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News & Stories: 2008-09

Christmas by hand December 4, 2008

Erin O’Connor Garcia decided to make all of her Christmas gifts this year. Then she decided to expand on that idea and give others an opportunity to do the same.

Photo of Erin O'Connor Garcia knittingHandmade Christmas, which begins at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, December 6 in the Knollcrest Room at Calvin College, will provide that opportunity. The event will feature a variety of teachers and an array of crafts: Two knitters will join makers of soap, Christmas cards, ornaments, homemade journals and tea bags in demonstrating their handicrafts to all comers.

Stuff to get you thinking

"The idea is that you can come and learn how to do things and then, hopefully, go and do them on your own,” O’Connor Garcia said. “There’s going to be hot chocolate and cookies that you can decorate. And there’s going to be a lot of stuff around just to get students thinking—just things to have them thinking about their own wrapping paper or different ways to package things.”

O’Connor Garcia said that handcrafting is increasingly appealing to people in the digital age. “There’s this huge handmade movement going on nationwide,” she said, noting Web sites such as Etsy.com, where people buy and sell handicrafts. ”And students at Calvin are into it—a lot of them are.”

Tangible rewards

O’Connor Garcia believes that handcrafting has a special appeal for students: “A lot of professors and people who live off campus have gardens or shoveling snow in the wintertime to give them satisfaction—or cooking. We have tangible things that we have to do just to get through the day,” she said, “but when you’re a student living in the dorms, that kind of process is not really part of your life.”

Hand-making a gift adds to its value, O’Connor said: “So much of what we get feels very effortless. Spending money on a gift for someone feels pretty easy. You can buy anything you want on the Internet. There are the same department stores in every city in the country. So there’s not much risk involved in purchasing.”

Time well spent

Part of the value of the gift, she added, is the investment of hours spent in making it: “We don’t spend time on very much. Our culture values quick and easy.”

Handcrafting also builds value in other ways, according to Ashleigh Draft, who plans to teach soap-making at the event: “The quality of the soap is a lot better,” she said. Draft, a Calvin coordinator of donor communications, will demonstrate the melt-and-pour method of creating soap. “You can add in oatmeal or ground pumice, essential oils or colorant. It’s fun to give someone something that you made. I think a lot of people value that," she said.

~by Myrna Anderson, communications and marketing

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