I believe there is magic in in creating things with your own two hands.
Many of my earliest memories are of fashioning together Popsicle sticks, construction paper, yarn and anything else I could get my hands on. I would sit at my family’s kitchen table, lost for hours in the planning, purpose and possibility of making. In those moments, amid the buttons, cardboard and Elmer’s Glue, I felt free, capable and full of potential. I learned that there is visceral satisfaction and joy in creating beautiful, useful objects.
Making isn’t always perfect. In the eighth grade, I sewed a dress that was decidedly unfortunate – lopsided, baggy and in all ways, wrong. Of course, I was disappointed in the end result. There was no way I was going to wear my creation to the school dance as I had planned, but I learned something very important through that experience. In order to be completely involved in the process, making requires that I let go of the results – the perfectly-stitched garment, the pristinely painted landscape, the ideally-shaped clay bowl – and instead focus on how I feel while I’m creating something.
Making has taught me to let the work guide me and to let go of perfection. That’s a tricky thing for this first-born, Type-A girl! I believe that making things with our hands is especially important in our fast-paced, technology-driven society. Our electronic connectivity and devices help us to learn, innovate and collaborate faster and more easily than ever before. They also leave us hungry for the authentic, tactile experience of creating something in our physical reality.
As a mother of four, I see this need for making most dramatically in my children. They are well-versed in swiping, scrolling and typing on screens. They can even simulate making music, shooting videos and designing clothes through various apps and programs. These games are a fun diversion and may even help kids to identify their interests. But I believe these online activities need to be coupled with the building of actual skills – how to play that instrument, run that sewing machine, mold that clay and build that robot.
So last year, I opened an art and craft studio in downtown State College called The Makery. The Makery specializes in creative classes and events and also hosts an open community workspace and local artisan market.
My work at The Makery has reinforced my belief that making things with our hands is an essential part of our DNA. I see the way that children and adults light up when they are in the process of trying a new technique for the first time. I see the sense of accomplishment on their faces when they look at a finished piece of work.
No matter what your age, I believe creating something with your own two hands is healing, satisfying and FUN. I encourage you to break out your watercolors, thread, hammer, or whatever speaks to you and make something today!
Amy Frank is a fabric artist, sewing instructor and speaker. Last year, Frank opened The Makery - a community art studio and event space in downtown State College.
The Makery will host several creative workshops during Arts Fest weekend. You can learn more at themakerypa.com.