7 Ways to Get Your Hands Dirty

Your hands are capable of creating more than just tweets and emails. Here are 7 ways to use them.

Shake hands with a craftsman, sculptor or chef and chances are you’ll feel something distinct in their grasp. Defined calluses, miniscule cuts, dexterous fingers, a firm yet gentle grip – these are all proud badges of individuals who spend a lot of time using their hands.

Regardless of whether you make a living sewing dresses or designing websites that sell them, few things are more satisfying than an honest day’s work. However, in our digitized world, the products of a lot of people’s “work” are increasingly intangible.

It’s not that a lot of labor and effort doesn’t go into digital endeavors; building a website can be just as frustrating as building a house. However, if you dig a ditch, you can stand in it to gauge its depth. If you catch a fish, you can weigh it before filleting it for dinner. Close your laptop after a day of Google searches and sending emails and what do you have? There is seemingly a different level of satisfaction, albeit a more exhausting one, when you come home from a day’s work and can hold, taste, see, or smell the proverbial fruits of your labor.

The technology that so many people rely on to do their jobs has undoubtedly made us more efficient and, for that reason, it’s likely not going anywhere. That means many people will never have jobs that require using their hands for much more than typing and clicking. But that doesn’t change the fact that human beings were designed to create more than just tweets and word documents.

There’s no shortage of lifestyle blogs and Pinterest or Tumblr accounts to showcase creativity online, many of which served as inspiration for the ideas below. However, following, posting and linking shouldn’t be our only creative outlets. Closing the screen, putting down the phone and making something can’t be re-blogged is good for us, even if we don’t do it for a living.

Here are seven things to make, mould, prepare, craft, and create with your hands.

  • Printmaking– Printmaking is an age-old practice which dates back to ancient Mesopotamia. But thanks in part to the popularity of sites like Etsy, which displays thousands of quirky and creative prints to purchase, this ancient art form is having a bit of a renaissance. Eager first-timers can get started by seeing if a there is a community printmaking studio in their area that teaches the basics of monoprinting, intaglio, collography, or screenprinting methods. Printmaking can also be done easily at home with at simple materials such as cardboard, rolling pins, mesh, and sponges. We love this so-easy-a-kindergartner-could-do-it method.
  • Herb Garden– Who wouldn’t love to have the time to maintain a bountiful and delicious vegetable garden? But in the real world, climates, apartment buildings, and work schedules don’t always allow for such endeavors. A herb garden, which can be maintained indoors or out, is a manageable alternative that can be started in an afternoon. All you need is a place that will get about five hours of daylight each day. We love this Mason jar version, just make sure you place it near a window with southern or western light exposure.
  • Jewelry making– Remember those friendship bracelets you made hundreds of as a kid? Try making a grown-up version using one of these crafty techniques – we bet it will make you feel like you’re at summer camp again. You can also head to the hardware store for some industrial grade jewelry making supplies. Nuts, bolts, washers, and copper wire paired with more delicate materials like twine or ribbon can look seriously chic.
  • Food Preservation– Food preservation, depending on the method, is not as daunting as it sounds. If you already buy seasonal and locally sourced goods from the farmer’s market, why not double up and preserve some for the colder part of the year. Making your own sun-dried tomatoes can actually be as easy as putting tomatoes in the hot sun or in the oven, and then sealing them in plastic bags or jars of olive oil. Another method that doesn’t require any special equipment is blanching and freezing vegetables, fruit or prepared sauces like pesto (made with basil from your fresh herb garden, of course) for later use. A little handiwork and preparation now can mean a more delicious diet all year round.
  • Volunteering– Getting one’s hands dirty feels good, and doing it for the benefit of someone who needs a little help will feel even better. Habitat for Humanity, which works to provide a decent place for people all over the world to live, has a searchable database to help you find affiliate projects in your area. Or, if you feel like getting really local, offer to help a neighbor with home improvement projects or handiwork.
  • Bread-making– We love bread. But honestly, who doesn’t? Real estate agents claim that a house is more likely to sell if there is fresh bread baking in the oven when prospective buyers arrive – it’s easy to understand why. With just three humble ingredients – water, yeast, and flour – it’s a wonder that more of us don’t make this age-old food staple more regularly. There are few recipes that are more tactile or rewarding to master. So don’t be intimidated and dig in with this recipe.
  • Analog Photography– Photography has become a high-tech hobby, with Photoshop and megapixels now synonymous with the craft. But way before Instagram made vintage photos a matter of pressing a few buttons, photographers had to master the precise photo-developing process. To master the craft yourself, search your area for darkrooms (high schools and local colleges often have them) or photography studios that might offer classes. Taking away the instant gratification of digital photography will only require you to use your hands a bit more, but also restore the nearly forgotten magic of this analog craft.

Image: BradleyPJohnson

Rosie Spinks

Rosie Spinks is a freelance journalist from California with a degree in Environmental Studies. Her work has been published in publications including Sierra magazine, GOOD magazine, the Ecologist, and the Guardian Environment Network. A passion for travel, running barefoot outdoors, and reconnecting people to what is good dominates most of her thoughts. You can follow her writing on Twitter and Tumblr.