Art and Stress Relief, By Christine C. Cantrell, PhD

Sunday, February 24, 2019

There are a lot of life stressors these days, pushing our stress hormone cortisol levels higher, causing fight or flight reactions in our body:  high blood pressure, lowered immune system, tense muscles and upset digestive track, and insomnia to boot.  Sure, meditation is in, but how do you meditate if your mind is always racing? 

Art.  You do art to reduce stress.  No, you don’t have to be an “artist.”  All you need is a bit of time and some colored pencils, some clay or play dough, some paint and paper.  Or you could crochet or knit.  You could sing in the shower, or join a chorus!  It’s all art and you get to choose whatever you are in the mood for.  You can make something you would never show anyone, or you might even like the final result.  And you might just find one of your passions.

This is from science!  A research study  by Assistant professor of creative arts at Drexel University, Girija Kaimal examined the effects of making art on stress-related hormones in your body.  The results, published in Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, titled “Reduction of Cortisol Levels and Participants’ Responses Following Art Making,” found that 45 minutes of creative activity significantly lessens stress in the body, regardless of artistic experience or talent.  

Finding and releasing your creative spirit is the core idea in art therapy.  In the study, the cortisol levels of the 39 participants ranging in age from 18 – 59 years old were recorded.  Then, 45 minutes of doing whatever participants felt like doing with various craft materials.  Just under half of the participants said they had a “limited” background in art.  At the end, participants’ cortisol levels were recorded again.  Now, 75% had a decrease, and it wasn’t just the people with prior art experience.  This result was across the board.

I seem to hop from one art form to another, following a sort of restless muse.  Currently, I hand-sew Pendleton wool into bird.  I also hand-sew Tibetan Prayer Flags of Pendleton wool, to hang indoors or outside, to celebrate the beauty of creation and the blessings of the art wafting on all.   The Native American geometric patterns and bright array of colors as well as the wonderful quality of the wool in my fingers, inspires me to try something I have seen in my yard or at the zoo, and see if I can make it in 3D. 

I started sewing songbirds to meditate and unwind after work. I love watching the birds at the feeder and listening to their melodies. Songbirds led to quail, pheasant, roadrunners and hawks. The Peacock sand Phoenixes emerged from my fingers, as well as Tibetan Prayer Flags too. The Pendleton wool patterns, colors and textures lead me to new explorations of art. 

 I use sewing in the evening to unwind, instead of watching news, and it is a form of meditation.  I get lost in the colors and patterns.  Being new to 3D, I find design challenges intriguing.   I started my Etsy store:  www.FirstBirdReCreation and for 2 summers showed my birds in the Berkley Art and About summer monthly festivals, when my bird collection no longer fit in my bungalow.  And, though I sold $1200 worth of art this past year on Etsy, I netted only $6 after advertising and postage fees!  I do this because I lovesewing, because I need to for my soul, as it will never support me!

Recently I decided to make a boho purse and computer bag, as well as a Kindle cover and a  cell phone bag with a strap, and a small bag to carry stuff in my purse.  I chose to repurpose an old purple and green, well-loved Pendleton blanket.  Seeing the boho purse, a friend commented that she needed a cross-body purse that didn’t injure her sore shoulder.  I made one to fit her requirements.  I designed a 48″ “comfort strap” that is made from 2″ wide Pendleton felt at the shoulder and tapered toward the purse.  She wanted pink, so the next half dozen bags of various sizes are pink!

In January, I noticed that a new shop opening in Berkley to display arts and crafts of local folks.  To join this cool community, I paid for my first month’s rent for a 3’x8′ display area of Pendleton birds and pillows and bags, and dried organic catnip and lavender and cedar sachets.  I have joined some 35+ other artists in this amazing little store.   And this frees up space in my bungalow again!

The Artisan Shoppe, 3017 W 12 Mile Road, Berkley, MI 48072, is Tracy Thomas’ brainchild.  The store opened in February with a wide variety of art for sale.  Sweatshirts to baby clothes, gnomes, honey and maple syrup to jewelry, bath bombs and soap, and leather masks and purses to special stepping stones with a mosaic rooster.  There are pillows and hand painted mailboxes, catnip cat toys, and animal sculptures of tools welded together.  Also, baby quilts and hair bows, cheese boards with amazing acrylic paint on one side.  Then, pottery and mugs, chocolate tea and homemade soaps, even in the shape of animals or the state of Michigan!  The inventory is always changing, and is unique, homemade, expressions of  the artists in residence. 

Tracy Thomas and her family moved to Berkley recently so we welcome her!  She was looking to open a new store, having had a similar one in Rochester for 10 years.  As she started up the Artisan Shoppe,  she focused on local artists  The store open 7 days and mas a week from 12 – 6 for now and expanded hours as the weather warms.  We have special sales and give-aways on a regular basis.  Come on down to Berkley and check out the art, or contact Tracy about renting some space for your special creations!

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