MORE AND MORE PEOPLE ARE PUTTING DOWN THEIR SMART PHONES IN FAVOUR OF LEARNING A CREATIVE SKILL FROM YESTERYEAR. BUT WHAT’S BEHIND THIS STEP BACK IN TIME AND SHOULD WE ALL BE DOING IT?
It’s Tuesday morning and there’s excited chatter in the workshop.
Students at work benches inspect each other’s handiwork with great interest. Proudly they point out the finer details of their piece: the grain of the wood, the clean joins, the smooth finish.
In the air there’s the distinct aroma of timber, varnish and freshly brewed coffee.
This is where they meet week after week, slowly and with great care and attention to detail working on their latest creation. Today it’s guitars, cellos and ukuleles. Once that’s done it may be a simple jewellery box, a new coffee table, or an impressive statement chair destined to be handed down for generations. For the students who flock to Studio Dubbeld’s woodworking classes, the appeal is mutual. It’s their chance to explore their creative sides and learn an invaluable skill.
“We get mostly beginners but there is a broad spectrum of people — creative type people who are looking for an outlet,” owner Joel Dubbeld says.
“Most commonly it’s people who have always liked the idea of woodwork, but they’ve just never gone for it. They’ve pursued careers in different things and then come back to the idea of learning how to do it.”
Apart from a few minor carpentry jobs around the house, Scott Parsons had never done any complicated woodwork. Today, he’s almost finished building his own prized guitar after a few short months of learning the ropes.
“I’ve been playing guitar my whole life and I always wanted to make my own and learn about the process, the complicated chiselling and planing, and choosing the right woods,” he said.
“The quality of the guitars that come out of here are even better than the ones that come out of the shops because of the level of detail you can put it because it’s not made by machine, it’s made by hand.”
With modern technology increasingly nudging its way into every aspect of our lives, there’s been some concern that traditional skills like woodwork would disappear. But instead they’re flourishing. A quick search on Google or Facebook for any old-school hobby and you’ll get results for popular classes in your area and YouTube tutorials for everything from knitting, sewing and crochet to gardening, baking, calligraphy, pottery, and arts and crafts.
While most of us naturally gravitate towards more passive kinds of leisure activities like watching hour after hour of Netflix, psychologists say pursuing a hobby, especially one with a creative element, can be hugely beneficial, not only for our mental health but also our social and professional lives.
Why? Well for starters, working on a creative project allows you to switch off from your day job.
You’re less inclined to be checking emails when you’re off the clock or stressing about that big presentation.
It means you can reset your brain and give yourself a fresh look at things. This can also be hugely motivating because you tend to get less bogged down with the day-to-day monotony.
Going to a class to learn a new skill can do wonders for you socially. You’re not only meeting new people and making new connections, but you’ve also just been handed a whole bunch of new topics for conversation with friends.
Since creativity is kind of like a muscle, the more you work it the stronger it becomes. Increasing your creative abilities means you also improve your problem-solving skills, which come in handy in all walks of life.
For people who have already found their hidden passion in a pastime that could be dismissed as being old fashioned, there’s also the added bonus of having a final product that you can cherish for years to come. That’s a notion that’s also back in vogue as we increasingly stray away from the cheap and mass-produced in favour of highquality, handcrafted items.
“It’s interesting how society’s come to a point where we’re focusing more on grassroots type things. I think that’s an approach we see in things like food and in learning old skills. Hopefully that throwaway mentality is leaving,” Dubbeld says.
“A lot of people come in and say ‘I’m fed up with buying cheap stuff that doesn’t last.’ We throw it away and buy a new one. They just want to work with their hands and have that satisfaction of having accomplished something.”