After its open house earlier this week, the Craft Center met its goal of having over 100 student members. Under the new leadership of Assistant Director of Student Activities Laurel Varnell ’14, the Craft Center has been transformed from a resource primarily used by community members, faculty and staff to a student-centric space and creative outlet with student managers and instructors. 

For Varnell, part of making the Craft Center more accessible and inclusive to students was reducing the dues from $25 a semester to $10 a semester, which gives students use of all materials, 24/7 OneCard access to the building and a reduced class fee. 

According to student manager Sofi Lopez ’18, the increase in membership has not only created an income for the Craft Center but has also helped to build a community 
“It’s just about being a really inclusive space for people to have fun and have an outlet from this often times stressful environment that we’re all in here at school,” Lopez  said. “And just to be able to connect with that part of us that has been there since childhood that just likes to do things and create things and just have fun.” 

Varnell believes that the student-led classes act as opportunities for students to relieve stress and learn or perfect crafting skills.

“I think a big reason why people who would be members but aren’t is because a lot of people are scared that if they don’t think of themselves as a creative person or if they don’t have a million ideas at all times for crafts that they won’t find a use in the Craft Center,” Lopez said. “We really want to help people understand that that’s not the case. I led a finger painting night last semester. You don’t need any skills for that.” 

The Craft Center is also the only space on campus that has pottery wheels, which members can be trained to use during open pottery hours on Sundays. 

“For students that have done pottery—throwing on a wheel—in high school, this is their only option in college to do [that]. So that’s something that I didn’t realize coming into it, and I have tried to expand the pottery studio,” Varnell said. 

The Craft Center has also begun to partner with other student organizations, such as the College Houses and the Women’s Resource Center, on campus-wide crafting events to attract more members. One of Varnell’s future goals for the Craft Center is to partner with a sports team. 

“Not only can you have experiences with the Craft Center by going and taking classes and being a member but by also having art and creativeness everywhere,” Varnell said. 

Varnell’s long term goal for the Craft Center is to continue to hire more student managers and instructors as more students get involved as members. 

“I think that the Craft Center has always been a space for students to just express themselves creatively,” Varnell said. “I think trying to create different ways that students can express themselves [gets] them away from their academics but is still stimulating in millions of other ways, like doing any sort of craft can be.”