There and back again

A hobby tale

Ashley Segal was inspired to start painting during the pandemic while searching for local artists on Instagram to help decorate her husband's business. “I think I want to do this,” Segal thought, “so I went to Artists Emporium, picked up some craft supplies and started painting with my kids.” Since then, she has become a member at cre8ery and has even started making sales.

Spenser Payne uses crepe paper, glue and wire to assemble a paper rose. Since Payne started her hobby, she says she loves to learn about real flowers and their different parts. She will even collect real flowers so she can analyze them and figure out how to recreate them as paper.

While it may have started as a hobby, Spenser Payne hopes to sell poinsettia arrangements she has made up for the holiday season to cover the cost of more supplies. She also hasn’t ruled out the idea of expanding the venture if the bouquets prove popular.

Colleen Havrilenko uses a variety of paints, a spinning base and many different brushes and tools to draw the dots and embellishments that make up her mandalas. Although she has a few go-to patterns, most of Havrilenko’s mandalas are spontaneous creations.

Colleen Havrilenko got into mandala art with the paint left over from decorating 200 rocks with her kids during COVID-19 lockdowns. “We were not allowed to do anything. We were in lockdown. So we started visiting parks,” she says. “Every day, we’d go to a different playground or park in the city, and we started finding Winnipeg Rocks, which is part of the Kindness Rocks Project movement. We painted and hid 200 rocks in five months.”

Suzie Wong works on a painting of Ernie and Bert where “Ernie gets his revenge, because Bert is such a jerk.” Sharing an internet connection with her partner who was forced to work from home during the pandemic was difficult, because their VPN was unreliable. As a result, Wong took up painting as an alternative way to pass time during the pandemic.

Suzie Wong sits on her couch and works on a painting. Wongs loves to support and collect art from local artists. While she has sold some of her work, she has no plans to turn the hobby into a business.

Hannah Muhajarine laughs as she plays a tune on her banjo in the living room of her shared house. About taking up a hobby and doing something just for the fun of it, Mujaharine says, “Everything that you do can't always be in service of some future goal or reward that you're going to receive. I feel like probably the happiest people are people that are able to take pleasure and receive that kind of reward out of whatever they're doing in that moment.”

Whether it’s baking sourdough bread, hiking, playing video games, fostering pets or learning a new language, there is no shortage of hobbies out there.

When the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic on March 11, 2020, the world entered into an uncertain cycle of lockdowns, work-from-home orders, social distancing and endless Zoom meetings.

Millions of people suddenly found themselves with plenty of extra time on their hands. Trends like binge-watching Tiger King, playing Among Us and making dalgona coffee seemed to spring up and disappear almost daily.

Some very dedicated, or perhaps desperate, rock climbers even resorted to posting videos on social media of themselves climbing the furniture and cabinets in their homes when climbing gyms were forced to close due to public-health restrictions.

Hobbies suddenly became more popular than ever. They perhaps also became more important than ever.

While many have no doubt long since forgotten the moves to the TikTok dances they learned or the countless memes they double tapped and reposted, some folks managed to find much deeper connections with their pandemic hobbies and haven’t looked back.

Since Ashley Segal began painting as a hobby in September 2021, she has taken part in gallery shows and made some sales. While she currently also works a day job, she can definitely see herself taking her work more toward the business side of things.

When Ashley Segal paints, she likes to work in a quiet environment and doesn’t usually approach the canvas with an idea in mind. “I just go to my paint box, and I grab a couple things. I kind of just go with it, and then my imagination takes over.

Spenser Payne is a paper florist. She took up her craft after COVID-19 stalled her and her partner’s plans to get married and forced them to rethink the cost of a wedding. “Flowers for a wedding are upwards of $3,000 a pop,” she says, “So I said, ‘Okay, there’s no flowers happening at the wedding,’ which was not a cool thing.” Payne had heard of paper flowers and decided to go the DIY route.

Suzie Wong finds painting to be a great form of stress relief. “I have a lot of stress. It gets bottled up, and I just paint out my stress,” she says.

Hannah Muhajarine started playing on her coworker’s banjo as a way to procrastinate, but when the pandemic started, she found herself getting really into it and soon bought her own instrument. Muhajarine found plenty of learning resources online and a local teacher who offered in-person and Zoom lessons.

Published in Volume 77, Number 11 of The Uniter (November 24, 2022)

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