Arts and Craft Can Save the World

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claire colvin -art can save us3

This may sound strange, but it’s true: a Harry Potter quilt is saving my life right now.

I came across a line in an article recently that said, “Art can save us. Craft can keep us sane.” I read that line, and it resonated deeply for me.

The world feels very dark these days. As I write this, at the beginning of October, the United States has just experienced the worst mass shooting in their history. Hurricanes have left Puerto Rico without power and torn through Texas and Florida. Closer to home a local pastor was just arrested on multiple charges of sexual assault. It can be hard to see the hope some days.

A question I keep hearing is, “How do we stay strong for the long haul in hard times? How do we keep up the strength to fight when it feels like the fight is never ending?” Part of the answer to that question is, amazingly enough, arts and crafts.

So much of the work of justice seeking and peace making is soul work; it requires our hearts as well as our bodies. If we want to keep doing the work without burning ourselves out, it’s our hearts that we need to feed. Art really can save us. It can help us process our emotions, it can bring us together, it can open a doorway for lament, and it can even set us free.

This month a friend and I are launching into a sewing project affectionately known as the Project Of Doom. It’s a paper-pieced quilt that when finished will look like a bookcase filled with books and items from the Harry Potter universe. I didn’t realize how badly I needed to play until I started planning for this quilt. The pattern is a bit of a choose-your-own-adventure, done in blocks where you can decide what you want to have on your bookshelves. There are fabrics to choose and colours to figure out. I’ve been up to my elbows in fabrics and patterns like a kid in a candy store.

On serious days, art and play can feel like a luxury we can’t afford, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. In hard times we need to pursue joy to sustain ourselves whether that’s music or art or dance or crafts or film. (To quote Frank Gailbraith, “For mumblety-peg, if that’s where your heart lies.”) Some days our joy is hard-won but we have to fight for it .

We must refuse to live in a world without joy, even if we have to create the joy ourselves, by hand.

There’s a video going around Facebook about The Flying Seagull Project—a group of European circus performers and artists who are traveling to different refugee camps to play with the kids. In the video the leader of the group, Ash Perrin, talks about his trepidation about coming to the camps, and how he wondered if they had any right to be there. But then they arrived and there were all these children with nothing to play with and they realized there was work to be done, good work. The team sang songs and played silly make believe games and taught the kids how to walk on stilts and did magic shows. These kids, these children who have seen too much and lost too much, started to play and laugh. It’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.

We need to turn up the volume on the good in these days when the bad stuff seems really loud. It’s not so we can drown out the bad stuff, but rather, to find joy and draw strength from it the way a really great song, played loudly, can revitalize the day. We need to make time for the things that make our hearts sing, not for some artsy-fartsy reason but because we need it like air.

The art we make today might not have the same global impact as laughter ringing out from a refugee camp right away, but the joy it creates will ripple out. It will show up in our relationships, in our parenting, in our places of businesses and where we volunteer. Perhaps most of all it will ripple out in ourselves, replenishing the well and giving us hope and joy and rest and release so we can keep resisting and persisting, keep pursing and advocating.

Art can save us. Craft can keep us sane.

How will you feed your soul this week?

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Want to create some art with us? Claire has created a post for us on Dangerous Women Tribe called: Artsy Practices for Dangerous Women. We hope you’ll join us over there. Or share your thoughts right here. How is art and crafts saving you right now?

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Claire Colvin
Claire is learning to call herself a feminist. She has been writing and editing professionally for more than a decade. In 2013, her National Novel Writing Month entry was a science fiction story about a broken world where everyone was required to be as similar as possible. Claire wishes she could fold the world like a map so the people she loves weren’t so far away. She lives on a small mountain near Vancouver and writes at clairecolvin.ca.
Claire Colvin
Claire Colvin

Latest posts by Claire Colvin (see all)

Claire Colvin
  • Our common lives become far too common when we fail to carve out a space for beauty. When we starve our souls in pursuit of our “living,” we lose sight of our own nature as creative beings, made in the image of a Creator God who calls us to lives of fruitfulness and beauty.

    I hope that when your quilt is finished you will post pictures far and wide so that we can all celebrate with you!

    • Michele, I completely agree. We DO lose sight of our own nature as creative beings. What an excellent way to phrase it.

  • Anna Williams

    Completely agree with your article. I love creating things especially when projects are for others. This year was the year of the hat. Family and friends have been getting them as presents. My next knitting project though is a Christmas present to myself. Knitting for me is a great mindfulness exercise.

    Hope your project goes well. Would love to see the end result 🙂

  • I love this, Claire! Over in the Red Couch Facebook discussion, Lisa recommended the site https://craftivist-collective.com/. I guess Sarah Corbett has also written a book called “How to Be a Craftivist.” Sounds like something you may enjoy… 😉

    • Ooh I’m definitely going to check that out. Thanks Annie!

  • Megan Gahan

    This is so good and so true, my friend. You’ve given all of us permission to see the value in the things we do in the quiet, the simple practices that give us life and meaning. Also, I realllllllly want a follow up post with a million pictures when the quilt is further along!

  • Yes, Yes, Yes! When we were going through a rough time with one of our children, I took to quilting. It was a craft I’d enjoyed but hadn’t practiced for a while. Somehow I knew it’s what my soul needed. Many years later, when I look at the finished wallhanging I cherish the comfort it brought me. When my husband comes home to find me painting he knows I’m feeding my soul. Thank you for your words of affirmation.