March Meet the Maker

the challenge

During March I participated in the Instagram challenge, #marchmeetthemaker. Joanne Hawker started the challenge in 2016 with the aim of helping small businesses to share a bit more about themselves as makers, to tell the story behind their brand and give some insight into the hard work that goes into being an independent designer-maker.

The prompts were refreshed for 2017, ensuring it was engaging and relevant even if you took part in the first challenge last year. The free planner was really useful and helped you to think ahead about what you might post, especially if you needed to prepare an image.

Was it worthwhile?

I can be a bit hit and miss with my Instagram posts, so I took part for encouragement to post daily and also to connect with other makers out there.  The prompts really helped to think about what I do in a different way, and how I could share some of the more everyday elements of my practice with those on Instagram.

I’m pleased to say that the challenge helped me to gain more followers, reach a new audience with the hashtag #marchmeetthemaker, and raise my average number of ‘likes’ per post. I also have a better understanding of the types of post that engage with my audience. However, the best thing about it has been to see into the lives, motivations and studios of fellow makers; we really are an inspiring bunch of creatives.

Bath Knitting & Crochet Guild – Amigurumi

For the September session of the Bath Knitting & Crochet Guild Karina talked us through the history of knitting and crochet in Japan, and how this evolved into the craft known as amigurumi.

So, what is it?  Well, the name is made up of a combination of words: ami = knitted/crocheted, nuigurumi = stuffed doll, and together they make amigurumi. This gives you a few clues about how they’re made.  The other key elements of amigurumi creatures are that they must be SMALL and CUTE.

The term first appeared in 1951 and by 2006 amigurumi items were reported to be the most popular items sold on Etsy. This popularity isn’t reflected in the number of books on the subject, however if you put the term into Google you’ll get over 14 million results!

In Japan, ‘kawaii’ is the word used to denote how lovable, cute, or adorable something is and is ‘the quality of cuteness in the context of Japanese culture’ and this too gained popularity in the early 1950s. This love of things small and cute was promoted as a distraction from and to cover up the atrocities of the atomic bomb as Japan regrouped and reformed as a nation and a political power.

The way the Japanese use the skills of knitting and crocheting to create amigurumi are very different to the traditional, functional, uses in the West.  However, some of the first knitters in Japan were Samurai warriors who would make their own socks with individual toes to aid movement – which is very functional indeed.

After Karina’s introduction to all things amigurumi, it was time for us to have a go and there were many dragons, birds, bears and bunnies to choose from.  It was one of our quietest sessions ever as everyone was concentrating so hard on making tiny pieces or attempting a new technique. While the Japanese may have distracted themselves from the atomic bomb with the ‘kawaii-ness’ of the crafted creatures, I think perhaps the level of concentration required also helped to focus the mind!

Summer Wellbeing Challenge 2016

The Summer Wellbeing Challenge is an online engagement activity run by Creativity Works, to encourage a month of creativity and to champion the arts as a means of staying mentally healthy.

Each week in August had a different theme and a list of suggested activities.  You could choose one (or more) of the activities to engage with or come up with some ideas of your own linked to the theme.

Week 1 – Connect

The focus of the first week was to connect with people.  As I’m from New Zealand and live in the UK, I took this opportunity to re-connect with friends at home by sending a selection of postcards.

Selection of postcards from the V&A and Churchill's War Rooms

Selection of postcards from the V&A and Churchill’s War Rooms

Week 2 – Be Active

Small amounts of exercise have a great impact on your mood, and enhance mental wellbeing as well as the more obvious physical benefits.  I know this from first hand experience when a friend introduced me to running as a recent young widow in 2008.  Since then I’ve run many half marathons and still benefit from the meditative and mind calming effects of running.

Entrance to Ashton Court, photo taken while out running

Entrance to Ashton Court, photo taken while out running

Week 3 – Take Notice

The theme this week was all about slowing down and noticing things around you.  I ventured into Leigh Woods for a couple of hours and definitely enjoyed taking time to notice my surroundings.

Week 4 – Keep Learning

The Week 4 theme focussed on the benefits of continual learning, and how this can lead to increases in confidence, resilience, self-esteem and satisfaction.  I’d read about the new exhibition, Red, at the Museum of East Asian Art so headed out one lunch time to see what I could learn.

MEAA-exhibition-banner-AW-02-1

Week 5 – Give

The final summer wellbeing challenge was to give, mainly time and attention although other ways of giving also make us feel good.  As I was getting ready to jet off on holiday, I cheated a wee bit on this one and quickly got together a few things and dropped them off at a local charity store.

round up

I enjoyed the challenge and, admittedly, most of the tasks I picked are things I do or aim to do regularly anyway.  Participating in the #summerwellbeing challenge was a good reminder about why these activities are important and why I should continue to make time for them day to day.