Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Craft Center gives students a chance to get creative

(Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)
(Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)

Looking to make a special gift for your partner or parents for the holidays? Maybe you were thinking of a leather journal for yourself or even a handmade Halloween costume. The Craft Center offers all creative students the tools, materials and guidance necessary to turn your inspiration into a work of art.

Situated in the Student Union, the Craft Center is alive and vibrant, with artwork lining the walls and the constant pounding of an orchestra of hammers from one of the daily classes going on.

The staff is equally energetic. Director Paula Hodecker has worked in the Craft Center for 17 years, and is the fifth director to run it since its establishment in 1971. A former student of the University of Massachusetts, Hodecker graduated with a degree in Fine Arts in 1989. She recalls going into the Craft Center during her time as an undergrad, but never imagined that she herself would run it one day.
Hodecker regards the job experience as a combination of “art, business, teaching, programming, customer service, organization and development.” The staff is trained in craft categories such as batik, bookmaking, beading, leather working, photography, sewing, silk painting, silver working and stained glass. Button making, henna and mask making, though not categories of their own, are also available as well as any student’s independent endeavor.

There are roughly 2,800 registered members of the Craft Center. With help from the Student Union and various other student organizations, the center strives to be as involved with campus life as possible. People of all skill types are welcomed by the Craft Center, whether they have any experience or none at all. Becoming a member, using the space to craft in and the guidance from the staff is all free. The cost of the materials and workshops are the only expenditures required.

Hannah French, a fourth-year staff member, is in charge of overseeing the book making and paper marbling classes. She said she loves the unique environment the Craft Center provides.
“Once you register as a member, you get three things: a space, tools and assistance,” she said. “It doesn’t feel like a job.”

Her co-workers, Trisha Vosburg, a senior, and Arya Mohanka, a junior, echoed similar sentiments. Vosburg has worked at the Craft Center for three years, and said she uses it as an escape from the stress of academic work.

Mohanka, the overseer of sewing for four semesters, said she helps students with everything from bags, clothes-making classes, altering clothes and helping graduate students make curtains.
“It’s the best job I will ever have,” she said.

Hodecker also enjoys working with the students who walk in every day as well as the various other clubs that collaborate with the Craft Center. This year, the Craft Center partnered with the Woman of Color Leadership Network for a henna and button-making program, the North Village for a garden share program and the W.E.B. DuBois Library to help host a paper-marbling workshop. The Craft Center also has a close relationship with the Office of Family Resources providing free monthly arts and crafts programs for children of staff and faculty at the University for the past 17 years.

This semester, the Craft Center plans to collaborate with the Engineering Department to teach a first-year seminar for freshmen alongside Professor David McLaughlin called “Physical Computing for Everyone.”

The purpose of the class is for students to combine their knowledge of computer programming and electronics in designing and building art projects, ranging from electronic jewelry to a pet collar as an interactive and creative approach to teaching.

“People don’t take as much of an advantage as they should,” Hodecker said. “We hardly ever say no and if we can’t accommodate you right away we will find a time.”

Erica Garnett can be reached at [email protected].

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