When Handwork Becomes Soul Work

In the words of Pinola Estes, these times call for each of us to “stand up and show our soul”.

It makes perfect sense to me that so many people right now are reconnecting to their creative side. I spend time on creative pursuits in good times and challenging times. In the challenging times handwork is my refuge. Projects help me regroup when I feel discouraged or depleted. Creative projects make my heart sing and connect me to the best part of myself. Creativity is my connection to Spirit, and for me there is no separation between handwork and soul work.

I’ll give you some examples:

  • When it honors loss and promotes healing. Making a prayer shawl, a video of photos that honor a life, a memory quilt.
  • When I create for and with children to help them find joy and magic in life. A happy moment for me is seeing my daughter holding a doll I made her, with both of them wearing skirts I sewed and hats I knit.
  • When it pulls my focus away from fear and anxiety and the crazy-busy aspects of life and supports balance, refuge, recharging. When it supports integration – I go from being a disembodied head to an integrated head, heart, and hands.
  • When it liberates the power and creativity of my “shadow” side. When shadow aspects of my personality are recognized/acknowledged through being given a voice, I’m able to find the gold hidden in my shadow. Granted, drawing dark and disturbed self-portraits isn’t for everyone, but it’s a great outlet for a troubled soul.
  • When it connects multiple generations to a legacy of making and creating. When my mom was still alive she would dream up all kinds of projects – making soap, candles, tie dye t-shirts, jam, holiday ornaments, etc. – and we would get four generations together for a crafting party. I’m grateful we had that time together and I treasure those happy memories with mom.
  • When it makes my home a unique expression of my family, our travels and interests, and what we love. When it makes our home feel happy and comfortable. For me it’s restorative to add light, color, personality, humor, richness, texture, quirkiness and uniqueness to our home. Our home is full of things that capture a moment in time – a handprint, a self-portrait, a drawing or vacation photo collage.
  • When I give a hand-made and heart-felt gift. My daughter attended Waldorf school from birth through 4thgrade, where it was customary to give hand-made gifts and together we made covered journals, puppets, skirts, felted bags, headbands, crowns, dyed silks, jump ropes, bubble wands, and other assorted gifts for all her friends.
  • When I’m stuck with a decision – nothing removes the blocks and supports creative problem solving like handwork. Handwork supports discernment, resourcefulness, surrender and non-attachment – all skills I need to practice with small decisions before I make the big decisions. Creativity gives me practice in making choices that reflect a loving attitude toward myself. Making requires action, so it’s a good practice that helps me come to a decision and get into action.
  • When I need to remember to put the heavy issues of life aside and create moments of joy, laughter, fun, inspiration.
  • When I need connection – to kids and friends, to a creative community, to nature, to my authentic voice, to something I can hold in my hands.
  • When emotions need an outlet; when I need to manage my emotional energy. Different kinds of handwork have different energy – needle felting, painting, knitting, drawing, flower arranging, fabric dyeing, collage, hand and machine sewing are all different energetically. They have all helped me get away from screens and combat stress, apathy, and depression.
  • When I create something to wear that’s one-of-a-kind and honors my individuality.
  • Crafting for parties, weddings, birthdays, and new babies.
  • When I need an adventure – art and craft is an introvert’s adventure.

Creativity is a universal part of cultures around the world, whether it is practical and essential or recreational. Handwork connects us to a broader human experience. Don’t overcomplicate it – a mandala made from household items or spices, leaves and petals is a beautiful piece of art. Getting out some sidewalk chalk or paper and colored pencils will pass the time in an enlivening way. Doing a collage portrait of your pet using paper cut from old magazines will take your mind off things, as will remaking an old garment into a new fashion, crafting knitting needles or zipper pulls from molding clay, making finger puppets from scraps at hand, or a bean bag toss game from an old sweater.

Now is a great time to give yourself a gift of something you’ve created with your own hands. You’ll never have more time to watch YouTube how-to videos and visit sites with free offerings of patterns and instruction. Get creative and sooth your soul. If we are going to live with uncertainty and change, we might as well live beautifully and creatively.


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