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Pottery Making on a Wheel
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Maria Chatzi : Inspiring Creative Bliss in a Craft Workshop

Inspiring Creative Bliss in a Craft Workshop

Three Ways to Nurture Creativity in Adults

By Maria Chatzi

I believe our knowledge, skills, experiences and talents are generously offered to us by Life or God or some Divine Power, call it what you may, so as to be shared with our fellow humans. Our inspirations are to be passed on to others, who will continue the cycle.

Being a teacher, a self-taught artist, a craft designer and a writer, I often volunteer to teach art and crafts and creative writing to primary school age children. Last year and this year, I also volunteered to teach two craft workshops to adult beginners — one to a group of ten women at a local craft supplies store and the other one to a group of eighteen women at a public library in my area.

I found out that creative adults are not much different from kids. They get easily excited, hopping around with joy for every new “toy” (= tool) you give them. Sometimes, they get impatient to start the project, feeling and smelling the materials you’ve passed around, and won’t listen to what you’re telling them. They also get angry with themselves and frustrated when they don’t understand how to do things, especially if they lack self-confidence.

I loved the experience and it surely added joy and some more depth to my life!

If you’re a creativity facilitator, or art educator, or craft projects instructor read the following notes I’ve kept for you from my workshops — they show you three ways to inspire creative bliss in a craft workshop for adults.

1. Show participants how to be authentic

The nature of both creativity and authenticity is inquisitive. In order for your workshop participants to honor their creative self by making one-of-a-kind art and crafts, they need to seek their creative identity and embrace their worth. If they ask you questions that are not related to methods or techniques or other material they’ve been taught, avoid simple “Yes/No” answers. Answer them with open-ended questions, instead, to help them find the answers to their own questions themselves. You’re there not only to teach them how to make jewelry or decorative items but also to empower them and assist their self-growth. As in life, it is important for them to make their own decisions, otherwise they won’t be happy with what they will ever create.

An example of such a conversation is the following:

Participant’s question: “Which material of these two matches my design best?”

Your answer: “What do you think? Which looks like a better fit to you?”

Participant’s question: “Could I attach some strings to the corner of my brooch?”

Your answer: “Have you thought of a way of attaching them.?”

Being authentic is a prerequisite of being joyful. Also, make sure they understand that copying the work of others is permitted and acceptable only when it is part of the learning process. The danger of copying is that it may result in dependency and self doubt — happy and successful people are independent and self confident.

Instead of copying an item, I told the women in my workshops that they needed to ask themselves what are some of the elements of that particular artist’s (or crafter’s) work they admired. Once we become aware of these elements and could be specific in describing them, the creative process starts unfolding. After analyzing, we begin synthesizing — we need to find a way to incorporate these special elements into our own artistic creations. The best way to do this is by blending the external influence (what we admire in the other artist’s or crafter’s work) with the uniqueness of our own personality and our creative vision.

2. Let them be joyful

You are happy and you do your best when you create what inspires you and what you envision. Crafting absorbs all of our stressful thoughts — it has a relaxing and healing power. Relaxation and healing bring serenity and joy. Crafting along with others brings even more joy — the joy of sharing your ideas, your thoughts, your passion, your experiences, your hopes and your dreams. Teach people that sharing one’s mistakes and failures could be a source of happiness too. Show your students that mistakes and unlucky accidents are O.K. In art and crafts, they could be far more than O.K. — they could be great. Mistakes and unlucky accidents could lead to unique designs and innovation.

A woman in her late thirties almost burst to tears, in one of my workshops, for spilling coffee all over a small piece of a lovely white lacy design she was going to stitch onto a bracelet, which she was making out of recycled materials.

I approached her with the enthusiasm of a child who had just stepped on the threshold of Wonderland.

“Wow, look at this! Your bracelet’s telling you something. It’s showing you the direction you need to go. Perhaps it wants to be a vintage bracelet.”

Her sadness vanished. Her muse appeared by her side. A sunshine smile lit her face. When finished, her bracelet was a one-of-a-kind artful vintage design.

3. Help them acknowledge their accomplishment

From time to time, you need to get your students to slow down to acknowledge their creative achievements. Slowing down, to appreciate what they had achieved up to that point, helped these women see that what they had crafted was meaningful and their time was spent well. It also motivated them to move on to a larger and more challenging craft project.

Before starting every session, I found it was helpful to remind everyone of: a) one or two creative things we had accomplished as a team, and b) one or two creative things they had accomplished as individuals in the previous session of our workshop.

It could have been a skill that was mastered, an inspired and interesting idea that popped up while brainstorming, an out of the box solution found to a problem, some sort of collaboration that had taken place with the person sitting next to them, or anything really. This helped them see the progress and that no effort was in vain. It boosted their creativity.

It was also important for them to realize that even failures or things that had gone wrong were all part of learning to be creative. This is a realization that makes people tension-free and happier. From this perspective, it isn’t far-fetched to say that failures could be counted as a type of achievement — we achieve learning through them by acquiring experience.

It is true, however, that we need to define what creative achievement or accomplishment is before we acknowledge it. Most often, it is more than what we usually think it is. One of the women who enrolled for the workshop at the craft supplies store was 70 years old. At our last meeting, she came all dressed up in joy, wearing handcrafted recycled jewelry and an awesome upcycled sweater, things she had created by herself at home, using the techniques she had been taught in this workshop. She deserved the applause she got. A healthy desire to learn new things and the ability to create beauty and a blissful life, despite one’s age, is also a great achievement.

Allow your workshop participants to be themselves and they will create unique artful pieces. Show them how crafting helps them be happy and stress-relieved and they will follow you. Show them you value their handmade crafted items and they will value them higher. Take some photos of what they’ve crafted and post their creations online, for the world to see. Encourage them to put photos of their artful crafts on their blogs. Share the links with your supporting community. You will not only inspire creative bliss in your craft workshops but you will also inspire people to take their creative pursuits further, creating a life of fulfillment and success. •

© 2013 Maria Chatzi. All rights reserved.

Maria ChatziMaria Chatzi is a teacher, jewelry artist, and craft designer who loves nature, learning and helping adults and kids discover their creative side. More »

6/30/13