Arts and Crafts for Recovery
by Wendy Baker
It all started when I was horseback riding
along a mountain trail. Suddenly a flock of birds flew out of the
reeds. My horse took off, and I fell from his back and landed hard.
Several weeks later I was in the recreational-therapy room of a large,
prestigious medical center. I had two broken legs and one broken arm,
yet I was humming as I painted a desert scene onto a ceramic coffee
cup. Sitting nearby a young man-the victim of a motorcycle crash-was
making a necklace of beads and leather.
Why, you might ask, were hospital patients creating Arts and Crafts
to help their recovery? The answer is simple. Arts and Crafts provide
patients with the opportunity to relax and stop fighting their pain.
It also allows them to feel a sense of pride and accomplishment in
their creation, and it improves their fine motor skills.
Crafts can be done by anyone. They give the people who are creating
them a common bond-something to talk about. Sometimes people even
develop a meaningful life-long hobby after learning an art in a therapeutic
Gayle Bluebird, coordinator of Altered States of the Arts, says “…
[Arts and Crafts] has the ability to transform us. People faced with
a life-threatening illness or adjusting to a traumatic disability
have found solace, strength and affirmation by using the creative
process to take an active role in their own healing.”
Several recent books that emphasize healing through Arts and Crafts
include Therapeutic Crafts: A Practical Approach, edited by
Cindy Johnson; Arts and Crafts for the Elderly by Evelyn Lowman;
and Crafts in Therapy and Rehabilitation by Margaret Drake.
Emily Kline, who works as a recreational
therapist at a trauma-recovery center in Los Angeles, says that generally:
young children finger paint or color posters
or more capable patients work with pre-cut wood and leather or
do oil painting or watercolors
can be for any age or ability, using a kiln at a local school,
community center, or company that makes ceramics
the elderly, Geriatric Resources, Inc. has developed adult coloring
books, scented stamp pads and dough-stampers
retailers sell Art and Crafts products for the purpose of recreational
therapy or for rehabilitation, but at one time or another you or
someone you know could be the unfortunate victim of a serious accident
or illness. Promoting the therapeutic value of Arts and Crafts as
gifts for ill or disabled family members and friends could increase
the purchase of ordinary Arts and Crafts products by this large,
socially useful market. Also, many Arts and Crafts products developed
for ill or disabled people-such as those listed on Abledata.com,
Geriatric-Resources.com and Reactivate.com-can also be enjoyed by
healthy people and could be successfully marketed to both populations
in Arts and Crafts stores and large toy stores.
The sense of pride and accomplishment that one feels after completing
an Arts and Crafts project lasts a lifetime. The ceramic coffee
cup that I made in the hospital sits on my desk and holds all my
favorite pens. Seeing it everyday is reassurance that the accident
is behind me, and it helps me to view that painful episode of my
life with a calm perspective.
Wendy Baker is a freelance writer living in Burbank, California.
In addition to Arts and Crafts, she also enjoys gardening, and is
expecting a bumper crop of watermelons this summer.