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Thoughts on the Health Benefits of Creativity

Earlier this week on our Facebook page, we posted a link to Why Quilting Improves Your Health in Ways Even Exercise Can’t Manage, health study extolling the benefits of quilting (they also refer to other creative endeavors and hobbies) and creativity.

“The University of Glasgow team concluded that all hobbies — ‘from reading to train spotting’ — should be looked at for their mental and physical benefits. They interviewed quilters and found the activity helped their cognitive, creative and emotional well-being, particularly among older people. The use of bright colours was ‘uplifting’, the activity distracted from the stress of work, and quilting offered challenges such as maths and geometry. It also increased confidence and had an important social side. Professor Jacqueline Atkinson, co-author of the study and a quilter herself for five decades, said: ‘Doing something that engages you and that you enjoy is key. As adults, we don’t often do enough that includes fun and play.”

Interviews of quilters found that the hobby “helped their cognitive, creative and emotional well-being…[that] the use of bright colors was ‘uplifting,’ the activity distracted from the stress of work, and … offered challenges such as maths and geometry. It also increased confidence and had an important social side.”

As I have transitioned to my “Dream” business of Artistic Artifacts, I find that my time to create is very limited. If I continue to let the paperwork control my life, the “dream” business will turn into the nightmare. I have to schedule time to create, make sure I touch some fiber and have a portable project. I get cranky, and more, if I ignore these things.

With a Little Help From My Friends, art quilt by Judy Gula

The quilting world specifically has broadened my circle of friends across the country, and the support, encouragement and exchange of information between members in this community of artist business has been unmatched in any other industry I have worked in (and there have been several)! That quilting keeps me healthy can only be enforced by the care of my friends. I created the quilt pictured above for Donna DeSoto’s Inspired by the Beatles: An Art Quilt Challenge, choosing the song titled A Little Help From my Friends. It illustrates how important creativity and friendships are to me.

In this blog posing I’m sharing some thoughts from creative friends about the study’s findings, and we’d love to know what you think too — leave us a comment below, or email us, especially if you’re including a photo of your art (please do, and let us know if we can share it). Comments or emails received by Monday, August 3 will be eligible for a random prize drawing: I’m putting together a little surprise creativity project starter package!

Fiber art by Kathlyn “Kat” Avila-Reyes

Kathlyn “Kat” Avila-Reyes (art quilt pictured above and below; visit her website for more) is an amazing artist! She says, “I’ve always enjoyed gathering, touching, and placing bits and pieces of fabric together; it’s cathartic! I especially love vintage fabrics that have come from an old dress or blouse…every small scrap of fabric holds a memory, it’s a small treasure with a lineage of times gone by. Placing each little piece together is like a puzzle of goodness, of ‘I remember when….’ or an imaginative time of dolls, tea parties, and aunties stitching hems. I get totally lost in the stories my fabrics tell, they are as comforting as a grandmother’s hand and hot tea on a cold night. What can get any better than that?”

Fiber art by Kathlyn “Kat” Avila-Reyes

Fiber and mixed media artist, author and teacher Diane Herbort thinks that one big benefit to being involved in quilting and other types of fiber arts is “I always have something to look forward to. It is an incentive to get all the ‘regular’ work done. You could say it is the nice colorful carrot dangling from the stick that is the drudgery of life and work.”

Creating as a form of motivation…I can get behind that concept! Diane’s art quilt Reverie is pictured below, consisting of painted and printed paper, cotton fabrics and metallic trims and machine stitching (click photo for a larger view). Visit Diane’s website for more of her lovely work.

Diane Herbort’s art quilt Reverie

“I believe friendships are formed through shared experiences,” writes Cyndi Souder of Moonlighting Quilts. “The friends I’ve made through quilting are the core of my social circle. I care about them, I rely on them, I treasure them. When I lost my sister to ovarian cancer, my quilting friends kept me afloat. When I need opinions, help, or good conversations, they are there. They are my tribe. I would not have found these amazing friends if we did not have quilting in common.”

Pictured below is a celebration quilt Cyndi created, a portrait of her sister Vicki that is titled Memories.

Memories by Cyndi Souder, Moonlighting Quilts

On Saturday, August 8 Cyndi will be teaching Designing Meaningful Memory Quilts at our shop, where you can learn to draft an original quilt design that pays tribute to the memories of the original owners of treasured linens, clothes, photographs, etc.

“The happy dance I do when my quilt project
is coming together is far more beneficial than
the exercise tapes gathering dust on my shelf.”

The above quote is from Chris Vinh of StitchesnQuilts. Okay, so now who out there is going to cross-stitch that into a sampler for me?

Mahyar cat batik panel quilt by Chris Vinh

Chris does amazing quilting and fiber art — visit her Etsy site to view. Above is a quilting and beaded batik panel by Mahyar. Chris has created so many beautiful samples for me to display in the shop and show off how creatively these materials can be used.

Kaleidescope of Colors, first prize, group quilts, 2015 Quilt Odyssey

“Art has a great effect on my mental, spiritual and physical health,” writes Etta Stewart. “I have learned that I need that time each day to focus on something other than daily living, and the other is to take myself on an art date. Last week, my art date happened to be going to Quilt Odyssey with friends. I wanted to share the experience of seeing our Blue ribbon with other quilter friends.” (Etta and her friends won First Place in the Group Quilt category for Kaleidoscope of Colors, pictured above; detail below.)

Detail, Kaleidescope of Colors, first prize, group quilts, 2015 Quilt Odyssey

Etta shared that she and her friends spent a total of seven hours at the quilt show, between viewing the quilts and perusing the merchants mall. Obviously that counts as physical exercise too! Visit Etta’s Pinterest boards to see some of the many ways she fills her creative well.

“Managing stress isn’t always easy for me,” shares Liz Kettle of Textile Evolution. “First born, over achiever, go, go goer that sort of says it all. The best medicine I have found is what I call Stitch Meditations. I tried for years to do ‘real’ meditation. It just never took and I always felt like I was doing it wrong. But, I knew I needed a stress reducer that was simple and didn’t take much time to do. I love both machine and hand stitching and I find both very relaxing. However the tactile nature of hand stitch won over and I started creating simple small collages using only hand stitch.”

Stitch Meditation by Liz Kettle of Textile Evolution

One of Liz’ stitch meditations is pictured above — visit her website gallery to see many more. “These meditations are really important to my mental health not only because I slow down and enjoy the meditation,” says Liz, “but they give me a sense of connection to my art on a daily basis…even when life has me otherwise occupied.”

NiYa Costley, a friend from Judy’s Altered Minds, (JAMs) notes that “I can’t quilt when I am upset — spend too much time with the seam ripper if I do. I can crochet though. Get lots done because I move even faster than normal when I am upset….and it does serve to calm my nerves.” Below, some of her beautiful crochet work.

Crochet by Niya Costley

“I also will do Zentangle as a way to calm and allow my mind to freely roam,” says NiYa, who feels that her membership in JAMS has allowed her “to meet new artists who do different kind of things that I had never considered before, like Kinetic Quilting, and entering juried shows like the recent Mixed Media show at Del Ray Artisans Gallery.” NiYa has tons of photos of her work on her PhotoBucket site.

Please leave us a comment below (or email us) with your thoughts on creativity and health. Remember, comments or emails received by Monday, August 3 will be eligible for a random prize drawing.

8 Comments to “Thoughts on the Health Benefits of Creativity”

  1. Wendy Sittner

    As a mental health therapist, my role is to support people through some of the most difficult times in their lives. I use art as a way to take care of my own mental health outside of work. One way I prevent “compassion fatigue” is by balancing the stories I hear at my job with lighter-themed artwork for clients who commission my work. Creating mixed media pieces about festive occasions like weddings and family vacations gives me the necessary reminder that life gives us a range of experiences rather than all highs or all lows.
    https://www.etsy.com/shop/MemoriesInMixedMedia?ref=hdr_shop_menu

    Reply
    • Judy Post author

      Wendy, thanks for all that you, and other therapists out there do — vital work! Glad that creating your beautiful art gives you the reminder about life’s range…we all need to keep that in mind!

      Reply
  2. Martha Irish

    Color is a vibration. We remember that from elementary school when we learned that each color has a different wavelength. These wavelengths are vital to the physical and emotional health of the body. Reiki therapists and other energy workers, for example, channel energy to the patient to activate the patient’s own natural healing processes.
    But back to art. We can stimulate our own natural healing processes by surrounding ourselves with color. Some days we might need the wavelengths of bright warm colors. Other days we are drawn to the cool colors. Maybe that’s why quilters and other artists seem to be working on many projects at one time!!!!

    Reply
  3. Susan Haftel

    A friend recently asked me if I ever stopped working. I did stop working about six years ago. Ever since I’ve been “arting” every day. It’s always been my passion to work with cloth, throw paint at “stuff,” build silly artifacts, and blend wire and bling. The tactile pleasure I get is similar to petting a dog or a cat, and the design work gives my brain the exercise it needs to function properly. My latest favorite art quilt actually made me enough money to pay tuition on more classes.

    Reply

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