Craft communities thrive on their sense of togetherness and the sharing of skills and ideas. If you’ve ever observed participants in a creative workshop you might have noticed the warmth in exchanges between them, insecurities reassured by supportive comments and genuine appreciation shown for each other’s work – it’s powerful stuff!
These are the subtle things that give sessions a depth of meaning for some that goes far beyond a simple gathering to create something together. Group creativity is providing a vital support for some people in our community, a place to be on a particular night of the week, an escape from the pressures of their daily lives and often an opportunity to meet people.
Members of one local community group explain the value of these meetings to them.
‘I love learning from others and sharing new craft experiences together has been brilliant. We’ve had a tough year emotionally and the group offered us an opportunity to distract from reality and just be.’
‘I’ve enjoyed arriving in the group at the time of making the quilt squares, Monday nights have given me space, time for reflections and exercising my mind.’
So what has become of these groups, now that all physical meetings have stopped?
Well as you might expect from a bunch of creatives, Beeston networks are using all of the resources available to them to keep communities connected. Both WIs are meeting online and some craft groups are keeping projects going over WhatsApp. Via Facebook, Creative Beeston and Made in Beeston are still supporting local makers and Julie, who runs the Crafts in Beeston group has been sharing other groups to join and inspiration for new creative occupations. That’s where I discovered Beeston Canalside Heritage Centre’s project to encourage local people to submit a piece based on what community means to them.
‘Despite social distancing and the restrictions brought on by the pandemic, it’s heartening to see the kindness, care and community feeling that has strengthened during this crisis both in the ‘virtual’ and the real world. While we may be apart more than ever, physically, we are more united as a community than we have been in a long time.’
And of course, with access to the internet, there are a variety of ways that groups can connect. At the first Monday Zoom meet-up, the regulars talked about how enforced downtime had been affecting their creative pursuits. Although they had not yet tapped into the many online courses and workshops that had been popping up all over social media, they had found that they were now ‘having time to do things they don’t usually have time for,’ they ‘had a lot more energy’ and were ‘seeing more projects through’ instead of the usually amassed pile of *WIPs, UFOs and PHDs.
If you scan your social media newsfeeds you will hear of people learning new songs on their guitars, resurrecting their love for painting and there is a great deal of decorating going on! Is this spring fever or isolation fever? Although this surge of creativity may well die down when the dust settles on this strange situation and we become more at peace, one thing is clear, creativity is helping! You only have to take a walk around the block to see the handcrafted rainbows in windows and your spirits are instantly lifted. The rainbows are a message of hope, they are our way of connecting with each other visually through the medium of chalk and paint.
For dedicated crafters with kids, the extra burden of home-educating can eat into their valuable crafting time, so waiting until ‘the boys are on their screen time’ has been a good solution. Also creating together has been on the agenda in many households, strengthening family bonds. As a bonus, some members of the Monday night group who have previously only been able to support from afar are now able to join Zoom sessions all the way from the North and South of France. This Beeston born group has gone international!
A shared concerned is ‘how long’ we are going to be physically isolated from one another. Although it is relatively easy to order craft supplies over the internet these days and many local businesses are happy to post out or deliver, we spare a thought for those who don’t have access to the internet or are finding it difficult to connect. We like to create a scenario where they have been hoarding yarn for several months and are blissfully knitting by the radio, cat on lap, but we know that some individuals will be finding their forced circumstances hard.
Isolation can be incredibly difficult for many, especially those who struggle with their mental health, and within groups steps have been taken to keep in contact with individuals that may be suffering in silence. It is wonderful to see the local support groups online that have been set up to seek out some of these people too.
Routine can be terribly important to our well being, which is why most groups have stuck to their original time to meet online. You can join the Bee Creative Community Workshops at 7:00 pm on Monday evenings via the closed group on Facebook.
To quote Two Little Magpies, ‘good things come to those who craft.’
*works in progress, unfinished objects and projects half done.