Staying pain free while you weave: Wellness for Makers

Missy Graff Ballone’s new book, Wellness for Makers: A Movement Guide for Artists is a book I’ve been waiting awhile for. It is finally out from Schiffer Publishing.

Many of you know I worked as an occupational therapist for 17 years in a wide variety of settings including adult inpatient and outpatient rehab, work rehab/pain clinic, SNF, home health, and I worked for ten years in pediatrics in outpatient and schools. Ergonomics was not my specialty, but any OT has to know quite a bit about how to adapt environments and habits for health and to adapt after injury or disease.

I hear many stories on social media about weavers who give up weaving because they have too much pain with the practice. I think a lot of times that is because they do not know how to adapt their practice and equipment for pain-free use as well as long-term health. It is sad when people give up activities they love because they think they’re too old or have too much pain due to other factors than age rather than learn to adapt the way they approach that activity so they can keep engaging in it. Before you give up weaving, please get a referral to an occupational therapist who can help you figure out ways to continue!

This new book from Missy Graff Ballone is a great start at reducing problems in our bodies that come from the postures and movements we use while making things.

Wellness for Makers

Missy Graff Ballone is a licensed massage therapist, a yoga teacher, and an artist. Her interest in wellness started with her own rehab after an ACL (a ligament in the knee) injury. Through her career in wellness, she has been focused on helping artists maintain their pain-free practice.

Wellness for Makers is a beautifully crafted, hardcover book that deserves a place on your shelf. It is not a long book. It focuses on common problems people have with making art including seating, tool use, and simple ways to improve health through stretches and movement. I would love to see an accompanying workbook or a sequel to this book that dives even deeper into common pain issues for makers. I do think that this book is an excellent start because it is approachable, easy to use, and everything in it can be accomplished by just about any one.

Ballone starts by explaining what neutral posture is and ways to help you find that in your own body.

Wellness for Makers Ballone

An example of one of the stretches Ballone suggests

Movement breaks: Throughout the book, Ballone offers simple movement breaks. These are things you can do easily without much (or any) equipment such as standing and stretching, taking a short lap around the room, self-massage, or getting a glass of water. Small changes like these can reap big rewards over time. She has excellent images that show you exactly how to do a wide variety of stretches.

Photos: The photos in this book are excellent. They are uncluttered, beautifully lit, and demonstrate the things the author is teaching well.

Movement practice: Ballone offers many simple movement experiments and ongoing exercises. The book also contains some Movement Tracker pages with spots to write down what movement breaks you’re incorporating throughout the day. This kind of tracker keeps us honest and makes us actually practice the things we need to do to take care of our bodies!

Index: My biggest feedback for Schiffer Publishing which I’ve offered for many books is that they don’t include an index. This book is another that doesn’t have one and it should. I hope if there is ever a second edition of this book, an index is included.

Table of Contents Wellness for Ballone Makers

Table of Contents of Wellness for Makers

My number one tip for weavers over the years as I’ve lectured about pain-free weaving at conferences is to move your body. Ballone gives us excellent ways to do this throughout the book. Her tips are simple and that is appreciated. How many times have we thought we’d engage in a rigorous, complicated exercise program only to give up 3 days or 3 weeks later? Simple changes can be very helpful.

Let’s start with getting up more! I tell my students to make themselves walk away from the loom every 25 minutes. It is important to change positions and help your tissues take a break from repetitive use. I encourage you to drink a lot of water so that you’re forced to get up and go to the bathroom. Another trick is to put materials or tools you need somewhere you can’t reach them so you have to get up to prepare another bobbin or look at the plan for the next section of a tapestry or other art piece. A major key to wellness is moving.

The video below gives you a peek inside the book. It is less than 2 minutes long. If you get the blog via email, you can watch the video on my YouTube channel HERE.

Wellness for Makers is a book I’ve been waiting for for years. Graff Ballone has created a book full of practical tips for studio artists, makers, or really anyone who has a body they use for repetitive tasks. Her tips are understandable and easy to implement. I especially loved her encouragement tone and actionable methods to create new movement patterns as we work. Our bodies are our most important tool and through care and practices such as the stretches and new habits Graff Ballone presents in this book, we can keep our bodies healthy and feeling good through long careers of making.

— Rebecca Mezoff, OTR, artist, author of The Art of Tapestry Weaving

More resources from Missy Graff Ballone*

Missy has a nice website called Wellness for Makers where she sells some of the props she talks about in the book. It is not necessary to purchase from her and most of the props are very simple things you probably have around the house or can find locally. But her kits are very nice and well worth adding to your wellness routine. And if you don’t have her book yet, you can purchase it directly from her.

She also does online classes. I’ve taken a few of her classes and really appreciated her approach. She is an excellent teacher and she is good at walking you through postures and exercises to find the best movement patterns for you. I only wish I could take classes with her in person!

*I my copy of this book as well as all the classes I purchased’ve taken from Missy. I do not have an affiliate agreement with her, I just think her work is important and that she can help all of us use our bodies in more sustainable ways. Thank you Missy!

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