2017 National Mature Media Award WINNER

2017 National Mature Media Award WINNER
The Creative Landscape of Aging Wins a NMMA Award!


Wednesday, October 31, 2012


It started in a simple way. We were small and eager to learn how to make things. Basic craft skills that we were taught: gluing, knotting and wrapping produced amazing results to our young eyes and so easy to do. Yet as older adults, those once amazing techniques now may seem more banal, dull and elementary.

However for those with physical or cognitive issues, these basic craft techniques remain powerful ways to explore creativity. Although these people are often guided in projects that have minimal challenge yielding results that are also minimally interesting; this can be changed in ways that do not add complexity but does enhance results.

The first example of gluing which, by itself, is taken for granted because it is used so frequently. And then there is the magic of decoupage. Its origin is from Siberia with a 12th century migration to China, and has been used in a wide variety of products. Starting with papers that could be found in the home (magazine pages, wrapping paper, and pictures) and Mod Podge glue, this is an inexpensive and easy craft that thrives on imagination.  Papers are placed single layer or multi layered on a porous surface (eg. wood, cardboard, canvas) to attractively decorate anything from a greeting card to a chest of drawers. With encouragement, curiosity and a flexible eye, these papers can produce unique patterns and color combinations that are hard to visualize in advance and so much more exciting to watch as it develops.

Knotting is a primitive technique and can be traced to 10,000 years ago.  Now we know the art of knotting as macramé and it also can be interpreted in the forms of knitting and crocheting.  There are opportunities to use basic knots to create simple projects that are exciting to develop.  For older adults with issues, a thicker element that is soft to the touch (eg. nylon) may be easier to work with than some fine hemp. One can also add beads and make a belt, bag or holder for a plant hanging.  In our everyday lives, we know that a men’s tie must be knotted to be worn and a hammock is a knotted fabrication for outdoor “seating”.  Artists have also used knotting in creative ways  for home items:  an artful chair designed by MarcelWanders is covered in epoxy resin for strength. Merrill Morrison works in a different way. She is an extraordinary fiber artist who works with small knots and says  "There is nothing like the tactile feel of the threads, as well as the rhythm of making knot after knot, until my shape takes form. I often incorporate beading to add luster and texture, which allows me a multitude of possibilities in surface embellishment."

And finally, wrapping is a wonderful way to combine elements and/or cover surfaces. If an element is wrapped in a linear way, it produces a effect called coiling and the coiling can be translated to an artful product to create anything from fashion accessories to sculpture. The late fiber artist Judith Scott was deaf, mute and had Downs Syndrome yet made amazing sculptures by wrapping diverse elements together. These sculptures are collectibles and now sell for many thousands of dollars. Another fiber artist, Sheila Hicks used coiling to create huge installations of art. She was the first fiber artist to take this very basic technique and elevate it in her art.

These basic craft techniques (and many others) require a short learning curve but the possibilities are endless.

I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn't say any other way - things I had no words for. - Georgia O'Keeffe