of these things. It is a mindful expansion of my past workshops to be a celebration of Virginia artists and makers. My hope is that it will enrich the community and be a creative, joyful experience for the attendees—that the skills, recipes, and projects shared at the Makery will give people the tools to make more, and therefore live more.
The Spring Makery: A Flower-Inspired Workshop and Dinner will be on April 24th. With the community’s support I plan is to host these events every season featuring a range of local artisans and topics. If you have a workshop suggestion or are a fellow creative who would like to get involved, please reach out to me at Erin@ErinSimpsonLozier.com. Join my mailing list to be the first to know about and get discounts for upcoming workshops and dinners!
Here are a few topics I would love to include over the next year:
-Water Color Painting
-Hand-Dying table linens
-Homemade Ice Cream
-Hand-Carving Wooden Spoons
-Cooking with fire
Please join me!