The Joyful Power of Craft

beading beadwork coaching craft flow joyfulness lifecoaching wellbeing
Two hands holding and stitching some silver, turquoise, fuchsia and copper beadwork with a stripy navy and white dress behind

There’s a reason that the BBC’s Repair Shop is so popular.  It’s got those magic ingredients of heartfelt human stories, our deep emotional connection to certain objects and a range of slow, focused craft practices that work at odds to our fast-paced, single-use, money-driven world.  It exemplifies real, meaningful humanity and challenges the notion that if something is broken it not longer has a worth.

Of course, Repair Shop isn’t a standalone in a sea of disposable, plastic detritus.  There are numerous craft shows on telly and there are hundreds of thousands of craft groups, courses, societies, facebook groups and so on, all over the place.

I’ve always said that people who have discovered a craft (or crafts, plural, as they do have a habit of multiplying) have found one of the secrets to a joyful life.  There is such immense peace to be found when you have got through the tricky beginner stage (which can last 10mins or years) and learnt the basics of a craft so it’s not a huge brain strain to just go for it and MAKE!  I find myself beading ropes all the time as the repetitive stitches create that amazing flow state; my breathing slows and deepens.  I know by doing it, I am practicing mindfulness, I’m reducing my cortisol levels and in general doing something that will make me healthier and more joyful.

The tricky thing is prioritising it.  This year I’ve rarely threaded a needle… for those who don’t know, the main craft in my life is beadwork and I run a little social enterprise, Mrs Magooty which aims to reduce social isolation through playing and making with gorgeous tiny sparkly beads. 

Anyway, back to the issue at hand...  It’s so silly as I know the benefits.  I just wrote them down for goodness sake!  Yet I find it hard to prioritise the time to thread a needle and get into that flow.  There’s a few reasons for that.  One is that I am genuinely quite pressed for time.  I run my own businesses, I’m a single mum, I value my social life so make time for friends, I’ve recently really fallen back in love with yoga and pilates, there’s more to add to this list and there’s only so much time in the day!  I used to bead in the evening when I watched TV, but I maybe only sit down in the living room once a week these days.  So if I want to prioritise it, I’ll need to make room for it earlier in the day.  But that’s tricky to find the time.

Another reason I don’t prioritise sometimes is that thorny issue of creativity that I think and write so much about; when flow is hard to find because the concept in my head is refusing to materialise in reality.  That can feel really frustrating, even stressful. However, those moments of stress are really infrequent, it’s more the fear of feeling like that which is the problem.  I don’t prioritise making things with my hands because I’ve got a safety behaviour; a little voice in my head which says “don’t bother – it might make you feel tense”.  And you know what?  That safety behaviour is not keeping me safe.  It’s actually stopping me from nurturing myself. 

I did thread a needle recently though... it’s part of a bigger story: I caught covid and the timing was rubbish. I’ve spent the last 13 years organising beadwork retreats and the April 2020 retreat has been postponed several times and finally took place in early November.  Only I tested positive on the Wednesday before.  I was so gutted! 

It enriches my soul to bring together some fabulous people to spend the weekend beading together.  There is nothing quite like checking in on a workshop and seeing everyone contentedly making in a happy, flowing silence.  It’s the most delicious form of silence in my life: a communal, joyful, creative one.

So this much postponed (and rather tricky to rearrange) retreat went ahead without me.  Apparently it was much quieter… I don’t hold back on a fun weekend away and am full of life and enthusiasm both for the general wonderful human connection you get on a retreat and for those gorgeous little sparkly things that bring us together.  Perhaps the peace and quiet would be welcomed by some!  Either way, my bouncy positivity wasn’t there, instead I was feeling quite spaced out (but thankfully not really that poorly) watching copious amounts of boxsets and, in solidarity to my lovely beading ladies, I also sat and beaded.  Didn’t do much, but it felt great.  

What I was beading felt powerful too.  I recently got a new logo for my coaching/facilitation work and I really, really love it.  I came up with the idea for it, thinking from the beginning it would look good as a piece of bead embroidery.  It may seem a little strange or weirdly corporate, beading a logo, but it feels quite emotionally fulfilling from my perspective.  A bringing together of the different strands of my work, my passion and my purpose.  I wanted to finish it in time for this blog, but I guess it’ll get its own social media post another time. 

Talking of passion and purpose, if you have a similar issue around silly safety behaviours stopping you from doing the things you love, you might find my new online course, Carpe Diem, useful.  I’ve made it to be a relatively affordable way of getting a bit of coaching style support that can help you make those changes you want to make.  It’s going to launch in January, so keep an eye out for it.  I’m SO excited about it… can’t wait to share it with you!

Anyway, enough of the promotion stuff and back to the craft.  Here’s some questions for you to ponder on:

When did you last feel a flow state?

If you’re not sure what I’m on about, here’s trusty old Wikipedia to help.

What can you do this week to reach that state again?

When did you last make something with your hands that you really enjoyed?

How can you bring a little more of that back into your life this month?

The winter can be a very crafty time, especially if your craft of choice is one that can be done at home, indoors, maybe with a cosy blanket with comfy socks on (check out the hygge blog for more of that enriching cosiness for the soul).  But it doesn’t need to be needle based like beadwork or knitting.  Cooking and baking can achieve the same benefits.  As can gardening.  Or taking a little bit of extra time this year to actually enjoy wrapping presents. 

If you’d like more ideas, sign up to my Monthly Musings where December’s edition has lots of crafty links and inspiration.