Before campus closures, University of Oregon students could take a break from classes and visit the Craft Center in the Erb Memorial Union to learn a new skill or de-stress by getting creative. Despite the current situation, the Craft Center is still dedicated to bringing creativity to its students from afar.
In response to the pandemic, the Craft Center has embraced remote instruction and educating the UO community through social media.
“We’ve been finding ways to engage students with crafts kits, so that they can maintain social distancing but be able to work with physical materials that they might not have available,” said David Wagner, the assistant program director of the Craft Center.
Each week, the center promotes a new craft via social media and provides craft kits on a dispensary line outside the EMU. The center has received a lot of engagement from students still in Eugene who are able to stop by the EMU and grab a craft kit, Wagner said.
“I think all of us are going a little stir crazy,” Wagner said. “So it’s nice to get out and grab something to play with.”
UO students and community members have been able to learn embroidery skills and create macramé plant hangers through the craft kits. The Craft Center regularly posts video tutorials on its Instagram or through its YouTube channel to instruct students.
Without access to studio space and tools, Wagner said the current situation has pushed the staff at the Craft Center to get creative with what they have readily available to continue to educate students.
For instance, one of the center’s recent craft kits included materials to create friendship bracelets. Wagner said the Craft Center was unable to access templates for the bracelets. Instead, the staff used the laser cutter at the center to cut the templates out of cardboard.
“It’s really fun to be able to take advantage of the resources that we have and keep coming back to our own creativity,” Wagner said.
Wagner stated the Craft Center has shifted to doing a series of online workshops on monoprinting, handbuilt pottery and garage woodworking. Students who attend workshops can learn the different processes of creating clay pinch pots or wheel throwing.
Mariah Williams, the lead ceramics technician at the Craft Center, said remote instruction has been challenging, but she embraced it with open arms. Williams has been teaching classes from her home studio. Students and community members can still engage in the class without a pottery wheel, Williams said.
“I think there’s so much value even in just seeing the process,” she said. “Even if you are not able to go through the process yourself.”
Williams emphasized the value of craft as a way to decompress during a stressful time. “I hope to remind students that there are still ways to get into the flow-like state in our minds where we can check out from all the other stuff that’s going on,” she said. “Being able to check out and change our frame of mind is so important and finding ways to do that is invaluable.”