For any countryside dwellers amongst our readers, the picture of a group of teenagers, slightly cowed under enormous rucksacks, huddled around a map or trudging slowly forward is a common sight in and around our national parks at this time of year. They are clearly walking with a purpose, not just out for an afternoon stroll. There is often not much laughter or needless banter until they reach camp, weary, at night time; their energy is taken up by carrying their heavy loads and their brain power focused on ensuring they are walking in the right direction; a wrong turn means extra distance to cover. This is good training indeed for our young people. It is, in fact, the expedition component for the Duke of Edinburgh Award.
However, D of E is not just the expedition. In fact, there are four components to it; volunteering, physical, skills and expedition. It is in the skills section that young people may find a way into arts and crafts which could continue to provide enjoyment and even employment throughout their lifetime. The Duke of Edinburgh award invites young people to develop a skill they already have, try out a new one, test their limits and through all this, grow in confidence. This last year has seen a record-breaking number of participants and at a time when adolescent mental health issues are also at a very concerning high, it offers a truly welcome programme to give our teens purpose, grow them in resilience and enable them to gain a fresh perspective not only on life, but on themselves and their abilities.
As craft business owners, there are formalised ways to partner with the D of E award scheme; take a look at their website if this is something you might be interested in doing. If not, there are always informal ways you can support a young person you know to learn a new craft for their skills section. As we know, crafting and creating are very good for our mental health and our teens could surely do with some practical boosts in this area.
In an age when so much of teenage life can be focused around screens, the very present and sensory nature of crafting can be of huge benefit. It seems that an increasing number of teens have sensory processing issues in some area, and crafting can offer some wonderfully calming and regulating sensory projects. Working with clay is tactile and soothing and can be an effective way to channel frustration with the added benefit of a finished product! Choosing and mixing essential oils for soaps is a fragrance dream, while selecting and experimenting with colour can be a visual feast.
The Duke of Edinburgh Award has a very holistic approach to young people’s lives, with the aim that the activities in which they participate will allow them not only to grow in confidence but also to develop skills they need to successfully navigate life. Crafting requires of us and develops within us many character qualities essential for life. Perseverance and patience are required to learn and hone a new skill. Confidence is needed to share your finished product with someone, and then maybe take the next step to exhibit or sell.
It might be that what starts as learning a new crafting skill for a D of E qualification leads in time to beginning a small crafting business. This indeed would equip any young person in a manner in keeping with the the original vision of the late Duke of Edinburgh. And, with the popularity of crafts handmade in the UK ever on the rise this could be a good step to take. For young people who may struggle to see the point of a maths GCSE, developing a business plan and budget will bring purpose to the maths they have been taught. And, it is not only maths for which light bulb moments may occur. Leaning a new crafting skill can bring fresh hope and vision into a young person’s life. It may be the first thing they feel they have excelled in, and the sense of achievement in creating an end product of beauty, which will bring benefit to someone else, will create a huge sense of pride. This in itself will lift their self esteem and provide confidence and motivation for the next step.
Being a part of the community of crafters is also good for their general well being. Friendships are often built around shared interests and the added bonus of being part of a community who produce crafts handmade in the UK adds a whole new level of self esteem and belonging. The Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme is keen to draw young people in who might be on the margins of their communities, and as we know, crafting is an excellent way of integrating people into the community in which they live, through shared work spaces, community projects, fairs and celebrations. A young person could truly find a new sense of meaning and purpose in his or her life through learning a new crafting skill.
As crafters we all have our unique stories of how finding and honing our skill and eventually turning it into our very own business, has impacted our life. We can each testify to the sense of satisfaction we get as we produce crafts handmade in the UK. We know the friendships we have made, the communities we have become a part of and the sense of purpose our crafting business has gifted to us. For many of us, we may also have stories of how our craft has been therapeutic, maybe even life salvaging at times, and offered us not only an outlet for acute anxiety or long term stress, but a sense of purpose and and exciting vision for the future. In a world with so much greyness, we are fortunate indeed to have skills and businesses which create beautiful, praiseworthy products and provide us with so much enjoyment. Here’s to the next generation of young people creating products handmade in the UK and let’s keep our eyes open for opportunities to help them.