Can you guess what millions of people have started doing recently?
We've all had to learn to 'go with the flow' since the start of the pandemic in 2020. But as a result, and despite all the hardships, many of us feel enriched. This applies, particularly, to those who tried new things. Hobbies have become huge in terms of popularity.
Roman Emperor, Marcus Arelius, was probably the first to write about the 'flow of happiness. Indeed, going along with something that has already started can create its own energy. Think of a flowing stream heading for the sea and you'll get the picture. And so it is with crafts and hobbies.
Just about anyone can perform table-top crafts. It's not weather-dependent, nor does it need extensive intellect, dexterity, mathematical skills or even creative genius. All it requires is a tiny bit of energy which is mainly in the mind rather than the body. Plus a bit of motivation and inspiration.
This is why craft-making and many other types of hobbies have undergone an exponential rise in demand. It seems we can't get enough of making things, whether it's a painted landscape, a home-made card, a knitted hat or a carefully-crafted model.
Why is the act of making things so therapeutic? It's all about concentration, mildly repetitive action and the sense of seeing something take shape. The process of crafting encourages us to enter a state of 'flow', according to psychologists. There's generally a balance of skill and challenge, with an outcome that is perfectly achievable whilst not being too easy. Hence, crafts create that elusively satisfying state of fulfilment which is part of a balanced state of mindfulness.
Crafting can be compared, in terms of satisfaction, to becoming immersed in a binge-worthy TV series. You want to carry on to see what happens, and you can hardly wait for the end. You enjoy every bit of the journey because you metaphorically leave your surroundings and everything within it. Your mind, for the moment, exists in the world in which you are immersed. It can represent excellent therapy and fun for everyone, from aged nought to one hundred, and more.
Warning: model making can be addictive
The satisfaction when building a scaled, fully-working model, is immense. This is a learning journey when you can get to grips, literally, with the component parts of engineering. But there are many other types of models which can be equally satisfying. Take a simple, plastic army tank model kit, for example. Who wouldn't be tempted to turn the track links of a World War II tank such as the Panzerkampfwagen IV Ausf.J Sd.Kfz.161/2 from Ryefield (pictured below)?
This represents a type of play for grown-ups, teenagers and children alike because all will be enthralled to see what takes shape from the multitude of component parts. The painting process will bring it to life, then it can go out into the rugged garden terrain to put it through its paces. Get those tracks muddied and see how it performs - there's a lesson to be learned about reduced ground pressure resulting in better performance on soft surfaces when compared to wheels. Educational benefits for all ages!
Model kits come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, from a vintage Mini through to a Ferrari or Porsche; a Ford Cortina to a Lotus or a Formula 1 racing car; a Lambretta scooter to a Honda Gold Wing. And when it comes to the forces, you'll be spoilt for choice. Army trucks, military vehicles, tanks, tow trucks, planes, helicopters, battleships. You name it and there will be a kit awaiting construction. The photo below shows the Westland Lynx Mk.8 helicopter kit from Revell.
If saving lives at sea is more appealing, there can be no better vessel than a lifeboat such as the RNLI Severn Class Lifeboat (pictured below). The only barrier to a full-scale water rescue mission is the imagination. There are tug boats, tall ships, fishing vessels and military vessels just waiting for the day when they can be launched on the garden pond or paddling pool. Assemble them in the comfort of your own home on a rainy day or dark night and await the perfect time for fun outdoors. Or simply put them in pride of place as a memory of the pleasure you gained during the build.
The majority of plastic kits require additional glue and paint - so once you have purchased these, you're set for many happy hours at the assembly table. Perhaps there should be a warning issued with each kit as you probably won't be able to stop at just one. Similar to most interests, model-building can be addictive!
Get the whole family involved in paper crafts
Everyone from Granny through to the youngest member of the family can engage in making gift tags, cards, origami and other models from card and paper. There really is no end to what you can do with an assortment of paper, coloured card, sticky pads, rubber stamps, colourful ink pads, miniature rollers, objects that can be attached, and maybe some fancy scissors for cutting shapes. Add a glue gun and embossing tools and the world will open up a wealth of creative opportunities.
Try making home-produced stamps by cutting shapes into potatoes, lino-cuts, leaves, sponges and just about anything that can be pressed onto an ink pad or dipped into paint. Kids respond brilliantly to messy play, and it's even better when they can make something useful. A card for Grandpa, Christmas and Easter cards, even a decorative placemat that can be laminated ready for use. A framed children's print on the wall is a joy to behold and it carries with it the memories of a happy making-moment in time.
The greatest thing about playing with paper and card is that the grown-ups can do it alongside the small people. Just provide materials and you can each create your own masterpiece. There are few things that occupy children quite so intently, leaving you to concentrate on your own task. Kids love the fact that you are doing it too. They are likely to model their behaviour on yours, so the event becomes an educational session without any judgement or pressure.
Consider these crafts for entertainment - boost your enthusiasm for life
- Balloon modelling can be a lot of fun! Not only do you enjoy the blowing up and creation process (it's easier than it looks), but the youngsters will play with the results. Swords are especially popular, of course!
- Air-drying clay or oven-baked clay is a hugely satisfying occupation. There are coloured clay-type polymer materials that can be modelled by small hands. Don't forget Plasticine, a putty-like colourful modelling material that can be shaped time after time again. It helps to develop fine motor skills for small hands and is fun for grown ups too. Real clay modelling is a tactile occupation that is well worth undertaking - but you will need to fire your products in a kiln afterwards.
- Drawing and painting: use a good quality paper that doesn't go soggy at the first touch of a paintbrush. Top tip: with the exception of very young children, it's always better to use 'proper' materials and equipment for kids rather than toys. The paintbrushes won't last forever when they are used like a stippling brush, but children will learn far more about techniques if they are allowed free reign with decent equipment and paint with a strong pigment. Just remember to provide overalls! Adult painting never goes out of fashion - it's simply that most people forget to make time to do it.
- Make a miniature setting: A tiny garden made in a washing up bowl; a playground made in a cardboard box, a railway setting complete with scenery and tiny people. How about a planet complete with aliens? You'll definitely need some googly eyes for the latter! Lots of glue, some soil, moss, perhaps some railway scenery modelling equipment such as trees, hedges, flowers and boulders.
- Take up knitting, crochet or sewing: You never forget how to knit - it's a skill for life once the technique has been absorbed. You could start children off with finger knitting and gradually progress to using needles. Try knitting a hat for Teddy or sew a simple pattern using blunt needles. Adult knitting knows no bounds. Knit a coat for the dog, he will be unique!
- Make some bunting! This will need a sewing machine, but it's so easy. Find yourself some wonderful fabric off-cuts and create a hanging banner of joy.
Visit Love a Fab Price to find scale model kits, die cast models, paper crafts and many other craft items at low prices. This company offers you items that have generally been returned to large retailers. You might find that some of the packaging isn't perfect, but it's what's inside that counts.