Creative Outlets – Erkhart’s Emporium

Beth Erkhart

Owner and one of half of the craft-intensive duo behind Erkhart’s Emporium

What impact does having a creative outlet have on your life?

Having a craft makes me feel a little bit like a superhero with a secret identity.  By day, I’m a mildly geeky, kind of boring, risk-averse and fairly introverted IT professional. Off hours, I’m an adventure seeking crochet goddess who follows the yarn trail where ever it takes me and isn’t afraid to act out. But I didn’t start out that way..

Like I said, I’m naturally shy, so in college I began crocheting in public, mostly as a way to avoid actually having to talk to people. Really, I was THAT shy.  But a funny thing happened… People started talking TO ME. Asking me what I was doing, what I was making, why did I have only one stick –  that couldn’t be knitting –  only old ladies knit, right?!?

I had to learn to overcome my reluctance and talk to the people who approached me. I didn’t become a yarn socialite overnight, but I started to share and I started to be less shy –  at least about hook and yarn related things.  (Ask me to dance or sing in public and I promise I’ll disappear into the wallpaper before you finish asking.)

Ask me to show you what I’ve got on my hook though and you’ll see me light up.  The yarn goddess takes over and I become one of those people who can talk to anyone and find something in common.  The one with passion about something I love, something that gives me strength, something that I can share. Maybe by giving the finished project as a gift, maybe by teaching someone how to crochet, maybe just by being someone to talk to who isn’t going to think you’re nuts.  (Who am I to judge? I’m the one making knots in a piece of string using a stick.)

Which leads me to who I am and what I do today:

Crochet a sweater on the beach in Hawaii?  Sure – just choose a yarn that’s washable!  That leads to a really interesting conversation about wool with a Mom from Houston who’s bored to tears on waiting for her teenagers to finishing their surf lessons.

Do fine tatting on a bullet train in Japan? Works for me – the air cushioned passenger compartment evens out most of the bumps so I only stab myself once in a while.  That pain resulted in a single word and pantomime conversation with an elderly Japanese woman who could no longer do handicrafts, but found it interesting that a young American would even be doing something “old” and not new (like texting) on the train.

Stopping a complete stranger on the street just to compliment her on her gorgeous cropped sweater – and take a photo so I can reverse engineer it at home later? Absolutely. It was a neat and pretty complicated design and the woman was happy to have someone think that she had good taste in clothes. (She did, she – and the sweater – were gorgeous.)
Having a craft or a creative outlet changed me – it’s still changing me.  I’m still an introvert, but I’m more willing to open up and take risks, it takes me out of myself –  and makes me part of the world.

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