Crafts and Creativity

Crafts and Creativity

Conversations April 23, 2019 / By Joanne Foster, EdD
Crafts and Creativity
SYNOPSIS

How does creativity connect with craftsmanship? Here’s information, and also suggestions to help kids take “arts and crafts” and other creative interests to higher levels.

Without craftsmanship inspiration is a mere reed shaken in the wind.

                                      ~ Johannes Brahms (Composer)


CRAFTS AND CRAFTMANSHIP: WHO? WHAT? WHY?

Craftsmanship enables creative expression. I craft with words, using them to weave ideas together. Hanne and Nancy compose lovely melodies with notes. Rina, Miriam, and Ian use paints to fill canvases with colorful, vivid designs. Thomas cuts glass pieces and fashions beautiful stained-glass windows. Bev uses tile fragments to make unique, intricate mosaic structures. We work in different mediums, yet each of us is a craftsperson who likes to create. 

Whether one uses words, wood, wool, wire, or wax, crafts provide outlets for new ideas and visions, and can promote a sense of accomplishment. Crafting can evolve from beginning-level “arts and crafts” activities (the kind that young children—or the young at heart—enjoy); or from specialized training and careful, arduous workmanship; or from hobbies, recreational pastimes, or artistry. Rooted in knowledge, a craft—be it needlepoint, topiary, beading, upholstery, ice sculpting, flower arranging, ceramics, origami, cake decorating, quilting, microcalligraphy—requires particular skill sets, certain tools and materials, precision, and desire. A craft may be big or small scale, old-fashioned or modern, homemade or professional, rough-hewn or highly styled. Crafting is most often a tactile process, and it can be messy, and time consuming. 

Anyone with imagination can engage in a craft. Just pick a domain! Crafts can lead to new and exciting ventures, entrepreneurship, and even vocations. Hands-on experiences are stepping stones to interests that can inspire learning about a field, such as architecture (appreciating design), engineering (discovering how things work), or photography (understanding composition, light, and color). When children participate in crafts they build skills such as hand-eye coordination, concentration, and manual dexterity. Crafts can be rooted in native cultures, holidays, special occasions, family traditions, or new-fangled ideas. They may be predicated on necessity, or take flight from sheer whimsy. And, crafts-persons may be abundantly schooled or self-taught.  

People channel inspiration in many different ways.

Craftsmanship is not just knowing what to do with a pair of scissors, or a glue gun.

CREATIVITY AND CRAFTSMANSHIP TOGETHER

“Educator, artist… Athlete, entrepreneur… Daydreamer, scholar… Young person, old person, or those in between... EVERYONE has the capacity to choose to be creative, and to use that creativity in myriad ways.

When we support children’s efforts, mastery, and creative ideas we help them flourish, now and into the future, no matter what they aspire to be.”

                   ~ Excerpt from Explaining Creativity to Kids.

Craftsmanship is, indeed, a fundamental aspect of creative expression. However, equally as important is the fact that creative expression is a fundamental aspect of craftsmanship. It works both ways!

Hope Saul is a not a “celebrated” craftsperson (like Martha Stewart). Hope creates soft, handmade, cuddly toys that bring children joy and comfort. I respect her craftmanship. I was curious about what drives her creativity, and how it might inspire others, including—perhaps most especially—children. So I asked Hope about her handiwork. In the four short question and answer segments that appear below, she describes how creative craftmanship can lead to personal fulfillment, and she also shares suggestions for kids.

1.) Hope, you’ve designed and made hundreds of huggable, one-of-a-kind, stuffed toys for children. What inspires you to do this? 

Knitting is my passion. I love to create new toys for children, and I’ve been making cuddly teddies for several years. My inspiration is knowing that I’m creating a unique life-long “friend” for someone. Even though I typically don't see the child I’m making the teddy for, sometimes I get a picture of the recipient. The delight on a child's face when they receive their teddy is inspiring!

Hope’s Suggestion for Children: Let the joy of creativity buoy your efforts! 

 2.) As a craftsperson, you have to pay close attention to detail, and invest a lot of time and effort. How do you manage to stay on track? 

Lots of creative people give up part way through an initiative because there’s work involved, or it’s redundant, or it’s not as much fun as they thought it might be. I stay on track because, quite simply, I never give up. Every project is different, and I design each toy carefully, so I have a template to follow from beginning to end. 

Hope’s Suggestion for Children: Take your time, be patient. Work hard. Ask for help if you need it. And, continue to strengthen your abilities and fine-tune your creations. 

3.) What do you find most challenging about making toys, and how do you overcome the challenge?

There’s a lot of trial and error. Eventually I come up with a plan of execution. Each time I start a new teddy, I draw out the pattern and design according to my exact specifications—how many stitches, what colours to use, clothing and theme (for example, hockey player, cheerleader, artist)—and then I begin the process of knitting the teddy from scratch. It’s always a work in progress until the final stitch.

Hope’s Suggestion for Children: It’s good to have a plan but it’s important to be flexible and willing to think in new directions along the way. Hope's   favorite quote (by Roy Bennett) is: “Instead of worrying about what you cannot control, shift your energy to what you can create.”  

4.) What advice do you have for children or teens who might be thinking about turning a hobby or interest into something more? 

Find what you’re passionate about. Develop it and let everyone know so they can support and encourage your efforts. I really enjoy knitting. At first, I made sweaters, and blankets; then I needed a new challenge. My friends were having children and then grandchildren, and so I decided it would be a great idea to start making teddy bears. It was a creative opportunity that I wanted to pursue. You’re never too young or old to follow a new dream. 

Hope’s Suggestion for Children: Aspirations are important. See them through! 

(It’s serendipitous and fitting that this craftsperson’s name is Hope!)

CONCLUSION—AND A FEW MORE TIPS 

   “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set it free.”

                                             ~ Michelangelo

Here are 8 quick pointers for adults to help children extend their passions, build upon their “arts and crafts” beginnings or leanings, and fuel their creativity.

  • Ensure that activities are safe, comfortable, and properly supervised. Be available to provide guidance and answer questions.
  • Encourage children to collaborate with others, to share ideas and materials, and to talk about what they're creating. 
  • Keep tasks and activities appropriately challenging, and developmentally suitable. Communicate realistic expectations.
  • Amp up the fun factor. 
  • Mistakes and setbacks are okay. Encourage resilience. 
  • Have lots of supplies on hand so children can explore different kinds of crafts, materials, and creative possibilities.
  • Don’t pressure kids. Keep timelines open. 
  • Be supportive of children’s choices, interests (these will change), and creative impulses. 

Finally, any kind of craftsmanship is a learning curve, and will demand an understanding of the craft, the development of skills, and the desire to create. Children, as well as adults, have the capacity to acquire all of this, and to experience and appreciate the pleasure of creating! 

FURTHER READING AND RESOURCES

Readers can find information on creativity, intelligence-building, productivity and other topics relating to optimal child development by checking out Beyond Intelligence: Secrets for Raising Happily Productive Kids by Dona Matthews and Joanne Foster, and the award-winning book Being Smart about Gifted Education, (written by both authors). Dr. Foster’s most recent book is Bust Your BUTS: Tips for Teens Who Procrastinate (recipient of the Independent Book Publishers’ Association’s 2018 Silver Benjamin Franklin Award), and its predecessor is Not Now, Maybe Later: Helping Children Overcome Procrastination. To learn more about these books, and to acquire accessibility to a broad assortment of articles and links, go to www.joannefoster.ca. Information about professional development workshops and speaker sessions with Joanne Foster can also be found at this website.

For excellent resources on supporting and encouraging children’s optimal development, see the material published by Great Potential Press

There are several informative articles on Creativity on the Roots of Action website. Marilyn Price-Mitchell has written an excellent piece on nurturing children’s creativity through art—and she provides links to an abundance of online resources and potential projects to explore.

Check out the site Raising Entrepreneurs Podcast to hear many entrepreneurial young people share their stories and creative experiences.

Here’s an interesting article about 11 year old crasftsperson, Jonah Larson, whose crocheting prowess is quite remarkable!  

Scott Barry Kaufman studies ways in which people can lead creative, fulfilling, and meaningful lives, and he writes extensively about different facets of his work. His website contains many fascinating resources on creativity, and more.

Made by Hand: A Crafts Sampler is a lovely picture book written by Carole Lexa Schaefer and illustrated by Becca Stadtlander (winner of a 2019 Golden Kite Award). It showcases the care and effort put forth in the creation of handmade tool, toys, and other treasures. 

AUTHOR'S NOTE: I admire the creativity and craftsmanship of the following individuals who are referred to at the outset of this article: Nancy KopmanHanne DeneireRina GottesmanMiriam SlanIan LeventhalThomas Smylie, and Bev MagennisAnd, in particular, I extend my sincere appreciation to Hope Saul for sharing her thoughts! 

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