Crafting Calm by Maggie Oman Shannon

Crafting Calm: Projects and Practices for Creativity and Contemplation
Maggie Oman Shannon
Viva Editions, 2013

sw88 - review - Book review Crafting Calm

Review by Beth Lynch.

We are in the midst of a handcrafting Renaissance: not only are people rediscovering the value of handmade items and the handmade lifestyle, but they are also finding profound rewards in crafting as a spiritual exercise, both for meditative purposes and as acts of devotion. Much of my own work focuses on Making (manifesting the spiritual in physical form) as a spirit work path, so I was cautiously excited to receive my review copy of this book. My initial caution stemmed from the fact that the book was written by an interfaith minister, and several of the projects (such as the Biblical garden and prayer shawl) seemed to have a Christian slant to them. While I am not anti-Christian by any means, I have noticed that a large segment of the handcrafts revolution seems to lean towards conservative Christianity, and as a pagan artisan that sometimes makes me a little uncomfortable.

However, I was pleasantly surprised to see that while there are creativity-themed quotes from the Bible and from Christian mystics, as well as interviews with Christian crafters, sprinkled throughout the book, these are accompanied by a wide variety of interviews and quotes by crafters from other traditions such as Judaism, the “new age,” and paganism. The purpose of these quotes and first-person snippets is not to proselytize but simply to demonstrate how the practice of conscious and mindful creativity can enrich your spiritual path, whatever that specific path may be. So, while this is certainly not a pagan book per se, I would encourage pagans not to let that deter them from checking it out. In fact, after reading it I found it more relevant to my own practice than a witchy-themed crafting book I reviewed not too long ago—thanks, largely, to Shannon’s guiding premise that any crafting project can become an exercise in spiritual crafting if your focus is on connecting with Spirit (aka God, the gods, or fill in your preferred Holy Name here) through the process of creation. While some of the projects in the book are things that I already make for myself (such as power pouches, anointing oils, spiritually inspired gardens, and intention/prayer jewelry), others (such as prayer mats, personal prayer flags, and visual journals) have been added to my list of ideas I may want to try my hand at in the future. There are forty suggested projects in all, interspersed with lots of personal stories and anecdotes from a number of different artisans, and the author also includes six pages of resources for further study and reading.

The only other qualm I had about this book was that there were no photographs (only crude drawings) of the completed projects; in a few cases, such as with the prayer shawls and prayer mats, the verbal instructions were a little confusing and I wished there were some more visual examples of how the results could look. While I can appreciate that the author may not have wanted to provide photos because some people might feel restricted by them, rather than allowing their creativity to flow freely, I still think the book would have been enriched by a “gallery” section at the end showing how some of the examples discussed throughout the chapters turned out. However, this is a minor quibble, and Crafting Calm would make a worthwhile addition to the library of anyone interested in infusing their creativity with Spirit—or vice versa!

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