Busy hands, clear head

Posted: April 8th, 2016 | Featured, Opinion | No Comments

Craftsmanship is alive in Uptown, and it’s available to everyone

By Eric Domeier

The act of making something from scratch can be a transcendent experience. And this experience is locally available to anyone who does not mind getting their hands dirty. We are lucky to have a variety of craft studios in our community. And there are many benefits from practicing a craft.

Craftsmanship, above all else, is an exercise in mindfulness. In order to craft something, one must be in the moment. Singularly focused on one’s hands and tools and material of choice, the craftsperson has temporarily left their world behind. It is an opportunity to break the mental loop and constructively rise above concern.

Photo by Lisa Hamel

Forming clay (Photo by Lisa Hamel)

Additionally, the studio environment is a wonderful place to share this experience. Sharing project successes and failures in the studio environment helps hone the skills of the practitioner. And you might make a new best friend or at least become a part of tightknit group.

If new to crafts, it’s important to find one that seems to be a natural fit. For this author, I’m a pitiful painter. Likely the result of being color-challenged, the process is a frustrating exercise that usually results in a mud-colored mess. But feeling the flow of clay between my fingers as it spins on a wheel is the most natural thing in the world. The point is, don’t get discouraged. Find a medium that taps into your natural strengths and then … practice, practice, practice. The following descriptions may help you get started.


In the ceramic arts, one transforms clay into artifact. With a gentle process of pressing, pushing, and pulling, the craftsman creates miniature spaces. Whether functional or exclusively for display, the best of these resonate with holiness. And the least of these make a perfect coin collector. If you like getting dirty, then this is the one for you.

Local ceramics studios include San Diego Ceramics Connections and Ceramic Heights.


Painting is the craft of color, surface and texture. For local artist Jason Gould, “Painting is a balance between getting lost in the process and making formal decisions about composition, color, balance, movement and space.” In other words, it’s a keen exercise for those with a finish-fetish. “The ultimate goal is to find that moment of clarity and then sustain it for as long as possible.” While all crafts can expand into fine art, painting quickly enters the realm of richly creative and strongly conceptual.

Local painting studios include Art Studio of San Diego and Art on 30th.


Needle arts are a methodical craft. Once mastered it can be a meditative process of repetition and nuance. New knitter Danielle Stag Lee says, “It’s calming and I really like making progress on a project that I can see.” Needle crafts are one of the more social activities.

Local needle arts studios include the Needle Art Club at the North Park Branch Library, South Park Dry Goods and Arañitas Yarn by Sofia. If you want to fashion your own clothing while kicking back a trendy cocktail, check out Mona Lizzy’s salon and studio.


The shaping of metal into deliberate form requires heavy forces. High-heat, machine-presses and the hammering tool can coax precious metal into timeless shapes. Alternatively, bead arts are a more passive and meditative endeavor. Either way, jewelry making is an intensely focused craft.

Local jewelry studios include Whaley Studios and San Diego Mineral and Gem Society.


Art can also be a means to self-discovery and resolution. The medium of the creation is not as important. Instead, the process of connecting with oneself is the goal.

Guided by an art therapist, art is used as a way to focus on interpersonal processing, to getting unstuck. The medium can be anything. But the goal is to more fully experience a piece of one’s own history or current existence. This is often some traumatic event that the individual struggles to accept. With greater access to the experience, the individual can process and integrate the event with the result being a more wholesome self. While the art part of the process is immediate, it is typically just the first step of integration. The studio experience can be moving, and a great way to bond with friend and stranger alike.

Local art therapy studios include Expressive Arts for daily classes and Soul Care House for weekend workshops.


Creative talent is not a prerequisite for becoming a proficient craftsperson. Some people may be wary of engaging in creative pursuits, but crafts can be a technical process as much as anything. And if creative expression finds its voice, then all the better.

As we busily rush through our days trying to make ends meet, a regular practice of craft-making can be another resource for finding peace within and connection without. And one more way to immerse ourselves in our vibrant community.

—Eric Domeier lives in North Park and practices architecture from his Grim Avenue office. Visit his website at or call him at 619-531-0010.

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