As a kid, I always loved arts and crafts: origami, painting rocks, making fake flowers from tissue paper. Once, for Christmas, I gave my parents two full boxes of homemade cards, because I couldn’t settle on making just one card. Even now, though I have far less time to play around with paints, I still find it so relaxing and rewarding to spend an hour every couple weeks making something for fun. I definitely don’t consider myself an artist — my creations are nothing worth writing home about — and I find inspiration for all my projects online or through far more creative friends. However, simply the act of engaging with arts and crafts relaxes me. Here are some of my favourite creative projects and events at U of T that have allowed me to fit arts and crafts into my university schedule. As the holidays are coming up, keep in mind that all of these will also make wonderful gifts.
My Paint-Chip Calendar
I got the idea for this online and decided to make it when my boyfriend was re-painting his room. We went to Home Depot to pick out colours and I took home several strips of paint samples. Getting an Ikea frame was the next step, and once all the materials were in place, the assembly only took a couple hours. It was fun to play around with the colour patterns and now, all I need is a whiteboard marker to update my wall calendar each month.
Paper Beads Jewelry
All you need are old magazines, cut into strips that you can roll up around a toothpick. Fasten them with a little glue and string them on yarn or thread to make unique bracelets or necklaces. I once spent the entire winter holidays making bowls of these beads that I gave to my friends for Christmas.
I know of several knitting clubs on campus as well as drop-in knitting sessions, such as “Vic Knits“. At these sessions, all materials are provided, and beginners are welcome. Personally, I don’t knit, but I do crochet, and it’s always fun to drop in and focus on nothing else for an hour a week. I find this an activity that requires enough concentration to keep you occupied but is also easy enough to be relaxing. The best part is that you end up with something both beautiful and useful.
I’ve written about scrapbooking before as one of my favourite self-care activities. It’s a great way to relive memories and also makes for a sweet and personal present. Scrapbooking doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to sit down and complete a full-size scrapbook at once either; I’ve made mini-books for friends or put together just one full-size page every couple months. There’s so much room for creativity here, and you can do anything you want with it.
The act of painting is so relaxing that I sometimes just paint an entire canvas over in one colour (and then allow it to dry and repeat the process!). Canvases and paints can be purchased at Dollarama for fairly cheap prices, though I’ve done most of my paintings at events on campus where materials are provided for free. For example, two or three times each year, the Victoria College Commuter Dons host “Art Attack,” where anyone can come and relax with a big selection of art supplies, including paints and canvases — definitely worth keeping an eye out for similar events from other student groups too.
Just last week, the Vic Commuter Dons put together this event, not for the first time. Provided with paid postage and fancy stationary, students were encouraged to write letters to friends, family, or oneself. Though letter-writing isn’t entirely a craft, it was still fun to enjoy all the pretty papers (bonus if there are stickers too) and take a moment to reach out or reflect.
Hart House Weekly Wellness Program: Get Crafty Thursdays
As part of Hart House’s Weekly Wellness program, Get Crafty is a free drop-in crafts workshop that takes place every Thursday from 11 to 1 in the Reading Room. This week, in just half an hour, I made gift bags from old magazines and newspapers. In the past, I’ve made a vision board and little notebooks as well. All the projects are simple – plus lots of help and all materials are readily provided.