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Why do we craft?

So many of us picked up crafting to keep busy this past year (for obvious reasons), but the trend is here to stay and we're wondering...why?

Illustration: Anat Gutberg

2020 was the year of crafts. Ceramics, knitting, sewing, candle making—wherever you turned your head or watched on TikTok, there it was. People were wholly immersed in their new hobbies, proud and happy with creations of their own making.

The appeal was undeniable, and quite obvious. A year of pandemic has left most of us with an abundance of time on our hands, and a rising sense of anxiety towards our own sheer existence. It only made sense we’d look for something to occupy us as we try not to lose our minds.

We all had that family member who got into sourdough baking, or that friend who experimented

with tie-dye techniques. Trends emerged with a boom, then disappeared into hashtag oblivion. Other crafts, though, proved to be different. They were here to stay, signifying a deeper state of mind, a shift in perspective.

Crafting your own wakeup call

London-based creative Limor Melitz, is a perfect representation of this zeitgeist. Melitz was a buyer for a fashion retail company when the pandemic hit, and was furloughed early on in the first lockdown. This turbulent year, in which she eventually quit her job and devoted herself to her craft, acted as a catalyst for a creative awakening.

Wix Playground: How and why did you start crafting this year? How did you choose what to craft?

Limor Melitz: “I was furloughed during the first lockdown, experiencing the very intense shift from a 9-5 job in Central London, to suddenly doing nothing at home. The need to fill my days coincided with a deep sense of guilt that goes with being furloughed—you feel as though you need to prove to the world you are still worth something; that you’re productive and not just wasting your time. For me, choosing handcraft served as both a calming activity, as well as a way to spend my days and produce something.

The first thing I started crafting was raffia crochet. I already knew how to knit, but wanted to make things for home rather than clothes. One day I walked past a garden center and noticed a huge bundle of natural raffia that was surprisingly cheap, and thought that could be a cool new material to work with. I started by knitting baskets, for fruits and vegetables, then planters for my house plants. Soon enough I was spending most of my days knitting with raffia.”

WP: How did that evolve? Did you have any thoughts about the job that awaits you and what it means for the future and your crafting hobbies?

LM: “After a couple of months with the raffia crocheting, summer arrived, lockdown lifted, and two things happened. The first was that I joined a ceramics course, and the second was that I was returned to work from furlough. The transition back to a full-time job I didn’t really like was very hard, to say the least. The only thing that kept me going was that ceramics class every week, it was all I thought about and waited for. This is what eventually served as that wakeup call, the realization that I need this type of challenge and creativity in my life, which I don’t get to express in my day job. I signed up for a waiting list to join a communal ceramics studio, and a week after I got the news there’s an available spot—I quit my job.”

WP: Was that a conscious decision to embark on a new career path?

LM: “I think that as soon as I felt I didn’t need my day job to define my creativity, it was a huge relief. So even now, when I know I want to focus on my ceramics for example, and think about business opportunities around it, it is still free from those expectations in a way. We are so used to having our income entwined with our passion, and for a lot of us that’s not a healthy mindset. The pandemic had a huge impact on that as well. In the past, if you couldn’t find a job in your profession or in pursuing your dreams, you would be considered a failure, or it was a source of disappointment. This year, when so many people had to find alternative ways to make a living, it became the norm. The link between our passion and happiness to how we earn money was broken.”

WP: Looking back, do you think this transformation would have happened anyway?

LM: “I’m not sure, to be honest. In that sense, introducing crafting back into my life was a gift. As a textile-design student it was a huge part of my day-to-day, but as a graduate you are mostly directed to ‘headquarter jobs’,to work in an office. Another message that comes across in the academy is that you need to choose: what type of designer are you? For me that was always a struggle, because I loved doing all sorts of things. Experimenting this year made me own up to who I really am—a multidisciplinary creative and maker. It freed me up to be able to define myself, without needing any stamp of approval from anyone.”

Searching for flow

What Limor describes when she talks about crafting is very much related to research in the fields of happiness and productivity. That sense of fulfillment and joy is often referred to as being in Flow State. The term was popularized by positive psychologists Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Jeanne Nakamura, who defined it as, “The mental state in which a person performing some activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity”.

Needless to say, many of us don’t get to experience this mental state so often in our work. Even those in the creative field, which lends itself more easily to Flow State, still struggle with getting there. It’s no surprise that so many of us go searching for it elsewhere, and that crafts provide a very accessible solution.

A delicate balance

In his 2004 TED TalkWhat Makes a Life Worth Living”, Csikszentmihalyi explores the idea of Flow State as a representation of happiness and fulfillment. In the talk, Csikszentmihalyi presents this diagram with which he explains the conditions for achieving Flow State:

The two axes, representing Skills and Challenges, and how often we experience them, determine how accessible Flow State will be. As we can see, at times when our skills are being used to their minimum and the level of challenge we are facing is low—we feel bored, apathetic and passive. Those are the times when Flow State will feel very far away. On the other side of the spectrum, when we are facing the right amount of challenge (but not so much that it’s anxiety inducing) and are pushed forward with our skills, we hit that sweet spot: Flow State.

It’s no wonder then, that crafts found their way into our lives so intensely this year. In many ways, they encompass that sweet spot exactly—being challenged with a new skill, yet not so much that we get overwhelmed by it. As Csikszentmihalyi explains, “The point of arousal is good because you are over-challenged there. Your skills are not quite as high as they should be, but you can move into flow fairly easily by just developing a little more skill. Arousal is the area where most people learn from, because that's where they're pushed beyond their comfort zone and enter that flow. The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times…the best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.”


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