top of page
  • Writer's pictureBarMade Bags

Creativity in challenging times

2020 has certainly been a year that's thrown up all sorts of challenges, but also opportunities for me to extend my creativity. Indeed, exploring new creative activities has, to a large extent, helped me to cope with this unconventional year.

I should, though, admit that I count myself to be particularly fortunate not to have been seriously affected by the pandemic: no family deaths from Covid-19, or serious cases of it amongst close family and friends, no job to lose or financial instability, no disrupted education or wedding plans, no need to self-isolate.

Having a project to get stuck into at the beginning of the first lockdown was also a fortunate occurrence, which not only kept me occupied through those 12 weeks but also gave me the confidence to try out different creative activities. I have written about the "Wedding Dress Project" in a series of blogs earlier in the year, charting the progress from the first initial ideas, through the expansion of the use of the fabrics from the dress, to the eventual conclusion and delivery of the finished items.

The challenge for me in this project was to use unfamiliar and delicate fabrics from the dress to create a variety of bags. I had been entrusted with the dress and had to make sure that I did justice to the lovely fabrics - lace, silk, satin and tulle - in the items I created. I needed to put aside any doubts in my ability to achieve the desired outcome and convince myself that I could do it. The words "Don't say you can't, but say you'll try", that I used to say to pupils struggling with their learning, came back to me, and helped me to persevere and create the required 33 items without wasting any of the precious fabrics.

Drawing and painting

With this "have a go" attitude prevalent in my thinking, I decided to try my hand at drawing. I have dabbled in watercolour painting for a few years, sometimes guided by a local artist with a group at the community centre, but I've done very little drawing. However, in May I took on a daily drawing challenge set by Marigold the Maker. The theme was "Creative Limitations" with the idea that each participant would choose a subject for their daily drawings, and set a time for drawing each day, as well as limiting the amount of time spent on the drawing. I decided to make the vegetable seedlings that I was growing my subject and, each day, after lunch I would spend between 10 and 30 minutes sketching one of the seedlings. This definitely improved my observational skills as well as giving me experience at using different drawing mediums including pen and watercolour pencils, and setting aside a dedicated time for this activity proved beneficial. As Marigold puts it, "time to find your still point."

Acer tree painted in watercolour with details in ink.
Acer in watercolour and ink

I had every intention of carrying on with this daily drawing habit, but also wanted to spend more time painting. A new direction with this was to combine watercolour paints with ink to bring out more detail and intricacy, as in my studies of blossom and trees in the garden:

Drawing of cherry blossom in ink and watercolour
Cherry blossom
Drawing of apple blossom in ink and watercolour paints
Apple blossom

In complete contrast to this, I have also started to dabble in fluid art with acrylic paints, and using blowing and tilting techniques to allow the colours to combine in wonderful abstract patterns and, in the case of the right-hand image below, using a shaper tool to add some details and form.

This is something that I want to develop further and will be a focus for some of my painting endeavours in 2021 while still continuing to paint watercolour landscapes. I am grateful for the encouragement that my local art group have given me with my painting experiments - despite not having been able to meet weekly since mid-March we have kept in touch through social media.


Apart from sewing and painting, I also had a go at writing some poetry. This was a completely new activity for me and something that I have enjoyed although I have no idea if my attempts are any good! It provided me with a way of documenting some of my thoughts about the unfolding situation during the periods on lockdown and uncertainties. A selection of them are here:


After the items from the converted wedding dress and been completed and collected, I returned to promoting my Etsy shop and have been delighted that, as set out in my aims at the beginning of 2020, many of my sales have been for made-to-order items.

These are a few of them:

I have, though, introduced a couple of new lines: small pouches that can clip onto a bag or belt to enable you to have a small bottle of hand sanitiser conveniently to hand, and needle cases for the increased interest in craft activities and mending rather than throwing away clothes. Both of these additions to my listings have proved popular.

What next?

Where will my creative endeavours take me next? I would like to develop combining art with sewing in a way that takes it beyond patchwork or appliqued motifs, while hopefully still being able to apply what I create to bag-making. Ribbon-weaving is something else, fabric-based, that I intend to make more use of.

My painting and poetry activities will, though, remain a predominantly personal pursuit, and this glimpse into them will be a one-off. Unless you think otherwise ...

And what of your creative activities? So much inspiration can come from what others attempt! Do let me know what you enjoy creating ...

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page