Exploring the meanings of making traditional arts and crafts among older women in Crete, using interpretative phenomenological analysis.
Aim: The aim of the study was to investigate the meanings of making
traditional arts and crafts among older, retired women living in rural
Crete, and the contribution of these occupations to wellbeing. Previous
relevant research, conducted mainly in the United Kingdom and United
States, had largely neglected the experiences of art-making in societies
with strong cultural traditions of art-making.
Method: Semi-structured interviews were conducted in Greek to collect qualitative accounts from 12 women aged over 65 years. The data were interpreted according to published guidelines for interpretative phenomenological analysis.
Findings: The women identified various forms of art-making that were indigenous, such as weaving, lace-making and painting holy icons. They expressed deep respect for artistic traditions and took pride in preserving and teaching traditional skills and designs. They perceived art-making as promoting continuity of self, social status and spiritual wellbeing. Art-making was also used as a coping strategy for the challenges of later life, such as bereavement.
Conclusion: Older women in Crete valued their involvement in traditional forms of art-making. These occupations enhanced wellbeing in several ways. Participants gained status, and a culturally recognised role in the community, from preserving and transmitting the skills required for indigenous forms of art and craft work.
Art, tradition, identity, wellbeing, older people.
Aged women (Social aspects)
Coping (Psychology) (Methods)
Coping (Psychology) (Research)
Handicraft (Social aspects)
Handicraft (Psychological aspects)
Creative ability (Research)
Creative ability (Demographic aspects)
Creative ability (Psychological aspects)
|Publication:||Name: British Journal of Occupational Therapy Publisher: College of Occupational Therapists Ltd. Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Health Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2011 College of Occupational Therapists Ltd. ISSN: 0308-0226|
|Issue:||Date: August, 2011 Source Volume: 74 Source Issue: 8|
|Topic:||Event Code: 290 Public affairs; 310 Science & research|
|Product:||Product Code: 8428000 Crafts NAICS Code: 711 Performing Arts, Spectator Sports, and Related Industries|
|Geographic:||Geographic Scope: Greece Geographic Code: 4EUGR Greece|
This study focused upon the meanings of traditional forms of art-making and craft-making among older women living in a rural setting in Crete, exploring subjective relationships between creativity and wellbeing in later life. Crete, the largest of the Greek islands, has a culture with rich and distinctive traditions and rituals, and has family patterns generally characterised by respect for older people. In rural areas of Greece, living with the extended family is common (Ogg 2005, Kaldi-Koulikidou 2007, Sokolovsky 2009). Nonetheless, bereavement appears to exacerbate the social exclusion of older people in Greece, more so than in Northern European cultures (Ogg 2005). Older people in Greece also seem to experience more poverty relative to other European countries (Ogg 2005). Greek culture is rich in folklore and ancient myths and has given rise to many traditional arts and crafts. Insights gained from older people regarding the meanings of making traditional handicrafts may enrich therapy practice, not only in Greece but also in any multicultural context.
There have been strong arguments within occupational therapy to include creative occupations within a wide repertoire of interventions, despite the limited evidence base for their effectiveness. Sadlo (2004, p95), for example, argued that creativity combines intellectual, emotional and spiritual intelligence, so as well as 'addressing items on a referral, a major aim of therapy should be to restore/enhance clients' creative capacities, for their own health's sake'. In addition to providing creative interventions to clients attending inpatient and day care facilities, occupational therapists are well placed to discuss meaningful leisure occupations with clients who are living in the community and coping with the challenges associated with ageing and /or ill-health.
Leisure occupations are increasingly recognised as having an important role to play in sustaining the physical and subjective wellbeing of older people, according to a number of large-scale quantitative surveys (Glass et al 1999, Lampinen et al 2006, McKenna et al 2007). Higher levels of physical, social and productive activity predicted lower levels of mortality in the 13-year follow-up study by Glass et al (1999). These relationships held, even when other potential influences upon both activity and mortality (such as depression and number of chronic conditions) were taken into account within the analysis. Those who engage in productive leisure occupations in later life (for example, by replacing activities lost to ill-health) are less likely to experience depression (Benyamini and Lomranz 2004). Leisure activities appear to have a particularly potent role to play in promoting quality of life among older people who are coping with bereavement or decreasing function, as reported by Silverstein and Parker (2002), who conducted a nationally representative Swedish survey Qualitative studies offer further insights into the personal meanings of leisure occupations, and older people have described deriving relaxation, self-esteem, stimulation, mastery and social contact (Zoerick 2001, Gabriel and Bowling 2004, Ball et al 2007).
A literature search of the main databases (PsycInfo and CINAHL), as well as Greek literature, using combinations of search terms 'Artwork', 'Elderly', 'Older people', 'Creativity', 'Ageing', 'Meaning', 'Occupation', 'Wellbeing', and 'Culture', was conducted to find relevant published research, but revealed relatively few studies.
Creative arts occupations provide a wide range of psychosocial benefits, according to a recent review by Perruzza and Kinsella (2010). Such benefits include social interaction and feelings of connectedness (Wikstrom 2002, Timmons and MacDonald 2008, Reynolds 2010), self-worth and identity maintenance (Schofield-Tomschin and Littrell 2001, Timmons and MacDonald 2008), and an increased sense of control (Perruzza and Kinsella 2010). The influences of tradition, and the satisfactions that older people may derive from continuing to create the types of arts and crafts that were popular among their parents and grandparents, have been studied to a limited extent among minority cultural groups in the United States, including African Americans (Freeman 1996), the Amish, Mormons and Appalachians (Wilson 2001, Piercy and Cheek 2004), mostly with reference to quilting. In the United Kingdom, more recently, Riley (2008) conducted an ethnographic study, informed by occupational science concepts, which highlighted the meanings of tradition and context among 21 textile artists who belonged to a guild of weavers, dyers and spinners.
Although qualitative research cannot be readily generalised, certain recurring themes have emerged from a number of studies. Textile artists (of a wide age range) have described their specialist skills, and the objects that they make, as confirming their collective identity (Schofield-Tomschin and Littrell 2001, Piercy and Cheek 2004, Riley 2008). Some women derive personal continuity from their artmaking, in part from maintaining family traditions (Howie et al 2004), and they enjoy affirmation from handing down traditional craft skills and textile work (such as quilts) to children and grandchildren (Wilson 2001, Piercy and Cheek 2004, Johnson and Wilson 2005). A sense of personal continuity, purpose and flow was attributed to making art by 36 older people displaying artwork at a seniors' exhibition (Fisher and Specht 1999).
Johnson and Wilson (2005) noted how traditional crafts contribute to a sense of personal history and personal identity. Learning and practising traditional skills in quilting guilds and circles are experienced as binding the self symbolically to family and the wider community (Cerny et al 1993). Older Appalachian women maintain rich folklore traditions through their textile artwork, regarding themselves as 'keepers of the cloth' (Wilson 2001, p viii). Similarly, among minority groups, such as the Amish, textile art is understood to cement strong connections with peers and across generations, with items and skills handed down from grandmothers to daughters and grandchildren (Piercy and Cheek 2004). These studies emphasise not only the personal satisfactions of creative occupations, such as learning, self-expression and a sense of achievement, but also the social satisfactions of 'acting as guardians of family traditions' (Cheek and Piercy 2004, p321).
This sense of family and community tradition is also illustrated by the observation among quilting circles that some feel the need to complete projects started by a loved one. For example, women may complete a quilt left unfinished by a grandmother, including learning traditional techniques so that the new work is in keeping with original (Piercy and Cheek 2004). Traditional items, such as quilts, can mark rites of passage, such as births and marriages, and cement family bonds by being passed down the generations (Schofield-Tomschin and Littrell 2001, Piercy and Cheek 2004).
The meanings of textile art-making have primarily been studied using qualitative methods. As typical in qualitative research, sample sizes have in some cases been relatively small (for example, six people were studied by Howie et al 2004). Nevertheless, sample size is not considered an indicator of quality in qualitative traditions such as phenomenology, because richness of data and sensitivity of analysis are more important features. In addition, accounts inevitably reflect the experiences of those who are more articulate. Single interviews are unlikely to capture meanings that are fluid or difficult to verbalise, and the cultural and historical context of art-making may be difficult for individuals immersed in that culture to perceive or articulate (Molineux and Rickard 2003). On the other hand, these qualitative studies have offered rich insights into the personal satisfactions of leisure-based art-making, and such methods are thought highly appropriate for exploring occupation (Yerxa 1991).
This phenomenological study explored the meanings of making traditional arts and crafts among older women living in Crete, in order to identify whether and how such occupations were experienced as contributing to health and wellbeing.
Phenomenological research methods are popular among occupational therapists because they enable exploration of complex lived experiences in the social world (Christiansen and Townsend 2004). Interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) was adopted, an approach that seeks nuanced idiographic descriptions of lived experience, whilst acknowledging the inevitable interpretative role of researchers (Smith et al 2009).
There was no relevant ethics panel in the Cretan locality in which the study took place. The host university in the United Kingdom scrutinised and approved the project and all of the written materials (translated into English), including the poster inviting participants, the information sheet and consent form, and the letters to centre managers. These materials were translated into Greek by the first author, who is a native Greek speaker. Participants were assured of the safe-keeping of all data related to this study, including audiotapes, transcripts and photographs of their artwork. Pseudonyms are used to protect participants' confidentiality.
Older women were recruited through two centres in a rural Cretan community which provide artistic and other activities for older citizens, following management permission. One local leisure centre was run by the Greek social services for older citizens (KAI1H) and one leisure centre for activities was organised by the Greek Orthodox Church for people of all ages in the area. Those who were interested in taking part from seeing a poster advertising the project then received full information and a consent form.
Participants took part in a single audio-recorded semi-structured interview lasting about an hour, carried out by the first author at the centre they attended. Although the focus was primarily positive, on the satisfactions associated with making traditional arts and crafts, it was not possible to avoid sensitive issues, such as the women's grief for members of their family, as bereavement was a common experience in this age group. In this situation, the interviewer offered sensitive support. The topic guide, given in Table 1, was followed flexibly according to participants' responses. The interviewer was sensitive to any negative experiences of art-making, such as frustration with reduced dexterity, although the primary purpose was to explore the ways in which art-making was experienced as contributing to health and wellbeing.
Twelve women were interviewed, all aged over 65 years. Most had finished secondary education, and had been employed prior to retirement age. Five were widowed. They reported no major health problems or disability. All engaged in art-making as amateurs, rather than in a professional capacity, although some had previously learned artistic skills, which had been used in teaching roles with children. Seven were recruited from the church centre (which offered embroidery and iconography groups) and five from the social services centre. It was not possible to ascertain precisely how often participants engaged in art-making because they took part both at the centres and at home.
A reflective diary was used throughout the research to assist the process of reflection on the interviewer's thoughts and feelings (Savin-Baden and Fisher 2002). The aim of reflection was not to eliminate bias, but to acknowledge the researchers' inevitable presence in the research process, including identification of key themes and interpretations, thereby enhancing the quality of the findings (Finlay and Gough 2003).
Interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) was used to understand how the participants made sense of their experiences. At the same time, while trying to get close to the participant's personal world, IPA researchers consider that one cannot do this directly or completely (Smith et al 2009). Access is dependent upon the researcher's own conceptions, which are required to make sense of that other personal world through a process of interpretative activity. Each transcript was read carefully several times and analysed for specific meanings, aided by ideas recorded in field notes. These specific marginal comments were grouped into larger themes.
Each participant's account was initially analysed in this way to achieve an idiographic analysis of the key, or most potent, meanings of art-making. Then, through cross-case analysis, the convergent, or shared, themes were identified in an iterative process. Transcripts were also translated into English for corroborative analysis by the second author, which helped to increase the credibility of the emerging themes. Seven convergent themes, as reported in Table 2, were eventually identified. Further interpretative comment is offered in the discussion section.
1. Deep respect for Cretan traditions of art-making and craft-making
The participants described engaging in many forms of traditional Cretan arts and crafts, including jewellery-making, embroidery, lace-making, weaving, painting of holy icons, painting and drawing, silk-growing, making of traditional costumes, and crafting traditional decorations made from dried herbs and flowers. A deep respect for these traditions, and a desire to perpetuate skills and artistry handed down from previous generations, was explicitly communicated by all of the participants:
Several women spoke at length about their attempts to research Cretan art and craft traditions in order to maintain these and to pass them on to peers and also to younger generations:
In keeping with their respect for tradition, several participants described endeavouring to use historically accurate materials and techniques, often drawing on skills learned in childhood:
2. Personal satisfactions of art-making
All of the participants described deriving many personal satisfactions from their art-making, such as feelings of competence and achievement:
Art-making offered these older women a positive occupation, engendering pride in their own skills:
Many expressed a love of learning, which was not diminishing with age:
Several also described their art-making as mentally relaxing, increasing their sense of peace and wellbeing:
Closely related to the experience of relaxation were descriptions that could be interpreted as flow (Csikszentmihalyi 1990). According to Csikszentmihalyi, in flow, people experience their skills as matching the challenges of the task, and lose track of time due to their deep concentration:
3. Experiencing and expressing continuity of self in later life
Art-making also enabled many participants to experience continuity of identity, for example, defining the self as artistic:
Continuity of self was also expressed with participants viewing later life as an opportunity for achieving valued goals, rather than being a time of inactivity and withdrawal:
Some had experienced new understandings of themselves as shaped by their family history, and had gained a more intimate connection with earlier generations through sharing traditional art forms:
Some described feeling confident that they would leave a legacy through their artwork, and that they would have a continuing presence in their families after their deaths:
4. Making social connections through art-making
Not every participant appreciated the social aspects of art-making:
Nevertheless, most of the women enjoyed participating in classes where art-making took place in a social context. For some, the camaraderie of the group alleviated low mood:
More specifically, the social context offered participants recognition and appreciation for their artwork. Strong social bonds motivated participants to continue attending the group:
Sharing knowledge and artistic expertise with others, especially with the younger generation, increased their confidence in their continuing contribution to society:
5. Appreciating the financial aspects of art-making
Most of the women described occasionally selling their artwork and craftwork, welcoming this additional small income:
Nevertheless, personal financial benefit was not a primary motive for engaging in arts and crafts. Most described making gifts for their friends. Several were involved in fund-raising for local or overseas charities:
Fund-raising appeared to confirm their continuing status as active members of society.
6. Art-making as a means of coping with the challenges of later life
Seven participants discussed their attempts to maintain quality of life in relation to the physical and emotional challenges of ageing, such as losing their husband, and coping with pain. All of the widows (5) described their art-making as a means of coping with grief:
Physical problems, such as pain and weakness, were also described by the participants, although none was living with a marked physical disability. They felt that involvement with art-making helped to relieve pain through the deep concentration entailed in this occupation:
7. Experiencing spirituality within art-making and craft-making
Four participants described experiencing a heightened sense of spiritual or religious connection through their art-making. It is important to note that some participants were recruited from a church leisure centre where they attended activity sessions, and that religious commitment is common in this community:
Heightened spirituality was not only associated with painting holy icons:
Kielhofner (2008) argued that culture is internalised by people and influences the environment in which occupations occur. This was illustrated by the wide variety of materials and techniques that were used by participants in this study, influenced by the natural and social environment of Crete. Traditions and social context enabled participants to engage in many types of art-making (such as painting holy icons, lace-making influenced by Minoan designs, and creating traditional decorations from dried herbs and flowers). Such media and techniques differ from ones investigated in previous studies. The findings contribute to better understandings of the cultural and contextual dynamics of occupation, which are considered relevant to occupational science (Molineux and Rickard 2003).
Even though some of the arts and crafts were specific to Cretan culture, some of the emerging experiential themes resonate with those reported in the literature review. Benefits were multifaceted, as accepted within occupational science (Yerxa et al 1989), and could not be combined into a single overarching theme. Participants derived many personal satisfactions from art-making, such as feelings of competence, the enjoyment of learning, the experience of deep immersion and flow, and continuity of identity. Such experiences have been described by older participants engaging in art-making in United States and United Kingdom studies (such as Fisher and Specht 1999, Reynolds 2010), and reflect the well-established benefits of personal projects as described by Christiansen (2000). The value of deep immersion in art-making for coping with cancer pain has been identified by Reynolds and Prior (2006).
The benefits of forming highly meaningful, supportive social connections through making arts and crafts in a group setting have been reported previously (for example, Cerny et al 1993, Piercy and Cheek 2004, Perruzza and Kinsella 2010, Reynolds 2010). Art-making offered participants further satisfactions of making gifts and raising funds for charity. Resonating with this finding, women living with cancer described giving away much of their artwork as gifts, how this act 'cemented their relationships with the "normal" social world of family and friends' and how it helped them to resist definition by their illnesses (Reynolds et al 2008, p217). Traditional art-making and craft-making for the older women in the present study may be interpreted as confirming their ongoing status as active contributors to society, even though their employment roles had ceased and their family responsibilities had declined. Gifts provide a legacy of self that remains even when the gift-giver dies, providing a sense of continuity and cementing family ties (Schofield-Tomschin and Littrell 2001, Piercy and Cheek 2004).
The widows in this sample all described their art-making as helpful for managing the grief of losing their husbands. Art-making helped to distract their thoughts away from loss, and appeared to confirm a positive social identity beyond that of a grieving widow. There was also some indication that, for some, feelings of loss could be poured into the art-making, which resonates with the interpretation of some art therapists that art offers a safe, containing experience in which confusing or overwhelming feelings can be made tangible and more controllable (Ferszt et al 1998, Riley 2001).
Studies of minority groups who practise traditional arts and crafts (largely conducted in the United States) have found that traditions are highly valued and offer a deep sense of connectedness, not only with the community but also across generations (Cerny et al 1993, Wilson 2001, Cheek and Piercy 2004, Piercy and Cheek 2004). Participants in Crete were similarly very committed to researching and passing on traditional skills to others, and seemed to act as repositories of their culture in ways that are reminiscent of the 'keepers of the cloth' among older Appalachian quilters (Wilson 2001, pviii).
Four of the 12 participants identified spiritual or religious meanings in their art-making. Spirituality is difficult to define, encompassing experiences that may be meditative, transcendental or transformative. Markowitz (1997, p91) attempted to explain this phenomenon:
Influenced by Jung's theorising, spiritual awareness has long been an accepted part of art therapy (Farrelly-Hansen 2001). Outside art therapy, spiritual and symbolic connection through traditional art-making has been explored in African-American quilters (Freeman 1996). Although it might be argued that spiritual and religious meanings are inherent in the painting of holy icons, other arts and crafts were also imbued with spiritual meaning by a few participants.
Taking the themes together, it may be interpreted that participants manifested characteristics of positive ageing (Gergen and Gergen 2006), expressing high levels of life satisfaction, feelings of competence, choice and control, commitment to ongoing personal development, and reciprocity within social relationships. At this phase of their life, when the demands from family and work had reduced, participants felt able to focus more on their arts and crafts and were using these to cope with age-related changes in their life. Several participants used emphatic statements, referring to art-making as 'life saving', highlighting its importance to their wellbeing.
The findings broadly confirm Sadlo's (2004) argument that creative occupations have intellectual, emotional and spiritual dimensions. Although the participants did not report any marked physical disabilities, the multifaceted sources of wellbeing inherent in leisure-based art-making have potential for offering fulfilment to people living with long-term physical and mental health conditions.
The study has limitations related to a relatively small sample size (albeit considered adequate among phenomenological researchers such as Smith et al 2009). Some participants were drawn from a religious centre, which may have oriented their accounts towards the spiritual and religious aspects of art-making. Nevertheless, religious commitment is common among rural dwellers in Crete, and may not reflect sampling bias. The interviews were conducted in the participants' own language, with a native speaker, aiding reflection and communication of their experience. However, the translated interview transcripts may have created barriers to a nuanced phenomenological analysis by the second researcher, and may have restricted attention to language use and metaphors, which is a further layer of analysis that is recommended by Smith et al (2009). Nevertheless, the second author's position as an 'outsider' to Cretan culture may have sensitised her to some emergent issues. The analysis was not shared with the participants. Although member checking is not part of accepted practice within IPA, it could have been used to enrich and elaborate the meanings inferred.
Good quality IPA studies draw upon rich interview data, offer a transparent, interesting analysis, consider the influence of the social context and sampling strategy, and demonstrate nuanced attention to individuals' accounts (Smith et al 2009, Smith 2011). Quotation should be used extensively to amplify themes, and to reveal the differing perspectives of individuals. Smith (2011) recommended at least three quotations per theme with samples of eight people or more, and this has largely been achieved, despite word limits. Quality criteria include paying sufficient attention to divergent themes. In this article, the range of meanings clustered within each of the larger themes has been acknowledged, and some themes have been included that were meaningful only to some participants (such as experiencing a spiritual dimension to art-making). The contribution of two analysts, an 'insider' and an 'outsider' to the culture, may have increased rigour.
The meanings of engaging in culturally traditional forms of art-making should be explored further with participants in other rural and minority communities. Studies need to include male as well as female perspectives, as these are under-represented in all research into creative occupations. The potential of creative leisure occupations to promote individual wellbeing and community cohesion deserves further study.
This study found that traditional art-making was a highly meaningful occupation for a group of older women living in rural Crete, offering a number of personal, social and spiritual satisfactions. Participants were motivated to research, preserve and pass on traditional skills and designs, taking great pride in their culture. Art-making also offered some a means of coping with the challenges of later life, such as bereavement and physical discomfort. The participants celebrated the experience of deep immersion and flow. Even though roles associated with employment and the family had diminished, the older women described their artistic occupations as offering a powerful sense of purpose and belonging within the community.
Research has largely neglected the meanings of engaging in traditional arts and crafts, except among certain minority groups in the United States, and, therefore, this study makes a novel contribution to the field. In multicultural occupational therapy contexts, more attention might be given to the satisfaction, sense of continuity and status that older people can derive from investigating and participating in the traditional arts and crafts of their culture. Such engagement might increase the wellbeing both of those living with physical conditions and of those living with mental health conditions.
Conflict of interest: None declared.
Ball V Corr S, Knight J, Lowis M (2007) An investigation into the leisure occupations of older adults. British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 70(9), 393-400.
* Engaging in traditional arts and crafts enhanced the personal, social and spiritual wellbeing of older women in Crete.
* Older women enjoyed being the repositories of their culture, through researching and preserving traditional skills.
What the study has added
This study provides an exploration of the meanings of traditional cultural forms of art-making and craft-making. It also offers an understanding of how engaging in traditional art-making and preserving cultural traditions can enhance the everyday life and social status of older women.
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Despina Tzanidaki (1) and Frances Reynolds (2)
(1) Private Paediatric Occupational Therapist, Chania, Crete, Greece.
(2) Reader in Health Psychology, School of Health Sciences and Social Care, Brunel University, West London.
Corresponding author: Dr Frances Reynolds, Reader in Health Psychology, School of Health Sciences and Social Care, Brunel University, Mary Seacole Building, Uxbridge Campus, Uxbridge, Middlesex UB8 3PH. Email: Frances.Reynolds@brunel.ac.uk
It shows respect to our tradition if we create something according to how our parents did. It is a respect for them. Imagination is not encouraged when I produce traditional clothing. I like to copy old authentic clothes as they appear in museums or they can be found in villages. I feel I contribute to continue this clothes-making and for this technique to not disappear, as part of our tradition (Dimitra).
I do traditional lace-making as it was described in Greek mythology. This technique has almost not been used in this century and we are trying--me and other women in my class --to bring it back and present it to others too (Athanasia).
I have learnt the technique of making traditional Cretan costumes by practising and using the materials which mainly include different sort of braids that can be twisted ... the braids are called 'tehrilia'. Women's dress has gold braids and men's has black braids. To make a Cretan traditional costume may take me three months. The pieces of the costume ... such as the shirts and the laces were produced on the loom. I was working on the loom when I was a child. My mother taught me how to operate it (Afroditi).
When I see the results, I pay attention to every detail and I want to be perfect. I get an immense pleasure when I see what I have made. I wonder how I made these! (Eleni).
You have to show great patience and I have really concentrated on painting. I show interest and I am happy to do many different things. Other women are fed up or are doing shameful things in their lives. Not me, I concentrate on painting and I enjoy my life (Artemis).
I wanted to learn more things. But the time was an issue as I was 72 years old when I decided it. Time was not on my side but I insisted (Antonia).
Embroidery ... relaxes me and gives peace in my soul. When I create something I focus in every detail on what I do. I am very pleased doing this. I think that it is a failing to not do anything. I have never been like this! (Afroditi).
When I sit down to do needlework and play my radio, I even forget to have my lunch! I don't feel hungry (Maria). I don't know how to describe this but I feel the time does not pass by. It is so much enjoyment I feel that I cannot understand how the hours pass! (Victoria).
I feel that painting holy icons is a part of my life, a part of my soul. It is a part of me ... (Antonia).
Your dreams in life come out after retirement. When you are working and have your family, your dreams come second and you hope that one day you may be able to make these dreams real. The hand-made lace helped me in my life. I didn't give up. I don't agree with women who say that life has ended for them [after retirement] and they are staying at home thinking that they have nothing to offer. I think that they have a lot to offer! (Athanasia).
My mother loved to use the loom and I have learnt as well... When I was younger I could not understand my mother's passion for the loom. Now that I am doing the same, I understand her completely (Evagelia).
My grandmother, I remember that she made a painting and we kept it in our family as a precious heirloom. This piece is going to stay forever. That is a benefit of art-making. You produce something and you leave it behind. In this way, you leave your identity and your children can show them to others and feel proud. This gives you the satisfaction that you leave a part of you and that you are not forgotten (Niki).
The community leisure centre for older citizens (KAIIH) offers many activities to people of my age which can be very good but I don't like going there because they are mostly gossiping and sometimes they argue too. I don't like this (Artemis).
When I am at home I will become upset or feel low but when I am with other people even if I am in pain and something worries me, I forget all about it (Afroditi).
The rest of the people that are learning painting of holy icons are a lot younger than me but they love me! When I am not in a session, they always call me and tell me that they have missed me (Eleni).
Many children and schools came to my exhibitions and they tried to do same things as me. And that was a good thing that I could give an idea to the children (Victoria). When the priest has asked me to do the needlework group I was very happy and keen to take the lead. I wanted to teach this to others in order for them to respect it and love it as I did. And I have succeeded ... (Maria).
I like to earn a bit of money when I participate in exhibitions (Victoria).
We are trying to earn some money to build a leisure centre in our church. Therefore, we are doing exhibitions. This way we earn some money for this purpose (Artemis).
The emotional pain and the grief made me to engage in art-making. After my husband's one year memorial, I could not sleep in the evenings. I had a martyr's life! I was thinking of him all the time. I was thinking the past, and that's how I began the painting (Artemis). After my husband died, I became ill. I was depressed and I didn't want to engage in anything for a year. My children and everybody wanted to help me to overcome this by encouraging me to do some needlework or painting in order to enjoy myself a bit more and to be able to relax. I started to become more settled and I stopped the pills, I did not want to depend on them. I decided to take control and change myself through painting. This has saved me (Eleni).
I have problems with my hips. But, I have noticed that when I lay down, as I am not busy during the day, I can feel the pain in my body. Although, when I start doing my [traditional] decorations I have forgotten all about my hip pain. I mean I don't feel any pain at all! (Victoria).
When I do painting for holy icons, I feel that I communicate with God. I always pray before doing this and when appropriate, I fast. I do painting with persistence and that's why God gives me the energy to do so (Antonia).
I say to myself that I have God on my side who gives me courage to stay active and have interests in artistic and other activities at my age. And that's how I enjoy my life every moment (Artemis).
Painting is one way I connect with myself--my higher self that spark of golden light that lies within ... My art is about other dimensions and realities coming together with ours.
Table 1. Topic guide for the semi-structured interview 1. Background information about the participant, including her family roles and brief life history. 2. The participant's experiences of leisure occupations in general. 3. The beginnings of the participant's interest and engagement in making arts and crafts. 4. The meanings of art-making and craft-making, including any perceived benefits for wellbeing, feelings elicited during art-making, and its social and community aspects. 5. Reflections on how the participant might feel if she could not engage in her favoured arts and crafts. 6. Reflections on any changes in participation and experiences of art-making since retirement. Table 2. Meanings of traditional art-making among older women in rural Crete: main themes 1. Deep respect for Cretan traditions of art-making and craft-making * Satisfactions of preserving cultural arts and crafts traditions * Motivation to research authentic skills and designs * Satisfactions of maintaining traditions through teaching 2. Personal satisfactions of art-making * Feelings of competence and achievement * Enjoyment of learning * Relaxation and feelings of peace * Deep concentration and flow 3. Experiencing and expressing continuity of self in later life * Enacting long-standing skills and traits * Perceiving later life as a time for continuing development * (Re-)connecting with family traditions Leaving a legacy of self through arts and crafts 4. Making social connections through art-making * The camaraderie of fellow artists * Receiving appreciation from friends and acquaintances * Sharing knowledge and expertise with others * Making a contribution to society 5. Appreciating the financial aspects of art-making * Welcoming a small income that supplements the retirement pension * Feeling active and useful in the community through charity fund-raising 6. Art-making as a means of coping with the challenges of later life * Expressing grief and coping with the death of a husband Coping with pain 7. Experiencing spirituality within art-making and craft-making
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