The psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi famously defined flow as a state of mind where one is completely immersed in an activity for its own sake. You lose a sense of time, your ego steps off the stage, and you’re fully absorbed in what you’re doing. You’re in a state of flow (also informally known as “the zone”).
You must have experienced it, if nothing else, as a kid – playing serenely outside only beckoned to reality by your mother’s voice calling you in for dinner. Achieving a state of flow can provide us with a much needed sense of calm and control, especially in trying times such as the current global pandemic and all the insecurities it brings. Deeply focusing on an activity you enjoy shuts out everything else for a moment and allows you to be fully present in the now. It’s wonderfully meditative in that sense, and may be just what we need right now.
Different people experience flow while engaging in different activities – it can be playing a sport, dancing, painting, writing. Or it can be as simple and mundane as creating your own custom pair of tennis shoes for the summer (more on that below). But what is true for everyone is that these moments usually occur when you perform an activity that you enjoy and feel passionate about, you possess enough skill to feel in control of the activity and its outcome, and when there is also a sense of challenge and room for growth.
Since we’ve all been spending too much time in front of our screens during this long quarantine and we could all do with some offline fun, today we share a few ideas for creative projects to do at home that can bring you some of that restorative magic of flow.
1 Collect memories in a photo scrapbook
Yes, that is a physical photo book, which means you’ll have to salvage those files from the dark depths of your memory card and send them off to the printer’s. There are many online printing shops that will do it quickly and at a good price.
Photos are mementos of the days that ultimately make up our life, but how often do we actually sit in front of the computer to go over thousands of digital files in remembrance of our past experiences? It is just so much easier and more pleasurable to flick through a physical book you can hold in your hands. And when you’ve made it yourself, even more so!
You can make it as simple or as elaborate as you wish. Do some visual research, find a style you like, gather all the material, and dig in.
The essential tools you’ll need:
- A notebook or a photo book. Kraft paper notebooks work really well here because they’re sturdy, the paper accepts a variety of pens and paints, and they’re plain to begin with, so they make for a perfect blank canvas for your creative genius.
- Double-sided tape, to stick your photos. Tape works better than glue because it’s not messy and it doesn’t wrinkle the paper.
- Scissors to re-crop images where necessary.
In theory, that’s all you need. But you can take it much, much further. Think washi tapes and Kawaii stickers, stencils and brush pens. Here are some tips on how to take your photo book to the next level:
- Accompany the photos with hand-written stories. They don’t need to be long, it can be a short location description, an inside joke, or a single descriptive adjective that sums up how you felt at the time the photo was taken.
- Print your photos in a variety of sizes and crop ratios (e.g. square, rectangular vertical, rectangular horizontal, etc.). This will allow you to create a more dynamic composition when you start arranging the prints.
- Print some of the photos in black and white. It will create a visual pause in your design and add variety to your layouts.
- If you want to go “pro”, make sure all the photos are edited in the same style, or have the same filter applied, if you use one. This will truly lend a sense of oneness to your piece and make it a visual stunner.
- Come up with a theme for your book. It can be a travel journal or a documentation of your year in a chronological order. You can focus on people, places, or show how they interact with each other. The opportunities are endless, just think of a concept that will tie your collection together and tell a story.
- Add doodles, stickers, and other decorative elements to give your book some character.
Arranging your memories in your very own photo book will remind you that happiness truly is in the small things we tend to overlook, as clichéd as it may sound. You will discover that your favourite photos are usually the technically imperfect ones, the ones you took because the moment was just right. I find that it’s a useful realisation to keep in mind, especially when the times get tough, like right now.
2 Surrender to the meditative quality of origami
Origami is an ancient paper folding technique, where you create three-dimensional shapes made entirely out of paper and without using scissors or glue. It requires concentration and precision, which is what anchors you to the present moment and helps you get in a state of flow. You can’t rush origami, it is like a perfectly choreographed dance. You just have to surrender to the steps and enjoy its calming effect.
There are many reasons origami is a wonderful quick escape from the chatter of our busy minds. You’re creating something with your own hands, which feels intrinsically rewarding; you see the result of your work; and you can make the task gradually more challenging, to keep that sense of achievement growing along with your skills.
What you’ll need:
- Paper, obviously. Almost any paper will do. The main thing to remember is that thicker varieties will work well for designs with fewer folds, whereas you’ll want to opt for something thinner if you’re aiming for a fancy design with many folds and creases.
- Diagrams. You can find them online or buy an origami book.
- A good metallic ruler, to help you fold paper neatly.
If you find it soothing to work with paper but the no-scissors policy of origami is too limiting for your creative needs, you can try one of these fun and simple paper craft projects instead. Though not origami strictly speaking, each of these projects is equally engaging and gives you a chance to create a piece that’s both beautiful and useful.
3 Spruce up your (indoor) garden
Maybe it’s just me, but I find it awfully difficult to find beautiful flower pots that match the design of my space. They’re either too plain, too rustic, too futuristic… Well, turns out the solution is simpler than spending hours on Etsy looking for the one. Grab any old clay pot and paint it however you like!
- As many clay pots as you wish to paint;
- Chalk paint or acrylic craft paint;
- Brushes in different sizes;
- A black sharpie.
Before you start, a note about paints: chalk paint works wonders here. It’s easy to work with and has no nasty smell, which makes it perfect for indoor crafts. It also dries quickly and doesn’t require curing, and you can easily draw on top of it with a sharpie. If you missed the chalk paint craze of a few years ago, now’s a good time to catch up. Acrylic paints will definitely work as well, and you will get a shinier, more polished look. Always apply two layers of any paint to ensure it’s not see-through.
Here are a few fun projects for inspiration:
Tip: before you immortalise your artwork on the pots, do a test run on some cardboard paper first, adding a layer of paint and then testing your drawing on top.
Not a plant person? No problem! You can paint a few stones instead and create your first ever cactus garden. Lots of fun to make and incredibly easy to maintain.
4 Mix up your own scented candles
Ever heard of hygge? The Danish concept of living cosily. Well, one prominent element of a cosy home conducive to hygge is candles. The hypnotic flickering light, the delicate scent, the real and perceived warmth… Lighting a few candles around your home is inherently soothing. And now that we’re spending a lot of our time inside, adding a bit of hygge to our home is not a bad idea.
Making your own candles is a lot easier than you may imagine if you’ve never made one. You will need some basic utensils, but all of them are very easily accessible. The fun part about making your candles is that you can play with different containers (pretty much anything heat-proof goes) and get creative with scent combinations.
So let’s see what you’ll need:
- Wax. Soy wax is a great option: it’s natural and non-toxic (make sure it’s not mixed with paraffin), it easily accepts scents, burns long, and cleans up quickly.
- Wicks with a metal base. To ensure proper burning and scent release, it’s important to choose the right width for the wicks – the wider your candle, the wider the wick. If your candle is over 9 cm in radius, you will need two wicks.
- A wick-centering tool or a large clothespin.
- Essential oils for scent. It is important to get pure, good quality oils from a reputable brand to ensure they’re truly natural. Even though essential oils are highly concentrated and you normally use a tiny amount, you will need a good amount of essential oil to actually make your candle release smell – typically between 40 and 50 drops per cup of wax, but it will depend on the oil. Always be very careful when you work with essential oils, never apply them undiluted to your skin, and make sure to wash your hands before touching your face or your eyes. If you don’t know where to start scent-wise, here are a few great blends:
Lavender, bergamot, and orange blossom for stress relief;
Rosemary, lemon, and peppermint for a fresh, invigorating scent;
Cinnamon bark and sweet orange for a cosy and festive feel.
- A container – this is where you can get really creative (see some ideas below).
- A pouring pitcher or a pot that pours well.
Now for the actual making of the candles. The steps are simple and easy to follow, but take a look at this detailed tutorial if this is your first time.
- Melt the wax in a microwave or in a double boiler, making sure it doesn’t burn.
- Dip the metal end of the wick in the melted wax and fix it to the bottom of your container, using a centering tool or a clothespin to centre the wick.
- If you’re making a scented candle, this is when you add the essential oils. You can let the wax cool ever so slightly, no more than a couple of minutes, before you add them.
- Pour the wax carefully into the container and let it cool completely.
- Trim the wick to about 5 mm above the wax, and your candle is ready!
Tip: You can use rubbing alcohol to clean any wax stains inside your pitcher or on working surfaces.
The part about candle making that is most fun is coming up with creative containers to use. Here are some fun ideas to spark your imagination:
5 Add spring into your step with a custom-made shoe design
Spring is in full bloom here in the northern hemisphere, and if you need a little reminder of that after a long few months in confinement, painting your white pair of tennis shoes in the colours of spring may just do the trick.
What you’ll need:
- A pair of plain, white canvas tennis shoes.
- An assortment of brushes – different sizes will allow for varying levels of detail.
- Acrylic fabric paint. Any good fabric paint should be waterproof, but do double check when buying just in case.
- A paint palette, or if you don’t have one, a simple paper plate will do.
- Fabric markers to add small details.
- Masking tape, to protect the midsoles.
- Optionally, a waterproofing solution to further protect your shoes from spring showers and ensuing puddles.
The easiest and the most common method simply consists of putting some masking tape along the midsoles (unless you want them coloured too), and painting or drawing on any decorative elements you can think of. Here are a few of our favourite designs:
6 Dream up fluffy creations out of felt
If you haven’t discovered felt crafts yet, you mustn’t skip this one! Felt is an incredibly easy material to work with, thanks to the fact that it’s quite sturdy (although there are different varieties) and it doesn’t fray at all. It comes in a rainbow of colours, you can easily sew pieces together by hand, and you can even use glue if sewing isn’t your thing (though it’s very soothing, so I encourage you to give it a go).
What can you make from felt? All sorts of things, from keyrings and bookmarks, to toys and ornaments. We’ll link a few projects you can try further below, and here’s what you’ll need to start them:
- Felt sheets. Felt is usually sold in small rectangular sheets, in a wide variety of colours. Etsy and Amazon are great places to look if your local crafts shop is temporarily closed.
- A sewing kit with a few basics, such as a good needle and thread in a colour that matches the felt (or a complementary colour if you’re going for visual contrast).
- Good quality fabric scissors.
- Optionally cotton to use for filling, if you’re aiming for 3D designs.
- Any additional details, like small buttons or ribbons, to add character to your designs.
- Pen and paper to draw patterns, or a downloadable pattern you can print.
- Hot glue is helpful, but not essential if you’re willing to do some sewing.
- Soft, coloured pencils to add details where necessary.
Now onto the fun part. You will easily find a printable pattern for pretty much anything online, but here are a few fun projects you can start with:
We’ve only just scratched the surface of handmade craft projects you can do from home. The opportunities are truly endless: you can paint an accent wall in your living room, make jewellery, try your hand at knitting, do floral arrangements… As long as you’re away from the computer for a little while doing something you enjoy and that brings you a sense of peace. And if you’re looking for fun ways to decorate your shared space, you’ll find plenty of tips on the Badi Blog. Happy crafting!