The Power of Craft
"You can't use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have."
- Maya Angelou
People gazing up at, admiring and photographing the beautiful and heartfelt Toronto Love Project quilted banners (above left) gently swaying from the rafters of the North York Centre, provide tangible evidence of the healing power of craft. In the wake of the April 23, 2018 van attacks, Toronto quilter Berene Campbell invited quilters worldwide to make long colourful banners stitched with messages of hope, peace and love. Quilters responded from as far away as Australia, Texas, Oregon, and Vancouver, "to give the community a boost," and their handmade banners will be transmitting their messages of comfort in the North York Centre until September 8, 2018. Also at the North York Centre, at the west end, hang more lovely handstitched banners (above right) by the members of the North York Arts' Legacy Collective. The Legacy Collective is a North York-based senior engagement initiative, made up of individuals with diverse backgrounds and language. The doves on the Legacy Collective's banners symbolize those who died, and the butterflies represent those who were injured.
There are many opportunities at Toronto Public Library to discover for yourself the power of craft, and that "Working with your hands is good for your soul." At the newly-reopened North York Central Library, Toronto Public Library's first Fabrication Studio is a unique creation and learning space which offers classes and sewing, serger and embroidery machines to create textile projects, and a vinyl cutter for artistic projects. There are also several craft programs for adults, teens and children offered at many of Toronto Public Library's branches.
When I mend something, I find it fascinating to figure out how someone else made an object, and then to try and replicate their technique. Mending really is a specialized kind of craft which thriftily keeps items both useful and out of landfill, and you can bring your broken items to a Repair Café at College/Shaw Library on September 15 or at Fairview Library on September 29. If you are looking for something new to make, and enjoy browsing through craft magazines for ideas as much as I do, RBdigital has many titles to provide inspiration for your next craft project. You and your family can also see firsthand how people have crafted through the ages, and at the same time explore Toronto's museums and cultural attractions, for free with a Sun Life Financial Museum + Arts Pass.
I was interested to read that scientific studies have shown that there is a neurological basis for how hobbies and activities relate to health and well-being. Engaging in such activities as arts and crafts stimulates the mind, reduces the effects of stress-related diseases and slows cognitive decline. There is a great connection between creating with your hands and calming the mind. As a worried-looking customer once said to me when she was looking for crochet books, "Crocheting keeps my mind off things."
Craft can also have a strong persuasive power for making a difference for change in the world. Cleve Jones conceived and created a unique healing vision - The AIDS Memorial Quilt. Now larger than 25 football fields and containing over 80,000 names, this quilt has united millions in the fight against AIDS. Knitters, too, have a long tradition of helping others, whether it be making afghans for refugees, mittens for the homeless, socks for soldiers, or preemie caps for AIDS babies.
Even during such dire circumstances as imprisonment, craft can work its magic power. I see the result each time I admire the fine craftsmanship of the needlework eyeglass case I bought from a Fine Cell Work pop-up shop in London. I also think about that charity, which teaches British prisoners needlework skills to boost their self-worth and foster hope. Closer to home, you may view prisoners' wooden boxes at Toronto Reference Library's Marilyn & Charles Baillie Special Collections Centre on the fifth floor. These boxes were hand carved and inscribed in 1838 by Toronto Gaol (jail) prisoner Joseph Milborn, as he was awaiting trial for his participation in the Rebellion of 1837-38.