How my curiosity for craft and workshops changed my life
Updated: Jun 6
“So, what’s your next project?”
This has become a more common question I get asked when I meet my friends these days. I feel a small sense of pride, because my hobby has somewhat shaped my identity, and my friends now know me as the one who does all these random / diverse craft workshops / projects.
Beyond my identity, this hobby has also shaped my values in life (and also offered a number of opportunities to ponder about the parallels between craft and life, but that’s another story). What originally started off as a casual hobby to try many different things, turned out to become a journey of self-discovery about what matters to me.
The impact on my life and values can be synthesised in three main areas:
1. I am more aware of, and better appreciate effort that goes into the things I own
In the past, it was easy to just buy the cheapest, most value-for-money item, and accumulate many of them (especially when on sale). Things that were cheap must have been easy to produce, right?
Well, not really, from my newfound experience.
A simple piece of clothing started from a design, which then required a pattern to be drafted, before fabric pieces could be cut, and then sewn together. And that fabric, it had to be woven from raw materials.
That piece of furniture started off with a tree, which had to be logged and processed into wooden pieces, which had to be shaped into the right pieces and angles to fit into the final product. That required planning, to ensure the ergonomics of the piece can support the whatever it needs to hold when it now lives a new life as furniture.
All the physical effort invested to travish the wood for a curved underside of the table top, and all the sawdust generated from hours of sanding to make the surface smooth – explains why this wooden table is so special to me!
These many steps all represent resources, and effort, put into the product we finally purchase and use. How many of us stop to appreciate this? Often, we assume machines produce everything, but there continue to be many steps where humans and other natural resources contributed to the journey, and every item has its own story.
And with that awareness, I have come to love everything I own a little bit more, and feel the need to show that love and care to each item. Which leads me to the next realisation.
2. Imperfections make something special, and when something breaks down, it’s worth the effort to fix it
We’ve all had the experience when something got scratched, or went a little out of shape – it means it isn’t perfect anymore, and the instinct is to discard and replace.
Through my experience, I have come to appreciate the story and effort behind them, and come to see imperfections as part of the item’s character.
I’ve had a number of occasions at workshops, where I made a mistake and caused an imperfection to appear in my work. Those moments started off as somewhat heartbreaking (the first few times it happened to me), but there was also a sense of wanting to salvage the item that I had already put so much effort into.
Funny and slightly sad that I embossed my initials upside down on one side of my leather sandals
Part of the mouth of the vase got broken when removing the mould of my concrete vase
My beloved resin & wood pendant cracked a little, because I didn’t drill the hole on top properly, and when I fit the screw eye in, the tension caused the resin to crack over time (the difference between creations of a professional, versus someone who did it the first time!)
Some of them still bear the scars of imperfections, but these make my projects truly unique to me.
Which is the same philosophy I am starting to have for other items I own. When they get a little damaged, the first question I ask is – can we fix it? Funnily, that’s the approach my dad has been taking his entire life, but I valued convenience over responsibility (to these items) to fully appreciate what he was doing.
I’ve come to learn that whatever isn’t perfect, can also be beautiful, and worth protecting. In fact, there’s a philosophy, Wabi-Sabi, that embraces the beauty of imperfection. That’s such an important life value not just for objects, but life around us, too. And I’ve also grown to love my birthmark on my face so much, that I requested that it not be concealed when I was taking wedding photographs ❤
That’s me, my bruise-like birthmark, and our hand-made wedding bands ❤
3. I don’t need to own many items to be happy
I noticed that after I make something of my own, I feel a lot more attached to it – it’s almost like having your own child, where you want to give that item more attention and care, and share with others the joy you have when using it.
Been wearing these shirts (which I took from my husband’s wardrobe and added my own embroidery on them) a little more often in my recent wardrobe rotation
I also realized that my desire to shop and buy new things have reduced over time – sure, there’s the occasional allure of scrolling through the Taobao app, or some of the fashion brands that inspire me, but more often than not, I find myself feeling less drawn to shopping compared to before.
Instead, I find myself looking out for new experiences, new workshops / DIY kits, so that I can learn more about the story behind a different item. I’ve also taken to upcycling, and enjoy finding project ideas to work on something I already have to improve it, and give the item a new lease of life. These projects mainly involve clothing (for now), but the recycled pallet wood table I made was also a really meaningful piece of furniture that has also caught the eye of many friends!
So what’s next for me on this journey? I can’t quite say – it feels like the values inculcated in me translates into a more environmentally-friendly perspective on my lifestyle. I am starting to identify some patterns in projects that excite me, but let’s see how things continue to develop. Will I discover any new epiphanies – I am keeping my mind open!