Ever since I was small I’ve had some kind of creative hobby on the go. I remember going to school at around seven-years-old and giving everyone in my class origami purses that I had made out of paper and decorated with my pens. I can also recall a Roald Dahl-inspired baking experiment with my cousin where we made a ‘marvellous medicine’ for my Mum that included flour, food colouring and bay leaves.
Fast forward 30-or-so years and the activities may have changed (it will surprise no-one that I haven’t turned into a star baker) but the creativity remains the same. However, having a creative hobby isn’t something that people always shout about amongst their peers at work. People will happily tell you about gym gains but are less likely to shout about the breakthrough they had with their sewing machine the night before.
Our social committee is always looking for ways to tap into this latent creativity; last year we discovered a host of hidden acting talent when we put on a nativity play with an event management twist (there was no room at the Radisson Blu inn in this version) and this year we decided we would see if we had any secret crafters working for us that would like to participate in a Christmas makers market.
Sending out the call for crafters who might be interested yielded a host of surprises – we had people working for us who could make candles, jewellery, luminaries, crocheted Christmas decorations and knitted tea cosies – more than enough to set up some stalls, served some mulled wine and get everybody in the festive mood.
We place a high premium on these kind of activities; they say that the family that plays together stays together, and this is as true of your work family as it is of blood relations. A craft market doesn’t just need crafters, it needs buyers and we were lucky that our colleagues came out in force to support our sellers. The market was a demonstration in how the power of the collective is much greater than the power of the individual. One person standing on their own and selling something could never create as much buzz and excitement as a room full of people.
The beauty of the creative process is that creativity always sparks more creativity; it’s the snowball effect. Seeing how crafty some of their fellow colleagues were got people thinking and there were requests for workshops to teach people new skills. It made people look at each other in a different way and gave them the opportunity to wonder whether or not there’s a creative genie inside of them waiting to be let out.
You might wonder how we can take lessons from a Christmas craft market and translate it to the workplace. Anyone who has ever handmade anything for someone else will understand the meaning of the phrase ‘labour of love’. The time and effort that you put into making something for someone is incredible. Even though hobbies are generally soothing and a way to escape stress, once you know an item is going to be given to someone a new set of factors comes into play. Are you on the right track? Have you interpreted what they are looking for in the right way? Is the quality of what you’re producing of a high enough standard? Will everything come together in time for the deadline? Who hasn’t experienced any of these feelings in the workplace at one time or another?
Then there is the feeling you get when you have finished crafting something. When you put down your pen, set down your piping bag or cut the ends of your thread, look at what you’ve created and say to yourself “I did this. Me. I made this happen”. You realise it was worth the pain that went into it, the late nights and the times that you had to put everything down and start again once more.
And then finally the response you get from your customer. The person that says “Wow. I love it. Did you really make that for me?”. Their reaction fills you with pride and makes you wonder when you can get out there again to create something new, fuelled by creative confidence.