Changing direction can keep you on track. Seriously.

I’ve shared with you my need to be creative before – not just in my head, but actually designing and creating ‘things’. Jewellery, bags, clothes, curios, anything that engages my head and hands. It can ease me through a shutdown or kick-start me after a meltdown.
It can motivate and sustain.

As my physical and mental health difficulties have increased, so my need to create has also grown. Flip-side: as everyday tasks become more problematic so dealing with crafting projects that don’t run smoothly causes frustration escalation.
I’ve had to re-appraise what I do and how I do it. Some changes meant tweaking the way I worked, others required a major mind-set overhaul.

I now want to share changes I’ve made to the way I work that mean I can carry on with my craft creations. Perhaps some ideas may help you.

Not being afraid to change direction

Health – good and bad – can be fickle. A new condition, a flare-up, or an ongoing problem can sap your energy, demotivate, or depress you thereby diminishing your ability to craft. Or paint. Or write.
Hand problems that made jewellery making nigh impossible brought frustration and fear of sinking back into depression. I could still machine so decided to design bags. This was creative, enjoyable, and doable.
In short: consider your other creative skills – you may be very pleasantly surprised

Using strengths and embracing limitations

Physical and psychological limitations and an inability to do what you love may cause further problems. You may not even be able to recognise that you have other strengths. Ask others what stands out in your work to them.
With dyspraxia, following instructions is extremely difficult so I take advantage by freeing my creativity to reinterpret new ideas.
In short: believe in happenstance, trust your instincts, listen to others, exploit your strengths to make your creations truly individual

Making a work space that suits you

Photographs of ‘ideal’ work spaces may look fantastic but can they be adapted to your personal needs? I need a comfortable, safe space with everything nearby but also one that is quick to clear away. When my health nosedives I don’t want to be reminded of what I can’t do.
In short: go for comfort and convenience that works for you

Changing scale

Health changes may mean new challenges, perhaps lost dexterity or increased fatigue. Consider whether smaller, lighter projects would be more manageable. Early projects included small components but with co-ordination difficulties I now design with leather, ribbon, larger beads, and magnetic or toggle fasteners.
In short: explore options that could prove more doable

Tooling up

The right tools really can help – but more expensive doesn’t necessarily mean better. I try not to be swayed by persuasive advertising; purchases must work for me.
My ‘great buys’ have included a ‘helping hands’ clamp, flexi-clip end stops, and a sticky jewel setter.
My ‘must haves’ are a flexi-neck table lamp with magnifier, lap-tray, and a tablet / books / magazines for research.
In short: research what’s available before buying specialist items

Organisation is key

It’s easy to be disorganised when you spend your well-days being actively creative. It’s probably the best part of those days. But getting organised will help immeasurably when you’re ready for a new project, or go back to one that’s on the back burner. Things that help me:
• colour coded storage
• bags for different fabrics
• and lots and lots of labelling
In short: take time to organise to save time

Troubleshoot in more than one place

Crafting is not free from problems and it’s easy to think the fault is yours.
When a solution for softening unusable FIMO didn’t work I believed the fault was mine. I bought new clay and when that became unworkable I researched elsewhere. I learned FIMO become malleable with water not oil.
In short: be confident – if a ‘solution’ doesn’t work it may be the solution that’s wrong

Keeping records can keep you on track

When your health has highs and lows or memory is poor then keeping notes is vital. In my ‘manic’ phases I can have several projects on the go at one time, so apart from computer records I also use:
• wallets for ideas and inspirations (I find ‘moodboards’ unworkable)
• filing cards for records of purchases – useful for reordering
• folders for invoices and receipts – financial records are key if you sell, or plan to sell, and a paper trail is an absolute must if you not using a computer program
In short: record everything – purchases, designs, creations, sales. On dark days you can look back and reflect on just how much you’ve achieved – bonus!

Slow down and enjoy your skills

My key words for being creative are play, plan, prepare and they can work for every activity at all levels.

  • Playing lets you explore and aids inspiration: finding how certain leathers work together, how fabric textures will interpret your designs, or how mixing media may give depth to artwork
  • Planning a process helps you plan your time: working out a design or composition and deciding on resources can make it easier to allocate sufficient blocks of time for it to be manageable
  • Preparing for the project will help it run more smoothly: gathering resources and preparing your work-space before you start can save time and frustration in the long run

In short: mindfulness can seamlessly co-exist with crafting – pace yourself and immerse yourself in the enjoyment and exploration of your creative self

We are all unique. No-one else will have your difficulties or be able to offer solutions that are perfect for you.
Over the past ten years, mental and physical health conditions have forced me to change my approach to crafting, developing strategies that work for me. Even these won’t always guarantee success but enough of the time the benefits far outweigh any downsides and that is reason aplenty to keep going.

In making changes I have also gained confidence in what I can achieve. This was the catalyst I needed to join the British-based online crafting marketplace Apart from all the wonderful handmade and individual products for sale there’s also an inclusive and supportive Community of crafters who are happy to share knowledge and advice. I now have my own ‘Shop’: which is such a positive step for me.

Please share your thoughts

If you have a passion for arts & crafts, or maybe you’d love to find a creative outlet but find the idea too daunting, please feel welcome to share with others. And if you’ve found your own ways of overcoming difficulties please share that too.
Research shows that being creative can have truly positive benefits for health. It would be awesome to share your ideas and stories.