When you’ve spent all day at in the office or working from home being productive, you just want to put your feet up and veg out in front of Netflix, right? The last thing you fancy doing is pushing your creative muscles even further.
But actually, taking up a creative hobby can be a wonderfully energising way to recharge your batteries and reignite your imagination.
In this post, we speak to eight creatives about how their hobbies enrich and enthuse them, and gather their tips and advice for anyone wishing to do the same.
01. Yarn crafts
Think knitting is something only old people do? Then you’re very wrong. People of all ages, across the world, love this creative pastime, and Alicia Ramirez, a Mexican web designer living in Canada, is one of them.
For her, though, it wasn’t love at first sight. “Although my mom tried to teach me to knit as a child, I found it boring at the time,” she admits. “It wasn't until 2006 or 2007 that I gave it another try. This time around, I was hooked.”
What’s great is that you can – pretty much – do it wherever you are. “I knit or crochet whenever I feel like it: mostly while watching TV or listening to podcasts,” says Ramiraz. “I also attend a regular ‘knit night’ once a week, where I meet up with a group of yarn crafters.”
So where does the appeal lie? “Although yarn crafts use many of the same skills I use in design – colour theory, basics of form, and so – I find that I really need to step away from the computer and use my hands to craft something,” she says. “I'm a web designer: mostly I just push pixels around. So having a tangible product that I can wear or use in the real world is very satisfying. I also enjoy the social aspect of it. I usually work by myself, so the knit night is an opportunity to socialise.”
Her hobby can even bleed into her day-to-day work, she adds. “Sometimes I see some yarns that inspire some of my colour palettes. The texture, symmetry and asymmetry of some garments help you see shapes and patterns you can then use in your designs.”
Her advice to anyone who wants to follow in her footsteps? “Start with something easy and small, like a dishcloth,” she recommends. “Most people try to make scarfs, which are a recipe for frustration. Also, visit your local yarn store. They often have classes, plus you get to meet new people.”
02. Play a musical instrument
If you work in a creative field that’s focused on visuals, what better way to throw off the cobwebs than to indulge in a creative hobby that’s aural? And that’s exactly what Jason Pickthall has done.
Pickthall, a freelance concept artist based in Milton Keynes, has been playing guitar since he was at uni. “Drawing and art was once a hobby,” he explains. “But once I started doing them full-time, I felt the need for something else to occupy me. It so happened my flatmate was great at the guitar, so he was a good ‘in'.”
Right now, he’s focusing on improving his ability with the instrument. “I have a proper lesson every fortnight with a tutor; this gives me a view of objective progress and keeps me motivated,” he explains. “And when I’m freelancing, I play for 20 minutes here and there when I want a screen break.”
Playing guitar doesn’t take away his focus on art, but complements it. “I think I need another outlet as I don’t think I’m very good at sitting still,” he admits. “Plus I think it makes me a more rounded individual. If all I did was concept art, I’d be pretty dull. I think outside interests help you find common ground within a team outside your discipline.”
And let’s face it, guitars are inherently cool. “It’s easy to pick up a few chords and jangle something out, and there is a plethora of YouTube tutorials,” says Pickthard. “If you’re starting out, though, I’d recommend you get some proper tutoring, even just 45 minutes a fortnight. It will set you on the right track and you'll not develop bad habits. It’s liberating being a novice at something again: enjoy the struggle and the pain of building up callouses on your fingertips!”
Ceramics is something many of us would love to get into, but are not entirely sure how. So it’s useful to chat to a designer who’s taken her hobby to impressive levels.
Originally from Scotland, Kirsten Murray is currently living and working remotely in Japan as an art director, graphic designer, mentor, and one half of The Tits. But she first started making ceramics about 10 years ago, learning from Edinburgh-based artist, Jenny Pope. “I then went on to do weekend workshops with Cyan Ceramics, and a week long workshop in Croatia with Julie Montgomery-Smith and Tim Betts,” she says.
Because the whole creative process is done by hand, she feels ceramics is the ideal creative outlet for anyone who spends a large part of your day looking at a screen. “I also think it’s amazing that ceramic objects can last for thousands of years,” she enthuses. “The oldest known ceramic work in the world is The Venus of Dolni – a nude female figure dating back to 29,000–25,000 BCE. We’ve gleaned so much insight about how people used to live throughout history, thanks to ceramic artifacts.”
And her move to Japan has only heightened her interest. “What could be better than learning the craft in a traditional pottery town that’s been making ceramics for a thousand years?” she says. So she decided to spend a month studying at Kasen ceramic studio, in the Seto prefecture – but it wasn’t exactly easy.
“On my first day in the studio, my teacher – Hiroshige Kato, a 12th generation ceramic master – showed me how to spiral wedge: the Japanese method of getting any air out of the clay. I felt frustrated and inept. Why was I not able to pick up this technique? It looked so effortless. He then told me it takes three years to master spiral wedging. Three years!”
Not for the faint-hearted
In short, ceramics is not for the faint-hearted. “At every part of the ceramic making process, something can go wrong – resulting in a cracked vase or a wonky bowl that was supposed to be a mug,” she says. “So you recycle the clay and start again, learning something with every piece.”
But in the process, she’s developed a whole new outlook on life. “I used to feel that if I worked hard at something there needed to be a tangible reward, and that what I create has to be perfect,” she says. “But then I discovered a Japanese philosophy called ‘wabi sabi’, which embraces and finds beauty in all that is imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.”
And this change of thinking has affected her day to day work, too. “I try to take the same approach to graphic design; focussing on progress over perfection. There’s a lot of trial and error when learning how to make ceramics, so it’s a reminder to take a more experimental approach to my design process. “
04. Learning to cook
Most of us think we can cook, but how many of us take the time out to improve our skills and learn new recipes and techniques? Lately, Christian Harries, creative director at Arch Design in London, has been doing just that.
“I've subscribed to Hello Fresh to get their recipe cards and explore a few recipes that I wouldn’t usually consider,” he explains. “I've also got a few cookbooks, and try to do at least two new recipes from them every week. I usually pick a random page number and just go with whatever's on the page, unless I've done it before. The main way I'm learning, though, is by getting things wrong. Nothing teaches you the right amount of time to cook rice, for example, than having to scrape it off the bottom of the pan one too many times!”
For him, it's all about the process, rather than the result. “Honestly, sometimes I don't even eat what I cook; I save it for lunch and just have a something easy for dinner,” he says. “As long as it's edible and I learn a new thing, it really doesn't matter too much.”
And has it made an impact on his day to day work? “I guess it has subconsciously taught me to be more patient with things,” he replies. “And also that there's a number of ways to do things and none of them are 100 per cent right or wrong. It can be refreshing to feel that the results don't have to 100 per cent perfect, as long as it fulfills the job the client asked for.
“I think there's something very therapeutic about it,” he adds. “Sometimes after a long day of design, I just want to escape and while cooking is sort of the ‘design of food’, it's just nice to do something that’s so far removed from my day-to-day work.”
And here’s his advice to others wanting to improve their culinary prowess. “I'd say don't worry about the results, they will get better over time. Also, don't let recipes put you off. It can be very daunting to see thousands of different recipes for what is essentially the same dish, but all that matters is that you find one that you're comfortable with making. Yes, it can be nice to make it more extravagant, but just learn the basics first and you can worry about details later.”
Next page: four more great creative hobbies to try this year...