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Find Your Inner Artist at the Crafts Center

Along the wall in the back of the NC State Crafts Center are about a dozen spinning wheels, the kind people once used to make thread before the industrial revolution turned socks and shirts into factory products. Cross the room and you'll find a cupboard full of knitting supplies and bags of wool, shorn from real - not synthetic - animals. Down the hall are frames for creating stained glass, and equipment for creating handmade jewelry.

In fact, the Crafts Center offers instruction, supplies and equipment to help you master a wide range of creative skills, from fiber art and glass bead making to lapidary and woodworking. The center offers classes for NC State students and employees, as well as members of the community. Registration for the spring semester starts Friday, Jan. 18, with classes scheduled to begin Monday, Feb. 11. The center provides discounted rates to university students and employees. 

Jo Ellen Westmoreland
Jo Ellen Westmoreland with a totem created by a student at the Crafts Center.

"Best of all," says assistant director Jo Ellen Westmoreland, "there is no stress, there is no pressure, there is no exam."

That doesn't mean it's easy.

Westmoreland herself first came to the center seven years ago to take a pottery class, determined to learn how to create beautiful, tall and symmetrical vases, like the ones she'd admired in art galleries and shops for years.

"Pottery can be very technical," she says. "Operating the pottery wheel is a skill you have to learn. Like most crafts, there's the engineering part and the artistic part."

Her first creations weren't exactly what she planned. But, she adds affably, "you learn from your mistakes."

Somewhere in the middle of her second six-week class, something clicked, and Westmoreland discovered she had a talent for working with clay. Eventually, the Crafts Center hired her to teach classes and then, last April, to work in the office full time. It's a labor of love.

"The Crafts Center has something for everybody, from beginners to very accomplished artists," she says. "It's purely for recreation and enjoyment. But we always have a few every semester who come in and find the right craft and click with it and it's amazing what they can accomplish."

The Crafts Center is operating out of a temporary facility at 516 Brickhaven Drive while its permanent home on campus, the Frank Thompson Building, is undergoing renovation work, scheduled for completion by 2009.

For more information about the Crafts Center, visit the Web site.