Is creating with our hands important? We are currently living in a world where there are devices to do everything for us.  In the two weeks I’ve been taking public transit to work I’ve realized how reliant I have become on technology. Need to write to somebody? We have email to replace handwritten letters.  Need to save a thought or list? Type it into your phone to read at a later time. Right now, more than ever, it is important for me to make the effort to create with my hands. 

It has become commonplace for my generation to use our electronic devices as the initial means to create instead of the analog tools we could be using. These days the need for immediacy has trumped the need for the physical process.  Most of us have word processors that relieve the need to pick up a pen or pencil to communicate. Digital tools like the Adobe Suite, Sketchbook Pro, and Wacom tablets allow artists to work without even needing a piece of paper.  Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it is negative to use technology in this way. Rather, what I’m saying is that when you start your creative process digitally it becomes harder for the audience to see the creator behind the product.

For a person who needs to create using their hands, their tools become an extension of them.  They’ve learned the balance and weight of the pen, pencil, X-acto knife, paintbrush, etc. They know how the tool will interact with the medium.  I understand how the ink will flow from my Micron pen. I understand how the watercolor paper I use will accept the ink, and which X-acto blade best cuts curves vs. straight lines.  All this because I have chosen to practice creating with my hands.  I’ve allowed myself to make mistakes and learn from them.

Recently I sat down for coffee with a brand-new friend. I was excited to meet him and talk with him about his artistic process, and even more thrilled when he showed me his sketchbook. Filled with a range of rough drawings to finalized designs, it was clear how much care and passion was behind each line. I could see some expression of him in each piece. At the end of our meeting he gifted me a handmade greeting card, embossed with the word “optimist.”  I immediately knew that it was created by hand with love and purpose. 

Another friend of mine crochets imaginative things and recently made me two crocheted mushroom buddies. She picks a subject matter and figures out how to build a three-dimensional shape using yarn, experimenting and learning as she works.  In that process lies the beauty — the excitement that comes from just showing up to create. I think this analog commitment is sometimes lost in our digital world. 

I want — no, NEED — to always create by hand. It is how I can tell a story to those who are willing to listen and see. Making art with my hands brings me joy and peace. I hope that you, friends, can find something to develop by hand.  Write a paper note or draw a picture for a special person in your life.  There is no better way to show care and provide value than creating something by hand with a particular person in mind.

Jeffy Thomas