Simple fact: Studies have long shown that participating in crafts — especially those like knitting, quilting, sewing, and woodworking — is good for your mental health and well-being. These studies show that the focused, quiet, and repetitive nature of many manual labors has mental health benefits similar to those of meditation and relieves anxiety.
So it’s not so crazy that craftsmanship is experiencing a global boom while millions of people are confined to their homes, seeking distractions to keep them “sane” during COVID-19.
With hashtags like #quarantinecrafts #covidcrafts #covidcrafting #coronaviruscraftproject #coronaviruscraftchallenge Driving the trend on social media platforms, the craft is there alongside TikTok and fitness apps as the new normal.
Rosa Inocencio Smith of The Atlantic (USA) said: “I’ve turned to old-fashioned craftsmanship in recent weeks to ease my anxieties, to hold something tangible in my hands and thoughts as the uncertainty swirls around me.”
The thought is echoed by Darwin-based artist photographer Claire-Louise Smith, who described the recently formed Facebook group craftsman at home as his “new favorite page”.
“I feel like creatives are taking this opportunity to do what they do best, take inspiration from an event and turn it into something beautiful.” To shift the focus away from fear and anxiety and back to building and creativity,” Smith said.
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‘craftsman at home’ is an artisan initiative, Queensland’s flagship body for crafts and design. In less than a week after Australia’s COVID-19 lockdowns, more than 750 craft and design makers across Queensland and beyond have joined the online group.
While in London, department store Liberty reported that sales of sewing accessories are currently up 380% on last year, while purchases of their craft kits are up 228%. With similar picks recorded here from stores such as Spotlight and Lincraft.
This is just one example of the unprecedented boom in all things craft since COVID-19 swept the world, forcing individuals and families to isolate themselves at home.
How do you deal with containment? How to stay connected? The answer seems to be home-made.
ROLE OF TECHNOLOGY IN TODAY’S CRAFTS BOOM
While many of us can conjure up images of little women Jo March lamenting being stuck at home making socks for the Civil War effort, or the iconic images of people sheltering in the London air raid underground while knitting – the notion of ‘anxiety, isolation and craft is very human.
But a lot has changed since the air raids and Little woman. Today we have the Internet, e-commerce, and platforms such as Instagram and Etsy, among others. This is no doubt why a new renaissance of craftsmen is on the rise.
Anyone can log on and enter a world of DIY lessons, find free patterns, or join a virtual workshop – all made possible by purchasing materials online, which are then delivered straight to your doorstep.
A good example is the Craft ClassBento initiative co-founded by John Tabari – a new live craft workshop platform, with free delivery of craft boxes to your home.
Tabari said, “There has never been a more important time to stay socially and mentally active. By bringing our amazing teacher workshops into homes via live stream and free craft box delivery, we hope we can do our part to help friends, co-workers and families with children stay connected and stay energized during shutdowns.
He added that they launched the Australian Initiative to help small creative businesses and around 100 local makers earn a living during these uncertain times.
One of the strengths of craft practice is that it can be a solitary activity, while connecting to a larger sense of community.
It can also distract our attention from the perpetual media flow by refining the moment of crafting into meditative and physical action. It’s almost like an anchor in the chaos around us and can help us begin to put things into perspective.
“I can be sure I know how to tie one loop of yarn to another…I know I can untangle my work and start over if I do it wrong,” said Inocencio Smith, adding that this very primal sense of control can be healthy.
In our 21st century lives, we are not so good at being still. At this point in the COVID-19 cycle, it’s not so much about people wanting to calm down, but more about a transfer of pent-up energy.
Crafting, and the socialization it can bring, has proven to be another way out.
The aforementioned Craftsman at Home Facebook group is growing at lightning speed, driven by makers throwing a lifeline for others to connect online and share what they’re working on from their homes and studios. There are others also emerging in the ceramic sector.
“We don’t know how long this new isolation will last and the artisan at home brings us together,” said Pamela See, an artist from Brisbane who practices the traditional Chinese art of paper cutting. She joined the group to stay connected and share.
“There’s an outpouring of positivity and ingenuity surfacing on the page, so you leave feeling happy and inspired,” See added.
Leah Emery, public programming offer at artisan, added: “We know life is very different right now, and it could be for a while, so I’m thrilled that through artisan we can find a silver lining. and bringing manufacturers together for the benefit of their personal and professional well-being.
New initiatives are emerging daily – all aimed at making the transition to home crafting easy – and fun.