I have been wrestling with making things and the desire to make things ever since I can remember. Now, in this season of raising two tiny humans and growing a business, it is even more of a struggle* and challenge to find the time. While it might seem like “making things” is frivolous right now, given my current roles and responsibilities, I do believe that it is has always been and will continue to be my lifeblood. The thing that keeps me going. The thing that gets me up in the morning. Without the time, space, and energy to make things, I feel like I become a shell of who I truly am. While, I might become really good at those practical things like packing super kawaii lunches or building yet another Lego tractor trailer, I will still feel empty inside. Sorry if this sounds too dramatic, but I really feel it.
I remind myself over and over that, this is just a season. That this time will pass, quickly even. Everybody says, enjoy it because it goes so quickly. I know this to be true. Just this week, Nina started getting up on all fours and plopping herself forward. How can this be happening so quickly? I know I don’t want to miss this. But while I’m absolutely enjoying the mom-side of things (minus the tantrums), I am feeling the creative-side of me screaming to escape. It feels like my brain is dying.
Possible Solution #1: Make Simple Things
So, what’s the solution to this “all mom, no play” situation? Well, the folks at CreativeBug founded their business on the idea of making craft simple, easy, quick, and accessible. Sound good? Yes, indeed. But unfortunately, it seems that the crafts and making that I want to do are all super messy, slow, and time-consuming. Things like indigo dyeing silk yarns, warp painting and weaving a baby wrap (that involves winding 800 lengths of yarn, dyeing them by handpainting, curing them, and then individually threading them through various slots and holes twice before even beginning to weave), quilting and patchwork with bits of fabric that are handwoven from handpainted warps, winding warps that make use of space-dyed yarns (beginning to see a theme here?), and so on.
Possible Solution #2: Do a little every day
Another solution is perhaps the idea of doing a little bit every day. Ten minutes a day, here and there. Wherever you can get a chance. It’s still a little easier said than done. Some days, I don’t even get those ten minutes. I recall the afternoon, just two weeks ago when I brazenly attempted a trip to the washroom by myself and was interrupted by a screaming, sad toddler about 45 seconds later. It’s not been easy. And those ever-present and portable knitting projects that I used to be able to work on, a few stitches here and there, have been more depressing to me since my hands and wrists still haven’t fully recovered from the pregnancy-related carpal tunnel.
Possible Solution #3: Taking Back Friday
Several weeks ago, I started this process of carving back time for myself. I call it Taking Back Friday**. I’d had a bit of a bad day, I’ll admit, and was worried I might stumble into the abyss of post-partum depression.
As a method of self-preservation and self-care, I referred back to an old Michael Hyatt blog post about creating your ideal week and set out to create a weekly schedule for myself that covered all my bases regarding obligations to the business, our staff, my family, my husband, our friends, and myself. I scheduled time for answering emails, making phone calls (during baby naps), designing colourways for SweetGeorgia, doing Skype calls with my team, and even writing for this blog. And then, I also scheduled time for myself, where I was unanswerable to anyone. Just me. I set this for Friday afternoons. From the time Nina goes down for her afternoon nap until she wakes, I get perhaps 2, maybe 3, hours completely to myself. I needed time that was purely my own.
I recall, as a child, having hours of time stretched before me, where I could think, explore, pursue ideas. I would spend hours, winding and re-winding balls of yarn, folding fabric, sorting sewing supplies, and organizing knitting needles by size and length. Each time I touched a different cloth, a different colour, or a different texture, a flood of ideas would come towards me. What to make with this? What could I make with that? And I had hours and hours to try different things.
Now, as an official grown-up, that flood of ideas is still ever-present. In fact, I feel like I’m wading through it, legs thick and slow. Sometimes I feel like I’ll be overwhelmed by the flood and succumb to a complete meltdown of “needing to make something”. I think I reached this point a few weeks ago where I nearly lost it. All these ideas, but so little time. Death by obsessive craft project planning.
Taking Back Friday, for me is a battle against myself and my own self-imposed feelings of obligation. Yes, I need to work. Yes, I need to be answerable to my staff and our customers. But this business would not even exist if there wasn’t that initial desire to create. If I continue to suppress the desire to create, I will have missed the entire point.
In these past few weeks that I’ve started my Friday “crafternoons”, I’ve managed to actually do a whole bunch of things that I’ve been dreaming of, including:
- learning to dye with fiber-reactive dyes and expanding my knowledge of all different types of dye processes and materials
- winding a warp out of cotton seine twine to be used for weaving rag rugs
- winding a wide warp out of tsumugi silk for a twill shawl
- unearthing a huge pure silk warp that was dyed in indigo and acid dyes
- dressing the Louet Spring loom with a handpainted cotton warp that I wound about a million years ago to be used for sampling
- learning to weave a tiny tapestry with roving and that fascinating soumak technique
- learning how to use the sectional beam on my Baby Wolf loom
My husband challenges me with a “are you sure this isn’t just a make-work project?”. While the virtue of crafting for some might be “no idle hands”, for me it seems to be “no idle brain”. Finally, those ideas that have been restlessly turning over and over in my mind have a tiny window where they can be released and expressed. These past few weeks have already brought more vibrance to my inner life and creativity. My ultimate goal here is not just to make things for the sake of making or even for learning. I think it’s really the practice of self-care. And ultimately, if a few moments of yarn and colour play translate into a calmer, more settled mind, and a more relaxed state, it means I can be a more patient and happy mother and wife. So that means this is not a “make-work” project. It’s a “win-win” project.
If you are curious what I’m making during my coveted crafternoons, you can follow me on Instagram at @felicialowong and see my posts tagged #takingbackfridaySGY. How about you? How do you manage to carve out time and space for your own creative practice?
* I really hesitate to use the word “struggle” because I’m not describing a fight for survival or anything. I’m talking about an insufferable, intellectual war within my mind. It’s just me vs me.
** refers to my playlist on the commute back and forth from my spinning and weaving classes at Place des Arts, waaaay back when.