Whilst the summer holidays on one hand offer the perfect opportunity to get crafty and embark on many different creative projects, it can also be a time where the usual routines are different, there are lots of periods away from home, and outings to plan and prepare for, and increasingly, hotter weather temperatures to negotiate too. Sometimes it can be the case that spare energy to craft is lower than at other more structured times of the year. The summer holidays are a chance to rest and recover, and sometimes, having to set up creative activities can feel a bit like having one extra thing on the ‘to do’ list. Here in our family though, I know that even managing a few projects can add a dimension of colour and a fun feel-good factor to the summer break. Also, as the years have gone by, I realise that having creative ‘mementos’ in the form of things we made in the summer, can become beautiful memory markers of the experiences we had each year.
In this blog I’ll explore a few gentle tips to make summer crafting easy and that help keep crafty motivation flowing 😊.
Simplify and break things down
If I’m especially busy or just a bit low in energy, the first thing I always do if we want to set up something creative – it to simplify or just choose really simple activities to do. This could be something like simple Kawaii drawing, making something tried and tested like pompoms, or even just doing some colouring or free-flow watercolour painting. If we need a prompt, I might suggest a simple theme like ‘cats and flowers’ or, ‘the colour blue’…
Often, once we start with something really simple, it’s like a creative doorway opens and we will more effortlessly embark on more ambitious projects. I always remind myself that often the process is more important than the outcome and that even very simple creative projects have many different benefits. For example, you might want something easy to do that allows you to just sit and chat together and connect – as explored in this post.
If you do want to attempt a craft that is more ambitious that takes a little more effort to organise and you are still short on time and energy, we have found that breaking things down into super, tiny baby steps is a way to overcome a motivational hurdle. By this I mean, giving ourselves complete permission to just do 5 minutes on a project, or one tiny step of it, on any given day – removing any time pressure to complete the project all at once. It’s actually amazing how quickly tiny steps do add up over time – especially when busy – seemingly without even realising it, you have a completed project just by managing a few steps here and there. Actively engaging in small creative steps regularly and fairly frequently also helps with building up our ‘creativity muscles’…. Again, you could choose something quite simple, like a simple granny-square blanket crochet project and just crochet in your spare moments, or you could choose a project that has more components and work through in steps – but break the steps right down, and spread them out over time.
Ritual and Routine
On this note, sometimes it can help to create a kind of routine or ritual around your creative time, meaning you don’t have to use precious energy on deciding when to create and so on. You might decide to do a little most days at a certain time that works for you/the family or at one set time each week where you might have a ‘crafternoon’ or craft morning. We’ve found that making a short list at the start of the holidays about projects we’ve hoped to do for a while and pinning it somewhere as a reminder can be helpful – that way, when it comes to the creative slot that we’ve set ourselves, we are ready to go and don’t lose momentum in deciding what to do. Sometimes, having a (loose) plan like this can take the feeling of extra effort out of the way and meaning that we actually manage to get crafting. You could also make it something to look forward to with some delicious snacks or drinks to go with your ‘craft date’ to make it consciously feel like something truly nourishing.
You might also choose to set up a ‘Go To Space’ for all your creative activities, and it doesn’t matter if this will only be a temporary space that lasts the duration of the summer. For some of us, having that space readily available takes a bit of the effort out of having to set something up each time. If the space is already available, you most likely won’t have much to clear up before and after to make the space craft-ready. You don’t need a lot of space either! You could set up a folding table with some plastic cloths and a storage box with art supplies in the corner of one room… see this blog for more ideas on carving out even the tiniest bit of creative space 😊
When setting up a space, you could also invest in some fresh craft supplies and put them all together in one storage box that is then ‘good to go’ – again, taking out some of the effort involved in preparations, and can also mean that children can access the materials independently if they wish. And, although it’s not necessarily the same as the free creativity of creating something unique from scratch, having a couple of crafting kits handy can make for a super-simple rainy-day creative activity.
Fill your creative well
Setting aside some time to consciously seek inspiration can also work wonders – it can be so easy to always focus on our creative output – but filling the creative well is so important!
The internet of course is a wonderful ‘ideas bank’ but if Pinterest or scrolling endlessly through Instagram is too overwhelming (it can be for me!) – it can be useful to set a time limit, say 30 minutes, and start with something in mind that you like – for example crochet – and explore for ideas that you can set aside for another time.
However, your creative inspiration doesn’t have to be purely visual – it can be something like a magical walk out in nature that inspires your senses, cooking a meal for loved ones, listening to your favourite album, having a kitchen disco; it can be anything that invokes a sense of wellbeing and wonder or gives you energy. You could purposely choose to get offline entirely, at least to begin with, seeking inspiration ‘in real life’ (thus reducing the ‘compare and despair’ distraction that social media can invoke) – similar to the concept of going on an ‘artists date’ as described by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way (pages 18-24). On ‘filling your well’ Julia Cameron writes:
“As artists [makers and creators], we must realise that we have to maintain this artistic ecosystem. If we don’t give some attention to upkeep, our well is apt to become depleted, stagnant, or blocked… In filling the well, think magic. Think delight. Think fun. Do not think duty… Do what intrigues you, explore what interests you; think mystery, not mastery.” pp21-21
Summer is a perfect time to let outside inspire you creatively too. It can be so lovely to see colourful artworks like big bold paintings on large sheets of paper, or tye-dye sheets and t-shirts hanging out in the sunshine to dry! It’s also a lovely experience to be able to paint barefoot, or make simple clay creations outside… And creative activities outside also lend themselves really well to ‘creating without a plan’… just creating a wash of watercolours with no real goal can be quite dreamy and uplifting when outside in the fresh air – sometimes there really doesn’t have to be an end-goal, and it’s just all about the experience and the process.
Kids can seek inspiration and fill up their creative-wells too – my daughter always loved the BBC’s Blue Peter programme and would often look on their website for inspirational projects. We also love the magazine Aquila in our house, which does have projects, but more than anything brings a host of topics to life in a creative way that inspires imagination.
Sensory experience and celebrating successes
Considering the kind of crafts you or your children enjoy from a sensory perspective can also help when it comes to inspiration and motivation – for example, do you like messy crafts (clay, paper-mache, free painting) or neat and ‘contained’ crafts (embroidery, crochet, drawing etc). What brings most joy? Do you like instructions? Or just permission to be totally free, expressive and make it up as you go along? Do you like working in 3d and making/crafting projects or do you prefer arty and experimental with paper and pencil, paint or watercolour? It’s totally OK to stick within you or your child’s zone of preference if it will feel more joyful and motivate you to create! And equally, if you feel like a challenge would be more motivating, choose something that you don’t usually choose naturally – for example, if you’re usually not too keen on getting a bit messy – choose something like paper-mache!
The last tip I would share is to celebrate successes! This can also be just managing to set some time aside to create, rather than creating a masterpiece! Sharing your creations can often be really energising, and it’s totally ok to share them with one or two trusted people. Even though sharing widely is normalised through social media and the internet, it really can be just as nourishing and inspiring to share our moments of crafty joy with nearest and dearest, especially if they enjoy creating too and value the creative exchange.
In my experience, there can be a kind of cyclical link between inspiration and creative energy and often where there is one, the other can soon follow, given some gentle nurturing, and sometimes just the tiniest bit of planning… Wishing you plenty of simple and easy, happy crafty moments this summer!
© 2021 Abigail Cole, find more creative ideas at Abigail’s website Forgetful Fairy Art Studio.
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