The other ways of meditating in the 21st century: occupying your hands with crafts to clear your mind
There are barely a few minutes left until seven in the afternoon on a Monday and for Ana Rodríguez, a 32-year-old photographer at an advertising agency, the two hours ahead of her have become the “most anticipated creative moment of the week”. . For the past two months she has been a student of modeling courses taught by Susana López, the artist and artisan behind Lola Verona, a ceramics studio in the central La Latina neighborhood in Madrid. “It was very difficult for me to let go and forget about work, so I looked for an activity that would allow me to continue using my hands and in which my mind could disconnect”, she explains as she busies herself looking for all the necessary materials to start creating a small vase. .
More and more people are signing up for ceramic, embroidery, sewing or painting workshops with which they seek to alleviate the stress and anxiety caused by a life glued to their mobile phones —in Spain, the average person spends doing scroll on his device is five hours a day, according to the report Rolling State of 2022— through an artisan activity that relaxes and that, in many cases, has the same benefits as meditation. “The tactile experience of clay and mud can be a meditative experience that causes a feeling of relaxation and well-being. The repetitive movements, even hypnotic, when shaping the clay calm the psyche and help us focus our perception on the sensations that touch gives us”, explains Raquel Tomé López, health psychologist, psychotherapist and director of the Guía de Psicoterapia Center. “By focusing attention in this way, the disconnection of intrusive thoughts, mind and worries is favored. As you focus on creation, it forces you to be in the present moment, in the here and now”, adds the expert.
That connection with the here and now is what got Cata Echegaray hooked on ceramics 10 years ago. Founder of Bonitos Pottery, a workshop in the heart of the Barcelona neighborhood of Poblenou, the artist offers classes in modeling and introduction to enamel, as well as giving space to other creators. “I was a very young mother, without friends who were at the same time; I suffered postpartum depression and lived very stressed, without knowing how to manage many things. When I set up my first workshop at home, I realized that if I liked ceramics so much it’s because it made me forget about everything,” says the 37-year-old Catalan, who explains over the phone that one of her first students recently confessed to her that her classes had “saved” her from a depression. With that idea of well-being in mind that it brought her and her student, Echegaray is now launching a first intensive course entitled ceramic to heal which will be held next Saturday, March 11, together with the transpersonal therapist Cristina Álvarez, in which ceramics will be used as a “healing tool for emotions”, according to the workshop information.
The rise of crafts, a passing fad?
Susana López, who started her classes seven years ago and brand Lola Verona, considers that ceramics was already in fashion before the pandemic, but that the confinement of those months has finished consolidating it. Her best thermometer is in the exponential growth of her business: she started her classes in her own home and the number of students allowed her to open her space in December 2022. The young woman has already filled her modeling workshops on Monday afternoons , Thursday and Friday and a new one is going to open on Wednesday mornings, from 12:00 to 14:00.
Jean Dahrier, painter and founder of Arts & Wine, a studio in Barcelona that accompanies oil painting with wine classes, and which has just opened a new office in Madrid, considers that the pandemic has changed the desire to do activities in the that, in addition to exploring creativity, you can socialize, share with friends or make new friends: “Our audience is purely local people, and we started before the pandemic with many tourists and always with sessions in English, but now we always do classes in Spanish or Catalan”.
“What many students come to tell us is: ‘I don’t get caught in another confinement without knowing how to do anything at home, and I’m tired of making bread.’ The speaker is Julia de Juanes, owner of La Laborteca, where they teach knitting, embroidery and sewing classes in the heart of Madrid, between Plaza de Ópera and Calle Mayor. “We live in a digital age and people need tangential things: here they take a piece of fabric, see how a project is started, think about what they are going to do, imagine it until they achieve it and try it on,” explains De Juanes. While she explains that in winter the studio has more than 100 students each month and that the intensive courses fill up as soon as they are announced, she receives and greets everyone who comes by name, as if they were the great hall of her house.
In this room divided in two by a wall, Sonia, one of the students in the sewing workshop, shares a work table with Rober, who is knitting some cushions for the house; with Helen, who is finishing off a blouse; with Ana, who threads the thread to finish a dress for her daughter; and with Aurora, who is assembling the pieces of a shirt. Everyone works at their own pace, under the supervision of Begoña Plaza, the teacher. “At home my grandmother sewed, she did not do it professionally, but she defended herself. I didn’t learn from her, so in the middle of the pandemic I said to myself: ‘If another one comes war He doesn’t catch me without knowing how to do anything’. Also, since I needed to get out of the computer and do manual things, I chose to sew”, the young woman says, while she cuts out the pattern for her dress.
Another of the benefits of working with your hands, in addition to learning to create something from scratch, is to cultivate creativity, but also patience. “Manual activities help you to be spontaneous, to play and have fun,” says neuropsychologist Raquel Tomé López. “We live in a highly technological society, based on immediacy, on permanent stimulation, on distraction, and manual work helps you connect with the process of things, which take time and process”, she adds. “The preparation of the clay, the firing of the pieces, the glazing can take hours or days, so it is a good way of educating ourselves to acquire a good dose of frustration tolerance to see the result. Also to get out of the feeling of immediate gratification that is promoted so much today, where everything has to be now or for now”, concludes the expert.
“In my first class one of my pieces did not come out, so I decided that nothing was wrong, I started it from scratch. I told myself: ‘I’m going to learn little by little’. In the end, it’s very liberating to see that you don’t have to go out the first time.” Marta Borràs, a 28-year-old architect, a student of modeling classes at Lola Verona, has learned in this workshop that not everything she does in her life has to be something productive, that hanging out without more pretensions is also beneficial. “Not everything you create has to be a work of art. I have found that I really enjoy it when I relax and am not as productive.”
A social club more than an embroidery class
Anton Chekhov said that writing was like embroidering, that through writing you were weaving a story, as with embroidery. This phrase by the Russian playwright is remembered by Pilar, one of the students in the embroidery class at La Laborteca. She started embroidering after becoming a widow two years ago. Her husband, who embroidered very well, advised her every day to do so, knowing the nervous character that characterized his wife. “She had the bad idea, at the age of 50, to die. So I decided to give it a try to see if it would really relax me. I had one hand in front of the other, I wasn’t good at it, but afterwards I began to relax and enjoy the atmosphere here, where you feel at home. And in the end things come out of you that you never thought you could do, ”she muses as she barely looks up from her rack.
As Pilar suggests, another of the benefits, probably more invisible, that manual work in a group hides, is that of socializing and making friends, in a society that is experiencing an epidemic of loneliness. “This looks more like a social club than a studio where sewing and embroidery classes are given. People come, meet for two hours and sit in a safe place”, admits Julia de Juanes. This is the case of Marina, who attends the same embroidery classes as Pilar with one of her two daughters, Lucía, 21 years old. When her aunt, who was passionate about this discipline, died, she told herself that it was time for her to know how to do it. And her mother, who gives her a hand in everything, including financially, paid for the course she signed up for. “We talk about everything, it serves as therapy, we laugh, we cry, we fight… Many other things arise around embroidery.” Probably deeper than a new coffee mug, a painting that adorns the living room, an embroidered blouse or bag.