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Friday, June 18, 2021

UC Davis Craft Center gets creative in pandemic

Employees of the Craft Center share their experiences crafting online

The UC Davis Craft Center, a part of Campus Recreation, welcomes students and  community members who have an inclination toward crafting to explore their artistic talents, providing them with purchasable passes for classes, studios and galleries. 

“The Craft Center is a hidden gem on campus, there are such amazing opportunities for learning and working with tools that you may never have seen or heard of before,” said Sanne Fettinger, the administrative coordinator of the Craft Center, via email.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the Craft Center adjusted their environment to comply with county and state health guidelines. 

Jared Tolla, the assistant director of the Craft Center, has experienced the changes they have made first-hand. Tolla shared that at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in April 2020, the Craft Center converted their workshops into producing face shields and cloth coverings for the university. They continued mask production into the summer, creating over 6,000 face shields and close to 9,000 cloth face masks in total by the end of July.

Going into the 2020-2021 school year, the Craft Center offered Zoom classes in crafts like wire jewelry, in which an instructor would lead a group of students remotely. More recently, Tolla shared that the staff has been able to open some studios for use, with mask requirements and symptom surveys in place. 

The staff rearranged the studios to accommodate for social distancing and allowed those who have completed a virtual Craft Center orientation to book a time slot to come into the center. Additionally, the Craft Center has made use of their outside courtyard area for a socially distanced flameworking class.

Amid the evolution of the Craft Center this year, Tolla shared that the warm and welcoming environment has remained strong. 

“The Craft Center has always really thrived on an inclusive, come-as-you-are community, and at its core that hasn’t changed,” Tolla said. “If anything, the staff is just waiting to be able to reactivate that and get as many people in as possible, always hoping for more [while] understanding that you have to be careful and strategic in the reopening.”

Furthermore, Fettinger shared that the Craft Center provides the perfect opportunity to learn or perfect a skill and explore the creative side of your brain. 

“It is so healthy for us to use both sides of the brain and develop a whole self,” Fettinger said via email.

Looking toward the future, Tolla shared that as part of Campus Recreation, the Craft Center is introducing a new waiver program in which students can apply to cover the cost of their classes at the center. 

“I think one of the biggest barriers is potentially the expense, and so we’re looking for ways to remove that for the students,” Tolla said. “I hope that would just encourage more and more students to come and try it out.”

Olivia Silvera, a second-year global disease biology major and the textile studio manager at the Craft Center, began working in her position last summer. Silvera’s role was online for her first few months but transitioned to in-person last fall. Her responsibilities include keeping the textile studio up-to-date, scheduling any textile classes and monitoring the studio’s visits. 

“I think the Craft Center is just a really great resource for students because we have so many studios and we have classes, and it’s a very welcoming environment,” Silvera said. “Crafting is something that I really like to do and it’s kind of a stress reliever for a lot of people, and I just wanted to be a part of that.”

Moreover, Silvera has found one of her favorite parts of the job to be crafting live online, utilizing the digital space. 

“I do a Facebook Live on Fridays, where I get to sew, and people can watch me sew things,” Silvera said. “On Picnic Day, all of the Craft Center studio managers, we all did a Facebook live together, and we did a bunch of different crafts and that was really, really fun.”

Silvera looks forward to continuing her role at the Craft Center and welcoming students back in person if health guidelines deem it to be acceptable. Until then, the center staff will continue to be mindful and adapt to make things safe.

“There is something very satisfying about stepping back and saying ‘Look at what I’ve created,’” Tolla said. “The Craft Center provides that opportunity and in a way that really frames it as: give it a try, there’s nothing to be lost and there’s no judgment.”
Written by: Nora Farahdel — features@theaggie.org

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