How I found creative light in this dark, virus-based tunnel

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In the final article of the Features lockdown project series, Phoebe tells us about how she re-discovered her creativity during lockdown.

“This is not really how I expected my 2020 to turn out”. I’m sure many of us have muttered that refrain on a Zoom call, a socially distanced chat to a neighbour, or maybe just to ourselves, as we slowly take on the characteristics of mild lunacy whilst spending days, and then weeks, and then months, inside.

For many, 2020 was supposed to be the second coming of the Roaring Twenties, filled with jazz, revival flapper dresses and doing the Charleston to DNB on Fab’s sticky dancefloor. Instead, a virus and the wonders of modern aviation worked together to kickstart an economic recession worse than that of the Great Depression, in the worst colab in the history of colabs, maybe ever.

After years of valuing intelligence over my manual or artistic skill, I found myself craving to work with my hands when lockdown began.

For me, I was going to spend my year killing my degree, doing research internships, and trying to maintain a social life whilst optimising all my extracurriculars to make myself as appealing as possible for the job market. Now that that same job market doesn’t really exist anymore, I, and many other students in similar positions, have been forced to reconsider. 

After years of valuing intelligence over my manual or artistic skill, I found myself craving to work with my hands when lockdown began. Hence, in an ode to my 80-year-old soul, I took up knitting. And then, when the jumpers I was making got popular, I started selling them. There’s a certain fulfilment that comes from holding a physical object you’ve made in your hands that you just don’t get from submitting an essay on Turnitin.

Lockdown seems to have regressed society a little (or advanced it, depending on your stance). We’ve all had to become a little bit self-sufficient. Out of both necessity and boredom of the Netflix roster, the whole of the UK has built up skills that would serve us well in a proper apocalypse, rather than this half-baked one.

The grass is always greener on the other side of a global pandemic, but right now all we can do is be creative and stay safe.

When the public declared pandemonium, and Tesco ran out of bread, we made focaccia and sourdough. When we couldn’t have dessert in a restaurant, we made endless loaves of banana bread (and subsequently raked in gram likes far and wide). We grew vegetables, decorated our home offices, repaired that tap that’s been dripping since the new year. I’m certain someone made their own bog roll.

Covid-19 kick-started our creativity, and our generation has turned that into business. From handmade jewellery (@gega.jewellery) to custom dog portraits (@m.silberberg.art), students have been cultivating skills and then monetising them in lockdown.

Even though it’s probably been the worst year of our lives so far, I think 2020 shouldn’t be a write off. Sure, it’s been filled to the brim with tragedy, melancholy, and loneliness, but also with creativity, innovation, humanity and art. We’ve pulled away from the Billy B and reconnected with those jobs we hoped we’d have when we were in primary school; jewellery makers, fashion designers, artists, writers, and musicians.

There’s a certain fulfilment that comes from holding a physical object you’ve made in your hands that you just don’t get from submitting an essay on Turnitin.

I hope we stay this way, remaining creative even when Mother Klute once again opens her warm, grimy, once Cummings-family owned doors. Despite the loss of three months of my uni life, I’ve used them, sort of accidentally, to foster my art & craftsmanship, build a brand and start a micro business (@whatpheemade). So have my pals. Support us if you can; choose well, buy small, and stay hopeful. The grass is always greener on the other side of a global pandemic, but right now all we can do is be creative and stay safe.

Illustration by Panda Main

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