I love to paint. Can’t say I’m good at it, but still, a few times a year I will take a day and happily slap some paint onto a canvas. If I paint with my friend, who is quite a good artist, my work vastly improves with her tutelage. But, either way, it’s fun and relaxing. My work will never be hung in a gallery or be critiqued by the art world, and that’s never been and never will be something I aspire to… far, far from it. Once when my husband accidently took some of my pieces to the thrift store, I took it as a great complement that they were all gone a couple days later when we tried to get them back. I’m not looking to be a painter, and I’m not all invested in the actual end product, that’s really not the point. Simply enjoying the act of making is the goal in its self. Kind of like all my gardening attempts, most things perish that I plant, but I keep on digging in the dirt giving it a go, poor little botanicals.
Not all my hands-on attempts are disasters, some things I’m surprisingly good at, I still however do them all frequently. So why is that? What drives my need to make things with my hands?
Creating is my meditation. When I am making something with my hands I’m fully engrossed, lose self- consciousness, and life’s worries melt away for a few hours. I escape into my own world and come out relaxed and satisfied that I have something tangible in my hands that they have made. So when I say I need to be making things, I really do, but it’s for my emotional well being, not the end product. Research into purposeful hand use has shown to have positive psychological effects increasing contentment and happiness, decreasing stress, relieving anxiety, and helping to modify depression. Our technologically driven society has greatly deprived many of us of the benefits of working with our hands on an extended daily basis.
After leaving his well paid think tank corporate job for a career as a motorcycle mechanic, Matthew. B. Crawford wrote a book on the subject with the long title, The Case for Working With Your Hands, or, Why Office Work is Bad for Us and Fixing Things Feels Good. Here’a an article he wrote for the New York Times on the subject. www.nytimes.com/2009/05/24/magazine/24labor-t.html
Our human ancestors were constantly engaged doing things with their hands as a means of survival as well as for artistic expression. In the history of human kind, manual skills encompassed most peoples everyday lives. Get in touch with your human nature, your primal self, and improve your mental state by working with your hands. Not too many of us are into making a bow and arrow and skinning a carcass, or turning a bat of butter, but why not start a garden and get your hands dirty, or prepare a meal from scratch? Or better yet, take a jewellery making class and leave happy and satisfied with something beautiful that your own hands made.
Written by Serena Bartok