Feeling crafty

Submitted by Katherine D. Duke

Last fall, I was delighted to read an announcement inviting members of the Amherst community to sell our wares at the second annual Campus Holiday Craft Fair. I’d been making beaded jewelry since middle school and crocheting hats since high school, so I figured this would be the perfect place to show off my skills and to earn some Christmas-shopping money. I got out my hooks and yarn and beads and set to work. I felt crafty.

Not crafty enough, as it turned out—not compared to the other staff members, professors and students selling at the Alumni House that day. My dinky little hats and necklaces paled next to the tables of soft knitted scarves, one-of-a-kind greeting cards and expertly woven baskets. A favorite professor took pity on me and bought a hat; other than that, there were few takers. So when I went back this year, to the third annual Campus Holiday Craft Fair on Sat., Dec. 1, I came as a mere shopper.

Denise McGoldrick, director of health education at Amherst, and Gretchen Krull, assistant director of health education and sexual assault counselor, began organizing the craft fairs in 2005, with sponsorship from the Student Activities Office. Both women make jewelry; Krull also knits scarves. “We talked to other people on campus who were also amateur crafters,” Krull told me, “and we came up with the idea of a crafts fair where students could participate but also buy their gifts for the holidays.”

This year, the fair was held in the O’Connor Commons in the basement of the new Charles Pratt dorm—a spacious venue, but somewhat out-of-the-way for shoppers. There were a record number of student vendors. “It’s fun to see what other people do when they’re not, you know, studying,” McGoldrick says. “I’ve always been amazed by our students and how multiply talented they are.” Nicole Anderson ’09 made pendants out of Tahitian black pearls and seashells her family plucked from the beach in her native Hawaii. Cait Scudder ’11 sold vivid photos from her travels to the Dominican Republic, Barcelona and Rome, while, at the next table, Jessica Mestre ’10 offered cards displaying her pictures of Amherst in winter, spring, summer and fall. “As a Floridian, I really appreciate the seasons,” she said.

Andy Tew ’07, an area coordinator on campus, took orders for prints of his strange, striking photographs, many of which feature his friends from Amherst. One is a seasonal image… of sorts: it depicts Ariel Morales ’08E being splashed in the face with eggnog. Tew snapped it as part of a project titled Nogged.

Some vendors sold for a good cause. Laura Taylor ’08 and Hyowoun Jyung ’08 founded Hope for Kibera after working with college-aged youth in Nairobi as part of Project for Peace last summer. Kibera is the world’s largest slum, with more than 1 million inhabitants. At the craft fair, Taylor and Jyung sold scarves and jewelry they bought from a market in Kenya; earnings will help to fund education and sanitation projects in Kibera. By the time I reached their table, the scarves had sold out.

Each artisan at the fair also donated one item to be raffled off at the end of the day, with the raffle proceeds going to the New England Learning Center for Women in Transition (NELCWIT). I bought a ticket and took a chance on a beautiful wooden cutting board, shaped like a pig; it had been crafted by Jerome Yezierski of D.Y. Woodcraft in North Hadley, Mass. (Yezierski’s sisters work at Amherst.) A luckier soul ended up winning the pigboard, but that’s okay. Between the creativity, the commerce and the generosity at the fair, I’ve already been splashed in the face—nogged, if you will—with the holiday spirit.

Photo: Katherine Duke '05