The Art of Play

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Confession time. Pre-baby, I worked endlessly, filling my calendar to the brim with travel and opportunities and conferences and events until I had, quite literally, drained my body and mind and energy of any creative inspiration. The well was dry. And in my head – the most jumbled of places – I thought that meant I wasn’t trying hard enough. I wasn’t digging deep enough or looking far enough. I wasn’t “fill in the blank” enough.

But in reality, I was “fill in the blank” too much. Too busy (I hate that word), too tired, too overwhelmed, too distracted. Too much. And then Bee arrived – a gift that I thought would make me more busy and more “much.” Instead, I learned to play – an art that Amsterdam-based designer Ingrid Hulskamp has mastered in the most beautiful of ways.

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Ingrid worked on her series of contemplative toys for adults, Daily Poetry, for a year during her MA textile studies at Central Saint Martins. Inspired by the visualization of time, old-fashioned children toys and the ever-changing elements in nature, she brainstormed a way to inspire contemplation in an intuitive, playful and poetic fashion. In a sense, she re-discovered the art of play.

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“When we grow older, we can lose our open mind to the world and it becomes so much more difficult to live in the moment,” she writes. “Playing and laughing can bring us back to the here and now. [It’s] so vital for our well-being.”

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Ingrid’s response to this pursuit is a line of luxurious objects made from hand-blown glass boasting brass-plated gold and colored pigments that transform through movement. “Somehow I am trying to regain a bit of my childhoods wondering,” she writes. “In a sense I made the objects for myself, helping me to live more in the moment.”

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I’ve noticed this childhood wonder in my own life when playing with Bee, who, as a nine-month-old, has that uncanny ability to connect with the world around her. Our mornings are quiet, spent on the floor stacking and unstacking and re-stacking piles of blocks to form new and exciting creations. It’s a treasured experience – the idea that we’re slowing down long enough to create an intentional and deliberate moment in time. We are creating with our hands and our minds and our souls, fully immersed in our “work”. On the outside, we’re playing. On the inside, we’re creating.

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Ingrid shared a quote from Charles Schaefer that inspires her work, noting, “We are never more fully alive, more completely ourselves, or more deeply engrossed in anything, than when we are at play.”

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And I often think that’s why motherhood transformed me in such a way. I’d assumed creativity would take a backseat to diaper changes and pureed food, but instead, I’m learning to play again. To laugh and discover and create. And in the words of Charles Schaefer, “to be more completely myself.”

Image Credits: Ingrid Hulskamp

p.s. The good news, of course, is that you don’t need kids to teach you to play. But if you ever need one, I’ve got one you can borrow at 5AM.

  • I fully agree with this! I feel way more creative and FREE ever since having a child (he’s now 4). Sure, I don’t have as much time as I used to, but I use the free time I have more wisely. Children help me see the world with new eyes and remember to not take myself so seriously. Well, maybe this will change with Baby #2…

    • Ha – I completely agree. :) And I love how we don’t have to have kids to take time out of our days for play. It’s just easier when there’s someone tugging at your hip to remind you. :)

  • Being a parent has changed my creative life for two reasons. The first is the constraint of time. In hindsight I had endless time both in absolute amounts and in the length of time of each “session”. I’ve learned to create in short bursts, in 20 minute increments. It took some getting used to but now I can switch it on and off in chunks.

    The second relates to parenting directly. Being a parent is an improvisational exercise that is in itself creative. You can plan and schedule but you really have to roll with the punches and learn to respond in the moment. I’ve learned to improvise with my creative work as a result.

  • My favorite post you’ve ever written. I completely feel what you’re saying. I have felt more creative interacting with my children than I ever felt before them…experiencing the world through them is definitely eye-opening. And Ingrid’s work is magical. Thanks for sharing.

  • I am in love with Ingrids work! I want one of her toys. Thank you Erin for introducing her. Great article.

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