It’s no secret that the world of arts and crafts is nothing new to the UK. We are a nation of ‘makers’, turning our hands to all kinds of creative pursuits that take our fancy. This can be anything, from fairly ambitious home improvement projects such as finding a way to cover exposed pipework, to something as simple as creating our own greetings cards or decorative seashell jars. It all counts as being arts and crafts. We enjoy it, we get something out of it, and at the end, we have something to be proud of (hopefully). And this year, in the seven weeks from March 23, there was a sudden surge of arty and crafty activity across the UK.
If there’s one word that adequately describes 2020 so far, it is ‘unprecedented’. The alarming spread of the SARS-CoV-2 disease, now referred to as Covid19, took the world by surprise. It was unprecedented, and nobody knew how to react. Politics aside, the UK government had an unenviable task of dealing with something it had never faced before. Eventually, the country was placed under lockdown. The majority of people who were not considered ‘key workers’ faced an extended, and enforced, stay at home. Suddenly, there was a lot of free time.
And so, people began to find ways of filling that time; daily fitness routines via Youtube, learning a new language, tidying up the home and garden – a whole range of different projects, tasks, hobbies and pastimes, all designed to fill that space usually occupied by other things, such as work, school, socialising, travelling and so on. Parents of children who were suddenly deprived of the joys of a structured school day not only had the task of occupying and entertaining themselves, but they also had to seek ways to ensure the kids received some form of education and be entertained and occupied. It was new ground for most people. And millions of them turned to arts and crafts for help.
As so many stores were closed, online sales boomed. Outlets such as Hobbycraft experienced a 200% increase in sales over the lockdown period. People discovered, or rediscovered, the joy of painting, sketching, knitting. Kids revelled in ‘messy play’, some of which actually ended up on the paper, producing bright blotches that resembled rainbows, to be displayed in countless windows in praise of the hardworking NHS staff and carers.
Thousands of homes up and down the UK witnessed some kind of improvement, from fancy new shutters on the windows to reupholstered sofas. New skills were learned or enhanced. People took pride in their achievements. And to an extent that has continued beyond the lockdown.
It has long been known that engaging in creative arts or learning a craft is beneficial to mental health. This has been proven to be true during this ‘unprecedented’ time. There was a palpable air of genuine concern, or even of fear, in the early stages of the covid19 pandemic. With typical stoic stubbornness, we are slowly learning to adapt, whilst hoping that it will all blow over and things can ‘get back to normal’. As to what ‘normal’ is, we still don’t really know.
But in those strange, worrying days of lockdown, we kept our heads by getting out the craft boxes, scraps of material, knitting needles and balls of yarn. We dragged easels from the attic, extracted paint boxes from the dark recesses of the garage, and dusted off sewing machines. More craft was crafted and more art was created between March 23 to June 23 this year than ever before. We may have done this initially to kill time, but we loved it. It not only filled our days, but it lifted our spirits. It gave us renewed interest in life. And it gave us hope for the future.
There are many lessons to be learned from this ‘covid19 era’, and one of them is the importance of arts and crafts. We must take care to ensure that our creative side is nurtured and encouraged. We need to inspire our children to discover the benefits and pleasures of producing art or crafting things for themselves.
For the ability to be creative is a truly unique facet; it’s what makes us human – says Lauren from A2bCrafts