Play Hard

Creative medicine with natural materials

Local artist Gail Curry shows us how to immerse ourselves in creative activities to help ease stress - and entertain little ones!

Written by High Life North
Published 21.04.2020

By Gail Curry

If you’re feeling the stress of the current coronavirus pandemic, then perhaps having a little creative time might help you slow down and immerse yourself in something that is both enjoyable and beneficial. It has been scientifically proven that 20 minutes of any creative activity can positively change your brain chemistry and ease anxiety…. even if you think you aren’t creative.

Being creative is an innately human thing. We are born with it, as children we use it to play, and as adults, it’s something that helps us tap into that inner child we all have inside us. No matter our age, we can give ourselves permission to play again. It is this process of creative play that will help you to feel better – if you make something marvellous at the end, great – but it’s not important to see that as the outcome.

Thanks to COVID-19, I have closed my creative business and studio and embarked on the 12-week isolation at home – somewhere I don’t usually work, but in the current climate, it’s the safest place for me to be. I will be using different creative mediums to help keep me occupied productively as well as mentally, and as an artist I enjoy the variety. I, therefore, encourage you to try as many different creative activities as you can until you find one that you enjoy – if you don’t enjoy it, then what’s the point?

You may also currently have children home from school who need some creative activity, so I’ve put together some ideas you can enjoy – either with or without children. I have deliberately kept them low cost and as eco-friendly as possible to reflect how I work.

Collect your materials

Thankfully we’re still allowed out to exercise once a day (so long as we keep a safe distance from others), and during these times outdoors I’ve been doing one of my favourite activities – taking a trip to the beach at low tide, and collecting driftwood, interesting pebbles, sea glass, shells, pottery shards etc. All you need is a Tupperware box or tote bag to carry them in. I find a walk is far more interesting when engaged in a materials hunt, and it encourages me to walk further too.

Get creative with stones and pebbles

Once you’ve gathered your materials, the trick is to use your finds creatively. Currently I use the glass, pebbles, shells etc as a type of gravel to grow air plants on. However, you could make mosaics, or pebble pictures too. If you found larger stones, you can indulge in a bit of stone painting. This swept the North East two years ago and was a great way to get lots of people involved in being creative. You can paint the stones with a theme, or if it’s a family activity you could paint pictures of each other and then hide them in your garden or home and make it into a scavenger hunt game. You could even turn them into a garden game like tic tac toe.

Driftwood magic wands and homemade plant markers

Driftwood makes excellent magic wands – all they need is a lick of paint and a bit of imagination. Alternatively, you could make some coloured plant markers for you garden so you know what’s growing where, or use them as intention sticks to place in your garden or vase to remind you of the intentions you have set. To colour your driftwood, a simple set of acrylic paints and a couple of Sharpies or permanent markers can work wonders. Acrylic paints are quick drying and waterproof so you don’t need varnish to seal them, not to mention it makes cleaning up easier as you can clean your brushes in water.

Mandala painting

Another wonderful activity is dotting or mandala painting. Mandala is the Sanskrit word for circle, and you can many different tools to make these patterns. The dotting is achieved by using different sized objects – wooden dowels, or even nail-art dotting tools (which are easily obtainable and cheaper than the art market ones) are easiest to create perfect circles. You then dip your tool in paint before stamping it onto your paper – you can even use some of the stones you’ve collected as a canvas.

Once again acrylic paint is usually your best bet. You might find you need to dilute a little of it, depending which brand you buy. I usually recommend you paint the surface of the stone first, then once that’s dried start with a central dot and then work your way out, applying more dots and using contrasting colours for each circle.

Product recommendations:

Complete Acrylic Starter Kit - The Works - £8.00

Find Out More

About the author

Gail Curry is a local artist who likes working with natural materials, mostly wool, wood and paper, but not exclusively. She is passionate about ‘the creative process’ and how our own interpretation of that gives us part of our identity. Gail loves meeting and teaching people who don’t recognise their own creativity, as she believes that accessing our own creativity is one of life’s joys. Read Gail’s interview with High Life North – ‘Why losing your speech is no barrier to progress’ – here. 

Gail will be publishing a regular weekly newsletter on creative ideas and fellow artists tutorials, which anyone can receive by signing up here.

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