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Monday, April 29, 2013

Color Therapy

If you’ve read my blog before today, you already know that I am obsessed with color. Bright color. Rich color. Happy color. Today I really needed some color therapy. It’s free and it’s effective. I don’t know whether I’m dealing with some hormonal fluctuation (possibly) or fatigue (probably) or the overwhelmed feeling that comes with being mom to young kids (quite likely), or all three. All I know is that I needed color therapy right away.

Today was a tie-dye day for me. I do it about once a year. I love the saturated pigment: hot magenta, saffron yellow and sapphire. I’d been trying to get to this project for about a week. It all started when I realized that the small hole in a fitted bed sheet had become a very large rip (it may or may not have had something to do with a young child who lives here). Rather than throw it out, I decided to dye it fun colors for a FSP (Future Sewing Project). In truth, my poor home art studio is busting at the seams with a lot of stuff right now, so it hardly needed anything added. My studio is home to lots of TWP (Things With Potential)—bottle caps and other items most people throw away or recycle. It gives me a lot of happiness to turn something into something else. Why not turn a yellow bed sheet into some rockin' tie-dyed fabric? (Some people would rather have scorpions climb all over their body than wear what used to be a bed sheet. That’s fine. I’m not forcing them to wear bedding. If it’s too low-rent for them, so be it. But why are bed sheets any different than fabric bought at a store? Only difference is that my method is free!)

At the craft store I chose colors I don’t usually pick: pale green and turquoise. I’m a pink-and-red lady most of the time but sometimes it’s cool to try different colors than you usually wear. It fits a different side of your personality. At home I did a color test with the pale green. This was good because I soon realized it was not lime green, as the color on the box showed. It was olive green! Say what? Olive green is not going to brighten my mood. It’s too muddy for me. Luckily, with fabric dye we can mix and experiment. I put some of the turquoise into the green dye and made various shades of emerald and teal. Now we’re talking.

As I stirred my dye, I felt calmer. My spirits didn’t skyrocket but the colors of the dye and the fabric did improve my mood. If there’s light therapy, why can’t there be color therapy? Our senses play a big role in how we feel about our environment. Some people feel calmer when they hear ocean waves or smell lavender. I feel better when there is a lot of color boosting my mood.

A few months ago I read something about the value of doing crafts. I have always felt happy when I had time to experiment with craft projects, but it turns out that there is actually scientific proof that this is beneficial. In the Nov. 2013 issue of Martha Steward’s Living Magazine, there was an article (”This is your Brain on Crafts”) about the value of making things. Lisa Borgnes-Giramonti interviewed psychologist Robert Maurer, who studies creativity and compares crafting to meditation. He says, “When the midbrain is engaged by the repetitive movement involved in many crafts, the temporal lobe is unable to focus on worry or stress…The cortex—which controls conscious thought—becomes quiet and peaceful.” Crafting triggers a pleasure center in the brain (the nucleus accumbens). Interestingly, it is not necessary to finish the project in order to gain the happy feelings felt when doing crafts. The process (rather than the completion) of crafting soothes the brain, distracting it from worries. The hours spent on crafts benefit the crafter, so even unfinished projects are not a waste of time but are worthwhile. AMEN to that.
It’s funny that today was my tie-dye day, even though I’d been trying to get to it for a week. Today, it turns out, I really needed the boost of crafts. As I cut the string off my dyed fabric, I felt excited about seeing the results. With tie-dye, there’s always an element of the unexpected, as you don’t know exactly how much dye will reach inside the folds of fabric. That surprise piece makes it extra fun for me. A few minutes into the string removal, I realized that dye had jumped from the fabric to my fingers. I’d forgotten about gloves and was too excited to care at that point. Since everyone knows about my wacky side, I’ll just tell people I was channeling my inner Smurfette—and no one will bat an eye.

I was thrilled with the results of my day of dye. Irregular lines of dye wiggled from section to section, creating asymmetrical shapes. I hung the pieces of wet fabric in the trees in the back yard to dry. Even draping them over branches boosted my mood. The light and shadow from the branches and leaves added visual pattern to the dyed fabric. The creative process was in full swing and I was on board.
One of these days I’ll turn today’s creations into some fabulous, unique outfit. (Future blog post?) But for now, I’m just glad that my crafty time gave me such a lift. My drug of choice? Color!

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