Years ago, in secondary school, I failed an art exam.
In hindsight, my hastily sketched shipwreck shaded with colour pencils paled in comparison to my classmates’ vibrant renditions of marine life.
But the indignity of scoring 45 marks out of a hundred – in a subject meant to encourage creativity – lingered.
It made me cautious of making missteps when I took part in art workshops recently to emerge from the cloud of stasis that descended after one too many Netflix serials.
In this season of physical distancing and social responsibility, small-group workshops with four to eight participants are a novel alternative to my usual weekend haunts of yoga classes, bars and restaurants.
Crafting promised calm amid the uncertainty of Covid-19, provided I could relinquish my fear of failure.
This proved easier said than done. While pouring resin at a workshop, I fussed over pouring the paint “correctly” and wondered if I had concocted the ideal shade of peach.
“I must warn you, I’m bad at art,” I told all the instructors I met. They nodded as though they had heard this dozens of times.
“Singaporeans are generally more afraid of making mistakes,” says Ms Ly Yeow, who teaches needle punching workshops at her home studio, Lyttle Space.
She assured me that needle punching is a forgiving medium, which allows a wide berth for experimenting. After a few tries, threading the large-gauge needle came more easily. Tidy rows of yarn appeared on my monkscloth, knolls of green topped with a milky blue sky.
At Ms Yeow’s behest, I stopped focusing on my needle placement and let muscle memory take over. My hands fell into a steady rhythm. Had I actually found an art form I was good at?
It takes confidence to learn a new skill, both to begin and to keep at it. With much of the country staying home, there is no better time for self-improvement, either through online or offline classes.
Many of these small-group adult craft classes – for fewer than 10 people – are still going on.
The next time I binge on a new Netflix show, perhaps I will be crafting along with it, and hopefully unravelling a decades-old self-limiting belief with every loop of yarn and punch of needle.