A Great Escape

 Wah Tran — an NC State Senior majoring in Economics and Nuclear Engineering, minoring in Mathematics and International Studies

Wah Tran --An NC State student

Wah Tran
–An NC State student

“The Crafts Center was always on my radar since I heard about it from a friend, but never got around to checking it out since I was always more invested in my academics. Eventually, looking for an escape from all that, I came here, took a couple of classes, and loved it! What Jennifer told us on day one was that this was a place to leave all of whatever was going on outside the door, and immerse ourselves in just relaxing and making art, and that’s what’s great about this place. In our academic and professional lives, we’re so far removed from the end product of our work and, despite our tireless efforts, sometimes we lose sight of what we’re doing – our value-added propositions. The beauty of learning a craft and the facilities here is that you can step away from all that, slow down, and watch whatever it is you want to create take shape right in front of you.”

Thank you to former CC desk attendant Alanna H. for directing Wah to the Crafts Center!

 

 

Voice Your Thoughts

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“It’s important to me not because I’ve shaped it to what it is today,
but it has shaped me to what I am”

A recent visitor to the Crafts Center took the time to scribble the above on a brightly colored scrap of paper and pinned it to a display board hanging just inside the Craft Center’s main entrance. The display is positioned prominently for the purpose of seeking the voicing of thoughts of all who pass. As witnessed by the number of colorful notes filling the wall, passersby have been enthusiastically posting their responses to two questions: “What one question would you like to ask a master craftsperson?” and “Why is your craft important to you?”

Whether young or old, new to craft or well established, there’s something that draws us all to the making of objects. Whatever the source one’s passion may be, the desire to be a “maker” can be fulfilled daily in Crafts Center classes and studios. In exercising our opportunities to make crafts, we may each find our own answer to another question: “Do we change materials or by working them, do they change us?

Mike Roig, metal sculptor A View to the Making: Portraits of North Carolina Craft Artists at Work

Mike Roig, metal sculptor
A View to the Making: Portraits of North Carolina Craft Artists at Work

In late fall of 2013, the Crafts Center’s “Voice your Thoughts” interactive display was created as a means of encouraging thought in advance of the Crafts Center’s showing of Michael Schwalbe’s most recent project, A View to the Making: Portraits of North Carolina Craft Artists at Work. In “documenting the skill that artists and artisans bring to bear on their work,” it is Michael’s “hope the resulting exhibition of images and interview excerpts will inspire fascination with the skill and creativity required to turn raw material into beautiful objects.” The exhibit is located in the Crafts Center and runs through March 28…come see!

In conjunction with Michael’s celebration of craft, the Crafts Center also invites you to a special “Gathering of Makers” to be held on February 26 at 7 pm. This evening of discussion will be led by a diverse panel of makers and those among us who find great pleasure in handmade works of art are invited to participate. Whether your passion is admiring the works of master artisans or enjoying the experience of creating your own, NC State students and the public alike are invited to what promises to be a spirited evening of sharing.

Our panel of makers will include: metalsmith Mary Ann Scherr, potter Julie Olson, woodturner Bill Wallace, and NC State student crafter Anne McLean. They will open the evening by sharing their personal journeys to the making of craft. Along with hearing the thoughts of our panelists, we look forward to having you join in and share your own stories of making.

And as for the interactive display, one of our student desk attendants was recently asked to select ten posts representative of the range of thought. The following were chosen (drum roll please)…

Why is your craft important to you?
1. Because it allows me to express my emotions through a creative outlet.
2. It develops in me strength of body (muscles) mind (focus) and soul (connects me to my core.)
3. Creating helps me understand myself.
4. It’s fun to try new things.
5. I can talk to the world that way.
6. Crafts are human in an increasingly IT world
7. It allows me to express whatever I want, whenever I want, and gives me the ability to share that or keep it for myself.
8. Art is a dirty job, but somebody’s got to do it!
9. I can’t just not make things.
10. Because it’s fun!

What question would you like to ask a craftsperson?
1. How did you get started in your craft?
2. How do you decide on one (or a few) craft to do? Or do you learn them all eventually?
3. How do you decide which ideas are worth the focus?
4. How do you know when to stop?
5. What do you do when you’re not making crafts?
6. How much practice makes you a master?
7. Can anyone craft?
8. How do you go about getting paid for your art?
9. Do you find it challenging to make something different from everyone else?
10. Do you ever want to stop?

Do you feel yourself in these thoughts? If not, let us hear from you. And, please do join us for the Gathering of Makers on February 26!

The Ice Storm of 2002

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On the morning of December 5, 2002, the residents of Raleigh awoke to an impending ice storm of magnitude that had not been realized for many years. Overnight, a low pressure slipped across the state and had been building off the coast where it was quietly spreading a wedge of cold drizzle over an already frozen interior of North Carolina. Trees bowed and began to crack and pop under growing layers of ice. Concerns grew serious as the winter wonderland began to be felt in the form of impassible highways, widespread power outages, and numerous instances of damage to rooftops.

After assessing damage to her own newly built studio, Tara McGee was the first that morning to arrive to work at the Crafts Center. Though primarily responsible for the clay studio, she walked the building and found all to be well until she peered through the double doors leading to the woodshop. Without hesitation, she went to work doing all she could to save equipment and student projects from a major leak in the middle of the space. A large limb from an old oak tree overhanging the shop had broken off and was now protruding from a hole in the woodshop ceiling.

A short time later, assistant director George Thomas made it to work where in the woodshop, he saw Tara standing on top of a workbench heroically holding a large trash can overflowing with water. Already using most of the available cans, Tara’s options and the success of her effort were quickly coming to an end. A large pool of standing water on the old flat roof continued to pour from the ceiling above.

The stream of water eventually ran dry. Looking around the room, stored wood and projects were soaked. Though the floor was wet, most of the storm water had flowed into what had once been the university’s original swimming pool. Years earlier the pool was covered with a floor in order to increase the size of the shop. A hidden stairway provided access for storage in the old pool that we affectionately called the “hole.” Cleaning the hole was a dreadful job that lasted months.

As soon as the water stopped flowing, we began calling folks so they could pick up their soaked wood and projects. For one of our faithful, I knew the call would be devastating. Mary Wahl, a nurse with the NC State Student Health Services, had been working for months on a convertible table design she found in Fine Woodworking Magazine. The table’s unique folding rails and top allowed it to be used as either a gaming or hall table.

tableMary was in the final stages of sanding and her really nice solid cherry table was within days of being finished when the ice storm hit. And as luck would have it, her table was soaked through and through as it had been sitting directly under the roof leak. By the time she reached the Center, the table top had already warped drastically to at least 6” out of level. George Thomas intercepted her near the door and advised “Mary, don’t even look, it’s warped badly, but with time we can fix it.”

Mary Wahl took the advice and over a period of several weeks, the wood dried and the top of her table straightened. Though she had to sand it again, before long, the table was ready to go home where it belonged …

Just as it’s instrumental in completing your favorite crafts project, there’s always a lesson in perseverance. Though time heals all, Crafts Center staff and participating woodworkers who were there in 2002 will never forget the memorable ice storm.

Crafting Balance

Adrienne Wooten with a stained glass chess set made in Deborah Rodger's Beyond Basics class.

Adrienne Wootten with a stained glass chess set made in Deborah Rodger’s Beyond Basics class.

A post by Crafts Center participant Adrienne Wootten, a Ph.D. student in the NC State department of Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences. Thank you Adrienne and we really hope to hear more stories from other NC State students and our community of Crafts Center Makers!

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For me personally, the 50th anniversary of the Crafts Center holds a special place in my heart.  It was 10 years ago, in August 2004 when I first set foot on the NCSU campus as an undergraduate student.  I was a freshmen meteorology major back then, a field with more math, physics, and chemistry in it than most realize.  Knowing that I was in for some really tough days full of analytics, math, and science, my family gave me one piece of invaluable advice: Find a way to strike balance between the creative and analytic parts of your life.  It didn’t take long from there to find the Crafts Center in Thompson Hall.

It’s interesting when I look back now, how the evolution of my career mirrored my evolution as an artist.  I started on one hand thinking I’d go into weather forecasting, and did pottery until the end of my junior year.  It was around the end of my junior year when I started working in climate, but also switched to working in stained glass.  I had taken my first classes in glass in the 2006-2007 academic year, before the renovation of Thompson Hall.  I started learning my field and my favorite medium in my undergraduate years.  Learning in both science and art the basics to doing great things in both, and a balance between creativity and analytics had only just begun.

Adrienne with a lamp and jewelry box made in the studio and the Beyond Basics class.

Adrienne with a lamp and jewelry box made in the studio and the Beyond Basics class.

I ended up taking a year off from school and took a break from glass work while I waited for the Crafts Center to re-open.  As it happened, in Fall 2009 I returned to start my graduate career at NCSU, and the renovated Crafts Center reopened.  A new start in both art and science, the balancing act continued.  Over the past several years, I’ve grown by leaps in bounds in my scientific understanding, but I have also grown as an artist.  There’s been some amazing glass panels built.  There’s a mobile, suncatchers, stars, and most prized too me of late a chess set in glass and a Moravian star lamp.  In the same time span, I now have a master’s degree, am part way through my doctorate, and have the beginnings of my career.  I’d like to think this is also only the beginning of what I will do as an artist.

I explain all of this in my life because as I look back on what will be 10 years since I first set foot on the NCSU Campus in August, I realized that I might not be where I am now had it not been for the opportunity to bring my creativity to life in a way that matches the rigor of a scientist.  For this, the Crafts Center here at NCSU will always hold a special place in my heart.  Were it not for the Crafts Center, I might not have had the opportunity to discover a medium whose rigor and requirements for detail that matches the requirements of my field.  There’s a balance I found in crafting and science that allows one to feed off the other and have both thrive.  Balancing many things is part of life for all of us, but it’s thanks to the Craft Center that I found a way to balance two important parts of life for me.

The Crafts Center celebrates 50 years this year, and many students have discovered balance from roaming and working in the basement of Thompson Hall that may not have otherwise.  My thanks goes to Crafts Center for teaching more than just the craft I enjoy now, but for teaching me something about crafting balance in life.  It’s a work in progress, which reminds me… it’s time I got back to crafting!

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Pottery in the mid 1970′s

Conrad clay 1970's

The newspaper photo above from the 1970′s shows Conrad Weiser offering a glaze demonstration at the Craft Center.  Director of the Center from 1966 -1994, Conrad was the moving force behind the evolution of our  “pottery” program from its early days of slip cast ceramics.   Conrad is still active in the program.  This semester he’s teaching a tea-pot class and later in the spring you’ll find him on our back lot leading a workshop in making traditional Raku. And, you’ll always find him here at meetings of the Triangle Potters Guild or selling his ware at the Crafts Center’s Annual Fair and Sale.

Yes, there was a Frank Thompson

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Did you know? The Crafts Center was once part of NC State’s first Gymnasium. Known as “Thompson Gym,” the university’s basketball court and an indoor running track were located upstairs on the building’s main floor. Exercise rooms, a boxing room, showers, and even an indoor swimming pool were located on the lower floor that now houses the Crafts Center. Located in the glaze formulation room and custodial closet near the Center’s present pottery studio and kiln room, broad stairwells were regularly used by students traversing the two floors.

The stairwells were eventually sealed off and turned into closets serving “Thompson Theatre” upstairs and the Crafts Center down below. The Center stored custodial and crafts supplies in our closets. Bags of glaze materials and boxes of kiln brick were stacked along the slate stair treads worn by generations of passing students. Probably original to the building’s paint scheme, the pale green walls had never been painted since the Crafts Center took occupancy in 1965. And if you looked hard enough, the thoughts of students could be found scribbled on the walls. One bit of student graffiti from a day and time unknown read something like: “I don’t believe there ever was a Frank Thompson.”

There are lots of buildings on campus and all are named in honor of people who were once held in high esteem for their unique contributions. Many of us pass through buildings, never questioning their history or naming. But for those who see themselves as a living and breathing part of the WOLFPACK FAMILY, such questioning helps to reaffirm our spirit in knowing the story of those who came before.

In answer to the student’s remark scribbled years ago in a stairwell now buried behind sheetrock in our renovated building, there was most definitely a Frank Thompson. The entry and ticket box office located upstairs in the theatre was actually an exterior porch prior to the building’s 2007-2009 renovation. Located over the old front doors, a carved sand stone name plate reads “Frank Thompson Gymnasium.” And located nearby on a wall in the theatre’s entry, a prominent display now offers the following tribute to the name on the building:

Frank Thompson, 1909 Agromeck

Frank Thompson, 1909 Agromeck

 

Frank M. Thompson
1886-1918

Frank Martin Thompson was born in Raleigh on April 21, 1886. Throughout his childhood Thompson excelled in all sports. By the time he reached eighteen years of age, Thompson played many sports well, but he leaned particularly toward baseball and football.

Thompson attended Davidson College, near Charlotte, in 1904. His father, Judge John W. Thompson of Raleigh, helped found the Watauga Club, a group which lobbied in the state legislature for the right to a landgrant college. North Carolina College of Agriculture and Mechanics, as NCSU was then called, became this landgrant college. Judge Thompson wanted his son to attend A&M since he had been such an integral part of the school’s creation. One year later, the younger Thompson transferred from Davidson to North Carolina A&M.

Thompson enjoyed his years as a student here. He made the best of them by involving himself in sports. Not just one sport but, several. He played his best in football and baseball, as he had done earlier in his childhood. A great believer in teamwork, Thompson always took the heavy load. He played tackle for the football team and catcher for the baseball team—not the flamboyant positions he could have played but the thankless positions that a team cannot win without.

The 1909 AGROMECK dubbed Thompson “Guts” and though this was true in sports, his daily life consisted of a genteel and industrious nature. The AGROMECK described him this way:

“(He) has won the distinction of being best all around athlete of the ’09 Class by hard, consistent work and gritty determination. Rather bashful and consequently apparently indifferent to the wiles of women, but very much admired by the femininity, and we are sure that he would make just as much of a heart-smasher as he is a line-smasher if he tried.”

As a student in textiles, Thompson’s extra-curricular list also included such organizations as the German Club, First Tenor in the Textile Quartet, Kappa Sigma Fraternity, and the list goes on.

Soon after his years as a student came to an end, the athletic darling of State remained as coach of the baseball team. He took the team through winning seasons until 1911. After that time, he coached the team at Wake Forest. Some time after that, Thompson went to work for a real estate firm in Raleigh. Little more of Thompson’s life is known until the war broke out in 1917.

thompson milThis genteel young man who had so much skill and courage on the athletic field did not shirk his patriotic duty. Even though he was well above the draft age, Thompson joined the Army and went off to prove that teamwork presides on the battlefield as well as the ball field.

By the fall of 1918, when Thompson was only thirty-two years old, he found himself a lieutenant in the Fifteenth Machine Gun Battalion. But Fate has an uncanny sense of timing when calling home brave young men in the prime of life. An enemy shell burst upon the field at Regnieville, France where Thompson’s battalion was fighting. On September 13, 1918, at the Battle of Saint Michiel, another hero answered Fate’s mournful call.

By Susan Hankins and Jonas McCoy
— April 1983

Frank Thompson (back row on far right)

Frank Thompson  (back row on far right)

From 40 to 50 and Beyond . . .

40 for 40  Years in the Making - the Fall 2004 Crafts Center Brochure

40 Years in the Making – the Fall 2004 Crafts Center Brochure

In fall 2004, the Crafts Center held a special fundraiser in celebration of forty years of programming in Thompson Hall. Forty pieces of donated artwork were displayed and sold by way of an auction. Ending with a grand evening of food and fellowship, university officials were on hand as an official announcement was made for plans to renovate the building.

It’s now ten years later and time again to celebrate! Not only has the Crafts Center programmed in Thompson Hall for 50 years, we’ve confirmed that the Center operated in the old Erdahl-Cloyd Student Union for an additional 10 years prior to coming to Thompson Hall.

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How shall we celebrate and how can we best mark the occasion? For your part, we invite you to share pictures and stories from the past on this 50th Anniversary Blog.  We hope the posts will grow in number and spirit by the end of this special year. Stay tuned and please help us to make it grow!

More than its space and equipment, the Crafts Center is about community and building passion. Starting early, during the winter months of this year, the Crafts Center hopes to warm your spirit with plenty of ways to learn about and celebrate the making of things by hand:

  1. Lie – Nielsen Hand Tool Event on Friday, January 17, 10:00 am – 6:00 pm, and Saturday, January 18, 10:00 am – 5:00 pm. Free, come test drive quality hand tools used in woodworking.
  2. Take in Michael Schwalbe’s exhibit A View to the Making: Portraits of North Carolina Craft Artists at Work.
  3. What one question would you like to ask a master craftsperson?” and “Why is your craft important to you?” Make sure to Voice Your Thoughts in an interactive display located at the Crafts Center’s main entrance.
  4. Presentation by Chapel Hill studio potter Deborah Harris provided free by the Triangle Potters Guild on February 14 from 7-p pm.
  5. Join us for a Gathering of Makers to be held on the evening of Wednesday, February 26. Whether young or old, new to craft or well-established, there’s something that draws us all to the process of making.
  6. Demonstration by Irish Woodturner Liam O’Neill provided free by the Woodturners Guild of North Carolina on March 13 from 6:30-9:30 pm.
  7. Hiroshi Sueyoshi, Master Potter presents “East Meets West” on March 19 at 7pm. Free and held in conjunction with the Gregg Museum’s exhibition, REMNANTS OF THE FLOATING WORLD: Japanese Art from the Permanent Collection
  8. “Making Better Photographs Using the Tools of Visual Sociology” a free evening talk by Michael Schwalbe held in conjunction with his exhibit A View to the Making: Portraits of North Carolina Craft Artists at Work. Tuesday, March 25, 6:30 – 7:30 pm

 The Crafts CenterThe Crafts Center’s 50th Anniversary Celebration!

Sunday, April 27, 1:00 – 3:00 pm

The Crafts Center will hold a special celebratory Potluck Dinner on Sunday, April 27, 1-3 pm.  Come join us and bring a covered dish to share.  We’ll provide beverages, plates & utensils – and cake & ice cream, of course. Do you have old photos of the Crafts Center or other mementos?  Bring them along to share and consider letting us post them on our blog! We look forward to seeing you at the Potluck.  Here’s to another 50 years!

 

A Walk Down Jensen

The main entrance to the Craft Center in the mid-1970's.

The main entrance to the Craft Center in the mid-1970′s.

It’s always fun to look through old pictures that capture earlier days and times. Though we live for the here and now, images from long ago provide a glimpse of where we began and steps we’ve taken to become who we are.

Pictures from the Crafts Center’s early years in the old Thompson gymnasium are few. Joining other arts organizations in a mid1960’s migration to the vacant building, the Craft Shop shared the lower floor with the Music Department. You can image that the outward appearance of the facility was slow to change as it wasn’t until the music department moved to its new home in Price Music Center that the Crafts Center was truly home. Home, what followed was a period of new program advances leading to a sustaining period of growth.
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Students walking by the west side of Thompson Hall in the 1970’s were greeted by a drab exterior, void of the visual excitement we expect today in an arts facility. The wonderful photograph above was taken by Jim Pressley in the mid 1970’s shortly after the facility changed its name from Craft Shop to Craft Center. Notice the broken glass in the large palladium windows. And look closely at the entrance, it’s not the same doorway we use today. The main entrance back then is now the clay studio door. The door itself was a crusty old thing, heavy, made of wood and original to the building. And look at the concrete ramp with tight turn into the building. Back in the day the Center went through large quantities of clay slip (in cases of jars) as well as boxes of clay. The task of offloading the heavy boxes from truck to studio was a bear of a job. The Craft Center acquired a roller conveyor to make the job easier. Woodworkers who used the woodshop prior to the 2009 renovation might remember the rack of rollers as it was incorporated in the construction of a bench supporting the radial arm saw.

Hot glass demonstration using the back of the original sign from our main entrance.

Hot glass demonstration using the back of the original sign from the Center’s main entrance.

Also notice the signage. The entry was marked with a simple painted metal sign along with a lidded box that held brochures. Today’s entrance is located to the right under the theatre’s stairwell (removed during the 2009 renovation). And about the metal sign? …we still have it! The sign is used regularly in the glass studio to protect tables from being burned during lamp work demonstrations.

During the late 1970’s, the concrete ramp was removed and the main entrance changed to the door we use today. As seen below, in the early 1980’s, an awning was added that included our name and logo. By that time we had changed our name once again from the Craft Center to the Crafts Center. The sidewalks were reworked several times throughout the years and were eventually pushed out further in the street to provide improved access.

The Crafts Center from the 1990's

The Crafts Center from the 1990′s

Along with the lighted display niches and glass entry, the Crafts Center’s renovated appearance stands proud today because of much effort and the long journey that led to its possibility. The next time you walk by the west side of Thompson Hall, take a moment to remember the building’s past, and do come inside. It’s there, where you just may rediscover yourself through a journey in craft.

Have You Seen It?

Wood Shop at Erdahl-Cloyd Student Union

Wood Shop at Erdahl-Cloyd Student Union

 

Though we know there was life prior to our mid-1960s landing in Thompson Hall, almost all of us who have spent time in the Crafts Center can only imagine what it might have been like to craft in Erdahl-Cloyd Student Union. No pictures and very few documents were believed to have survived the move to Thompson Hall. There was very little that remained from which to build and steer the formation of mental imagery. This all changed during a recent online search for information about our early years.

The University Libraries have a wonderful collection of digitized photographs capturing the history of NC State. Found in the collection, the above image purported to be “The Craft Shop” in Thompson Hall appears in a timeline of buildings and organizations: http://historicalstate.lib.ncsu.edu/timelines/student-unions-and-centers. Looking at the style of clothing, the shop layout, and as has been verified by folks who worked in Thompson Hall, this image could not have been taken in the building. Instead, the photograph likely captures the Craft Shop when it was located on the second floor of Erdahl-Cloyd Student Union.

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The Crafts Center prides itself on making the best of what’s at hand. A rule we crafters live by may read “if you take care of your tools, they will take care of you.” Take care of your tools and they will last a long time…

For those who have spent time in the Crafts Center’s woodshop, look at the above photograph closely. Do you see anything familiar? If you need a little help, look at the chair in the lower left. These items are still in good working order and are used daily in the Crafts Center. They have been used by students and community alike for nearly 60 years. And as seen on the photograph in the lower right, tags on the bottom of each chair not only mark the manufacturer, they also provide a telling date and location of our possible beginning.

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