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Hands-on Hobbies Got Me Out of the House — and Into a Community

Published:
April 23, 2024
April 22, 2024
Read this article to find out how hands-on hobbies can help take you out of your comfort zone and engage your mind in a different way.

Like many of us, my work has shifted from an in-office, cubicle setting to working out of my home. Remote work comes with so many benefits — no commute, comfy clothes, conference calls from the patio. But what hasn’t changed is that I’m still staring at a screen most of the day, my laptop or phone always in reach. 

After several months of settling into remote work, I started to miss something from my old cubicle life — I couldn’t just walk across the hall to check in on a colleague. We celebrated coworkers’ birthdays via Zoom. There were no opportunities to make someone an extra cup of tea or eat lunch together. 

I missed the daily, in-person connections that remote work inherently lacked. And I knew in order to find a replacement for that in my life, I needed to move beyond my comfort zone (literally). Group exercise classes were too much of a commitment for me, but I have always been a fan of trying new things so off I went to our park district catalog to search for a good fit. 

Because so much of my time was spent with technology, I wanted to find a hobby that allowed my hands to touch things other than my iPhone and laptop. I wanted real conversation and real work for my hands, not just e-mails and typing.

Fulfilling a long-time wish of trying my hand at pottery, my first pick was a beginner ceramics class where we focused on hand building. We learned how to mold slabs of clay into little trays and pinch pots. Every week, we worked with a new object that had to be molded, and then in between classes, it was fired in the kiln. Once it was ready, we painted it, and then it was fired again to seal the glaze. 

This class brought with it not just new skills but an engaging intergenerational community. There was a mother and her high school daughter, another young mother like myself, and one woman who had two grandchildren. I often raced to the studio to enjoy time with this community and dig my hands into something. It was the few hours each week that I enjoyed without my iPhone. Even the music the instructor played during class was on her AM/FM radio, set to an easy listening station. While I loved every day of this class, pretty soon, I had made more trinkets and trays than I had shelf room for, and I knew it was time to move on to something new.

The next step on the hobby tour was papermaking. This was another multi-step process with different pieces involved. You had to shred, or in many cases, blend paper and water to create pulp. You then dipped a screen stretched across a frame into the vat of pulp to give the fibers a chance to stick together. Finally, you carefully pulled the paper off the frame and laid it out to dry. 

This hobby involved different fibers and textures. Sometimes we shredded old bills and other times we cut Raffia. There were times when our hands were wet and covered with fiber and water. We experimented with glitter and dye to create colorful paper. 

In all this experimentation with hobbies, I loved the feeling I had when I held something I made in my hand. In the case of ceramic pieces, I was in awe of the smoothness of the glaze on what was once a damp clay slab. When I held the speckled paper, I was struck by the way the fibers held together. 

I opted for one more stop on the hobby train a couple months ago after seeing a magic class advertised. I promptly signed up because I thought to myself that it would be neat to have a few tricks up my sleeve for parties or for my preschooler. I came to the first class eager to learn — only to discover that the lessons were not in illusion tricks but in Magic the Gathering, a tabletop card game. That was a one-and-done experience for me.   

In this era of remote work, it could be easy for me to log off at the end of the day and watch the latest season of Love is Blind. And there are weeks when that ends up being the default. But adding the occasional (and inexpensive) art class to my calendar has brought me so much delight and peace. These hands-on hobbies require me to put my phone away and concentrate on something tangible in front of me. They’ve introduced me to new communities and local spaces. Most of all, they’ve preserved my sanity, helping me get out of the house to create something I never would have done on my own — and I couldn’t have done on a laptop.

Creators:
Clarissa Aljentera
Published:
April 23, 2024
April 22, 2024
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