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Creativity, young people and mental health

As a teacher of creativity it was really disheartening this week to hear in the news that humanities degrees in Australia are set to double in cost over the next few years. The (total nonsense) logic is that it will encourage young people to consider more vocational subjects. But of course it will only disadvantage those that can’t afford to pay for more expensive courses and so the arts, society and the country will be utterly deprived of some of the most brilliant minds available. The education system has started recognising that teaching children through creative thinking develops the laterally thinking strategies that are desperately needed in a world that is changing so rapidly. If you’ve never had the treat of listening to Ken Robinson talking about schools and creativity check it out here.

Nurturing creativity

Here in Australia we’re getting used to the idea of going back to school and work. During lockdown we’ve been at home with three teenagers. I can’t tell you how much painting, drawing and sewing has been going on around here. The kids have grown up around drawing and painting like its as natural as breathing and it has helped enormously during this time. But I don’t want to paint a false picture (excuse the pun) of some Brady Bunch family here. We argue as much as the next family and believe me we’ve been through our share of difficulties with regard to mental health. And although creative activity may seem trivial and silly to some people it’s like a backbone sometimes. It can been an escape or mendative, for pure enjoyment or for professional fulfillment. We certainly can’t do without it.

Mental Health

Whether it’s music, sewing, drawing and painting or dramatic arts I really believe that creative activity is valuable to our mental health, but particularly for young people. I’ve taught art in many ways for many years and seeing the satisfaction and sense of pride that young people get out of creativity is beautiful. Depriving young people the opportunity to pursue what they love because the course is too expensive is appalling and so wrong.

Here are a couple of really excellent resources for young people with regard to mental health.

Headspace (Australia)

The Black Dog Institute (Australia)

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More sewing

Face masks with wire!

So life is opening up again and it feels weird and worrying so this weekend I hid behind my sewing machine. That’s not strictly true, we did have drinks with a few friends and of course I ferried the kids around but I did spend a large amount of time sewing and it was great! I started with making a few super pretty masks with pockets in the back for an extra filter and pipe-cleaner wires across the nose for good fit. They’re beautiful but honestly, I’m still not really sure what to do with them. We don’t travel on public transport at the moment but when the kids return to school and university they’ll probably need them. There are many many articles out there about making your own masks but I particularly liked reading Happy DIY Home because it’s so comprehensive and practicle.

My pattern designs on actual fabric!

Next in the sewing project queue is pyjama making! The absolute best thing in the world for an illustrator is seeing your own work come to life on products, whether that getting first editions of children’s books or seeing note books, paper, cards or fabrics printed. Last week some of my own fabric arrived from Next State (a digital fabric printer in Melbourne I use. They’re awesome) and I was joyful! It’s from my African Discoveries collection. The colours are a touch more vivid than I planned. And that’s why you really have to do a print test! But then again sometimes mistakes are happy mistakes and lead to bright and cheerful pj’s and you can’t complain about that. A few weeks ago I bought a pyjamas pattern from the fabulous Style Arc and I’m itching to get going with it.

A quilt in a day!

I am shocking for getting diverted into other projects if the mood grabs me. I do all the grown-up things like making lists and plans. But on a rainy Sunday if one of my kids says ‘Can I make a quilt?’ my head spins and it’s ‘Ooh, a shiny thing!’ So that’s what happened yesterday. Literally no housework or meal prep was done by me. We planned, tacked and sewed until a gorgeous quilt was made. I’d like to say that I guided my daughter and taught her and that she did loads of the sewing, but that would be a total lie. She designed it, chose the fabric and helped me tack it. But honestly when it came to the sewing I hovered over her painfully correcting her until she gave up and I did it.

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My pattern designs on cushions

My cushions arrived from the seamstress! I can’t tell you what a thrill it is to see my own work on finished, beautifully sewn cushions. My style will continue to evolve but I will always love these.