Creative Pursuits | Try Your Hand at a New Hobby This Winter

It’s scientifically proven that carving out “me time” can improve our mental health. When we fill it with hobbies, we can find ourselves being whisked away from the regimented world around us and allowing our creativity and imagination to run free. The slower winter season may be a chance for you to get your creative juices flowing and take up a new hobby. Below are five hobbies with tips and resources for getting started. In the end, you may discover a hidden talent and passion you never knew you had.

Photography
Lisa Pitcher has been pressing her shutter button for 40 years. She has amassed countless snapshots of Lynchburg landscapes, wildlife, people and events. While some photos she took as a business professional, most of them were simply as someone who loves the art of photography. 

“Photography is a good hobby to motivate you, to keep you going and active,” she said. “It’s also a good way of recording where we’ve been, who we are, and what we like.” 

Pitcher is the president of the Blue Ridge Photographic Arts Society (BRPAS), a group that has been meeting monthly in Lynchburg for about 20 years. 

“Some of us are professionals, and some just want to learn how to take better pictures of their grandkids,” she said. “As a group, we try to help others find their vision for their photos.” 

It’s less about the technical aspect and expensive equipment. Many members prefer to shoot with their smartphones. 

“With today’s photography, you don’t need to sink a lot of money into it, and you don’t have to have the latest and greatest to take a great photograph,” Pitcher said. 

The encouragement and support from her photography family stretches her as an artist. The group holds photo contests and critique sessions, and they meet for “dine-in shoots,” taking photos at different locations before enjoying a meal together. “It’s like having a date with your camera,” she said. 

The group has been to local gardens, parks, Hillcats games, graveyards, and even on an occasional road trip to New York City and Washington, D.C. 

She advises beginners to start by researching famous photographers they like and allowing their photos to influence their own work. Pitcher also suggests online tutorials and classes on basic photography, many of which are free. “It’s about educating the eye,” she said. 

The Academy Center of the Arts regularly offers beginning photography classes (go to Academycenter.org and click on “education”). 

Music
Maybe you took lessons as a child but had to give them up when school, sports or a job begged for your time. Or maybe you’ve never held an instrument but always wanted to play piano or guitar so you can lead family sing-alongs. 

Many people find that learning a musical instrument as an adult comes with more freedom than it does as a child. There are no tryouts or auditions and no pressure to perform for audiences. Plus, studies show that playing an instrument can preserve memory function, so it is never too late to take up the world’s universal language. 

But where do you start as an adult? The same place you did as a child — with lessons and practice. Many local music stores offer education programs for all ages, and local professionals who give private lessons to children are pleased to welcome adults. It’s also fun to share music with those you love, so ask a child or grandchild who plays an instrument to teach you the basics. (Musical talent can be hereditary, so you may have more in common than you know.) 

If you’re interested in sharing your passion for music by blending your voice with others, join a choral group. The Jefferson Choral Society is the oldest and largest volunteer adult choir in Central Virginia (visit www.jeffersonchoralsociety.org for information). You may also consider joining a church choir and finding solace in worship and fellowship. 

Cooking
Most of us have made it to adulthood with basic cooking skills, but some of us may long to cook our restaurant favorites or entertain guests with fare more exquisite than our weekly chicken casserole. TV cooking shows have become popular for this reason, and if you’re a regular viewer, you have probably felt challenged by those brazen chefs who make cooking look easy. 

But choosing cooking as a hobby can be one of your most beneficial endeavors. It can cause you to take more interest in your family’s nutrition, and it can open the door to explore other cultures. 

Taking a class may be the first step. Lynchburg Parks & Recreation regularly offers adult culinary classes, some with special themes like a couples dessert night or how to make hot sauce (visit LynchburgParksandRec.com for upcoming classes). And many companies, such as ClassBento, offer online-based workshops where you order a kit with all the ingredients sent straight to your door. You can interact with a private instructor online as you cook. Classes are offered in Thai, Indian and European food. 

A personal challenge to heat up your new hobby and expand your palate is to choose one ingredient a week that you’ve never cooked with before. It may be a vegetable, a type of pasta, a meat or fish, or even a new sauce. Commit yourself to cooking with at least one new-to-you item every week. 

Another idea is to throw a cooking party. Ask a friend who knows their way around the kitchen to serve as host and give you pointers. Spend time preparing a full meal with your friends and then reap your rewards at the table together. 

Pottery
Pottery may be one of the earliest hobbies. There’s something primal and soothing about working with clay. Kelli Johnson, Education Manager for the Academy Center of the Arts, said the center’s weekly Pottery Night Out has become one of its most popular events. The one-time, two-hour class is typically held on Friday nights and allows people to try their hand at the potter’s wheel and take home a finished product. The center also offers a Beginning Hand Building class (how people formed clay before potter’s wheels were invented), so you can test your raw skill. Other multiple in-studio classes are offered for different ages and skill levels. 

Johnson said many of the center’s art classes (painting is also popular for adults) start off at four weeks: “So the great thing is you’re not investing your entire life trying to learn it — if you don’t like it, you can go and try something else.” 

Lynchburg Parks & Recreation also offers pottery classes for all levels as well as family pottery events. 

If you want to venture out on your own, many companies sell adult DIY pottery starter kits online, complete with clay, tools, and instructions for everything from vases to mugs to trinket dishes. Sites include sculpd.com, noahsbox.com and crockd.com.

Needlecrafts
You may have tried needlecrafts years ago, or maybe you always watched your grandmother from afar, but it is making a resurgence. Now could be the time to try cross-stitch, needlepoint, embroidery, knitting, quilting, or the close cousin of needlecrafts: crochet.

One of the best things about needlecrafts is that you can take your projects with you wherever you go. How many times do we find ourselves waiting for something: Waiting for a doctor’s appointment, sitting in a carpool line, traveling by plane or train, or simply waiting for the tiredness to kick in before bedtime.

Needlecrafts can be therapy, too. The back-and-forth rhythm of the stitching is calming.

Cross-stitch and needlepoint are perhaps the easiest places to start. Local arts and crafts stores stay stocked with patterns, traditional and modern. Both crafts call for making art out of stitches on fabric; cross-stitch uses mainly x-shaped stitches, while needlepoint tends to be more intricate and involves a variety of textured stitches. Needlepoint enthusiasts today are decorating belts, clutch purses and even shoes. Beginners should start off with something small, like a Christmas ornament, and build their way up to larger designs.

While needlecrafts can certainly be done solo, local groups have formed for people to set aside dedicated time for their projects and feed off each other’s creativity. Lynchburg Parks & Recreation hosts a “Knit or Knot” knitting group, and Campbell County offers the weekly Needlecrafters group and Pins & Needles group.  


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