Most students have heard of the Craft Center and may have some inkling of its popular pottery classes. But few have actually made their way to the simple, white building tucked between Thorne Dining Hall and the Office of Admissions, an anomaly of South campus.

According to Director Bonnie Pardue, the Craft Center opened its doors in 1999 with a $15,000 donation from the father of a Bowdoin student, who wanted a space on campus for students to be creative and relax.

“It gives the college students a place to unwind and not have the academics in the forefront,” said Bonnie Faulkner, one of the five local artists who teach at the Center. “It can be a social place where they can be creative together and have fun.”

Student members pay $25 per semester for 24/7 access to the facility. The Craft Center currently houses a fully supplied pottery, fabric and glass studio. Students can even request special materials for a project.

“Anytime a student needs something and we don’t have the materials, they just email me and I pick up the supplies for them,” said Pardue. “They can really do just about any kind of project here and without any cost to them.”

Felicity Hills ’13 began a quilted pillow project at the Craft Center this fall, and by the end of the semester she was able to sell her pillows at December’s SunSplash Craft Fair in Smith Union.   

“In the age of Pinterest, I’m surprised the Craft Center doesn’t play a larger role on campus,” said Hills. “It has most of the tools and supplies to make a lot of those DIY pins.” 

And while students and faculty often pursue personal projects, the Craft Center offers a variety of classes for the entire campus each semester.

This semester, they have already offered classes on quilted pillow making and wheel throwing pottery. Upcoming sessions include hand lettering italic calligraphy, ombré dying, DIY feather earrings, and paper-cut silkscreen on cloth. 

“We are in charge of communicating with the student body and offering the kinds of classes they want,” said Quincy Koster ’15, one of three current student managers. 

“And there really is a large variety—from glass-fusing to the pottery scene downstairs, there is something for everyone.” 

However, Koster still feels that the Center is underutilized.

“It’s like a double-edged sword. On one hand, it’s not very well known so it’s a great place to come if you need to get away from the world or do work. But at the same time, that mean’s there are not a lot of people who are enjoying our resources and we have so much to offer.”

On Wednesday, I attended the Craft Center’s bookbinding class. Our class of eight people had students with varying levels of artistic experience, and included faculty member Barbara Putnam, the coastal studies artist-in-residence. 

Most of the students said that they were there to take a break from this week’s papers and midterms.

“I guess it’s nice to have a break from your daily routine,” said Emmy Danforth ’14. “You come here and don’t worry about your work. You just do something you’ve never done before.”
New to bookbinding, I was not completely sure what to expect. However, everything went smoothly under the guidance of Faulkner, who has a master’s degree in bookbinding. 

She took us through the process step-by-step and was eager to help along the way. While sewing the pages together was surprisingly difficult, the hardest part was choosing paper for the cover. The collection of different colors, patterns and textures was a testament to the Craft Center’s extensive inventory.

By the end of the two-hour session, each of us had our own handmade sketchbooks to take home to our dorms. The books were creative and simple, yet high quality.

“A lot of the things we offer aren’t taught in academic classes at Bowdoin,” said Koster. “So for a visual arts major you have drawing or printmaking, but you don’t have anything like glass fusing or pottery or sewing machines to work with.”

“Of all my jobs, this is the one I love doing most, because everyone that comes in is happy because they are creating,” Pardue said.