Saturday, January 8, 2011

LCS Saturday - Giving Your Hands a Break

I've been asked how I manage to stay artistically-inspired and productive with a variety of health challenges and the short, blunt answer is that I don't.  Anyone who has tried following my blog knows that I generally work in bursts punctuated with long, silent dry spells.  I often make two steps progress, only to fall three steps back.  2010, however, was the first year in perhaps a decade (maybe more) where I feel, when all was said & done, that I actually ended up coming out ahead of it all.  I'm not out of the woods yet; maybe you could say I'm standing on the edge of the forest facing out towards my field of dreams.
journal page from Aug '07; altered Seurat

Over the next 2 Lost Coast Studio Saturdays, I thought I might offer some tips & tricks I've learned over the years to adapt my artistic life to my health demands.  Right off, I have to say that I am not a doctor so please don't take my words as gospel.  By all means listen to your own body (and the M.D. in your life) first.  These are just some things that I have found to help me; perhaps they will be useful to you as well. 

Part One - Hands:  I am most familiar with adaptations to hand issues and so this is where I'll begin. (You can read the lowdown on my hand saga here.)
  • Vary the type of hand activity throughout your art session.  Using scissors requires a different combo of hand & wrist muscles than writing or stamping or sewing and so on.  Don't work too long at a single task.
  • Fingerless or compression gloves can help keep your hands warm while you work or, in the case of the latter, maintain good circulation.  I find circulation gloves to be too tight and all my hand surgeries have made my hands very sensitive to touch.  Some artists swear by them.
  • Increase the size of the grips on your pencils and brushes.  Crayola's Model Magic© and tape wrappings are permanent solutions while pencil grips and old-fashioned curler sponges can be temporary fixes.
  • Spend time mark-making with your non-dominant/uninjured hand.  If you're like me and both hands are impaired, it is still a good idea to spread the workload.  A session spent making serendipity papers is also good if you have the shakes, anxiety, or creative block.
  • Limit time spent using the Xacto knife, punches, or hard clays that need a lot of conditioning.  Book binding involving multiple signatures and/or complex stitches can also be very hard on the hands.
  • Regular contrast baths can be soothing to aggravated appendages.  If you have a double sink (or 2 deep bowls/basins), fill one side with warm water (95 - 100 degrees).  The water should be "Oooh! That feels comfortable warm!" NOT "Damn! That's hot!"  Fill the other sink or basin with cool water.  Cold water directly from the tap can be too cold so add just a little warm.  Please don't try ice without a doctor's permission.  Dunk your hands and hold for 3 minutes in the warm and then rotate to the cool for 1 minute.  Do this for 15 minutes total.  (Note: This often helps sore feet as well.)  Contrast baths encourage circulation.  Super easy alternative:  I like to have a load of dishes soaking while I'm working and I periodically get up to scrub & rinse a plate or two.  The warm (and cool water) is like a quick pick-me-up for my hands.
Next Saturday, I'll outline some things I've discovered to work around fibromyalgia, fatigue, chronic pain, and cures or magic potions unfortunately but rather some ways to keep the creative brain in gear while the body is uncooperative. 


Jill said...

You are offering very sound advice, useful to those of us who do not have your handicaps Michelle, but sometimes take our health for granted as we reach a 'certain' age. thank you and I do wish you the best and a strengthening 2011.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...