Hobbies That Nurture the Soul, and More

Written by Tom Brady for Der Standard July 23 2018

With worries about the damaging effects of screen time on the rise, some are looking elsewhere for fulfillment, taking up hobbies and cultivating their creative sides.
Classes in the arts for people in middle age are popular, and so are books devoted to planning meaningful retirement years, Laura Holson reported in The Times.
“People see creativity as the solution to the midlife crisis,” Julia Cameron said. Her book, “The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Creativity,” has sold more than four million copies since 1992, and requests for her workshops have doubled in the past year. “People find themselves asking, ‘Is this all there is?’ ” Ms. Cameron said. “And the answer is, ‘No. There has to be more.’”
Lee Weinstein, a former Nike public relations manager, started recording his dreams and goals 20 years ago. He and his wife shared their planning sessions on Facebook, and friends asked for advice.
Mr. Weinstein started workshops and published a book in December called “Write. Open. Act: An Intentional Life Planning Workbook.”
One client took up the guitar, which made him feel younger and stimulated different parts of his brain. “I am not hearing people say, ‘I need to buy one more thing,’ ” Mr. Weinstein said.
Margit Wittig has gone a different route, turning her hobby making lamps into a business.
It began with visits to the Art Institute of Chicago with her toddler, where she was drawn to the sculptures by Brancusi and Giacometti. She signed up for sculpting and metals courses after a move to London in 2001. A second child and a divorce set her on a new path.
“It felt like an outlet for my creativity while I was being a full-time single mother,” Ms. Wittig said of the figurines she sculpted in a London studio.
Then, one day, she began stacking her sculpted heads on floor lamps with other shapes of resin and glass. Friends started buying them.
“But then someone I didn’t know wanted to buy a lamp,” she told The Times.
Today her lamps are in the Whitby Hotel in Manhattan and in a suite at the Berkeley Hotel in London. Her floor lamps start at $4,900 and a table lamp at $3,500.
It’s unlikely that Farhad Manjoo will be selling any of the pottery he is making, but the Times technology columnist wrote that it is an escape from modern anxieties, with too much work and too much negativity on social media.
“When your hands are slathered in clay,” Mr. Manjoo wrote, “you cannot fiddle around with your phone.”
In the process of learning to make ceramics, he discovered something else that surprised him: It restored his faith in the humanity of the internet. Pottery helped him find a saner, friendlier online experience.
The hobbyist internet is about the struggle to make the best hamburger or grow the perfect tomato, or in Mr. Manjoo’s case, how to center the ball of clay (“centering,” in ceramacist jargon).
Instead of shutting off devices and limiting time online, the hobbyist internet encouraged him to dive deeper, because there are experts who are willing to share their knowledge.
There, the political brawling takes a back seat to the task people are trying to master.
“I often find it’s a more productive conversation when we’re doing art,”
Leah Kohlenberg told The Times. She is a painter in Portland, Oregon, and teaches drawing to adults and teenagers around the world over Skype. Some of them are supporters of President Donald J. Trump, while she is definitely not. But when people reach artistic breakthroughs together, differences fade, she said.
“Art is an empowering thing,” Ms. Kohlenberg said. “Most people think they can’t do it, and when they realize they can, it’s amazing — it opens up a whole new world, and that world doesn’t really have time for a lot of fighting and fussing.”