Sometimes pursuing a passion can shape your life, providing endless challenges and pleasures, and keep you in good mental and physical shape.
That is the case with Sandra Briney, a resident of Splendido, a Life Plan Community for those 55 and better in Oro Valley. Sandra is an accomplished weaver who is entirely self-taught, and she’s devoted her retirement to creating whatever she feels like.
Sandra’s husband Jim is a minister and they moved quite a lot for his job, so she never had a traditional career. In addition to substitute teaching and working for picture framing companies, she sold her artwork. “For a long time, I had a website and did a lot of commission work,” she explains. “I never made a living at it, but I managed to pay for my [weaving] addiction and put a little away for retirement.” Through the site, she sold hand-woven paraments and stoles for ministers, along with other items. “When I turned 65, I took the prices off of everything on the website and donated the items,” Sandra recalls. “For the past five years, I’ve been working on whatever I feel like, and I’m enjoying myself tremendously,” she says.
Learning from the Loom Up
When Sandra says she’s self-taught, she is not exaggerating. Her first lesson in weaving was figuring out how to re-assemble a loom. She explains, “In the 1980s, a friend of mine was a master weaver who was moving out of state. Right before she left, I caught her putting a pile of wood on my doorstep. When I asked her what she was doing, she said it was a loom, and I was the only person she knew who was curious enough to figure out how to put it together and use it.”
Her friend was correct; Sandra headed for the library and looked up books on looms. Based on photos she found, she identified what type of loom she had, and eventually got it put back together.
Plenty of Space to Create
Today, Sandra has two large looms and two small ones. “The large ones are a 48” floor loom and a 54” Rio Grande walking loom—I stand at the pedals to work that one,” she explains. “I have them in the guest bedroom of our apartment home. I measured very carefully before we moved in, because I wasn’t going to move if I couldn’t have those looms!”
Despite having a dedicated room in her home, Sandra likes to work on projects in Splendido’s art studio when she can. “I can carry one of the small looms down, or I’ll do some beadwork there,” she says. She admits she was pleasantly surprised to learn how much she enjoys working around other artists, which she had not done before. “I enjoy the camaraderie,” she says. “I always lived where no one else did what I do. Now, it’s nice to have other people around.”
A Healthy Hobby
It turns out that in addition to years of enjoyment and countless works of art, Sandra’s passion for weaving and other fiber arts has impressive health benefits. Research shows that these creative endeavors pay off in emotional, cognitive, and physical health benefits:
• Textile work reduces stress. One researcher asked 60 women suffering from various levels of stress to either work with textiles, write, or meditate. Her results showed the textile workers had the best results at stress reduction and mood repair.
• Weaving improves sleep quality.One study that asked people with insomnia to try knitting found that 100% of the subjects reported improved sleep after knitting, and 90% of them were able to discontinue sleep medications.
• Fiber arts can reduce the risk of dementia.Multiple studies have linked knitting and crochet to postponed age-related memory loss. One study showed that knitting may reduce dementia by as much as 50%.
• Making art builds community. When artists or crafters get together—as Sandra does at Splendido—the social aspect can heighten enjoyment and boost cognition.
Sandra says she knows firsthand that weaving “keeps you agile in mind and body.” She says, “I go to the fitness center here [at Splendido] and take the balance classes religiously. They’ve been excellent for me, because at the walking loom, the things I stand on move—it’s very physical! So I need to strengthen those muscles and stay agile.”
Sandra has truly woven together the benefits of her hobby; her passion for weaving is what motivates her to stay in shape, even as it imparts unique benefits for her mood, her mind, and her social life.