I've always enjoyed doing crafts. Sewing, needlepoint, counted cross-stitch, knitting, crocheting – basically all types of needlecrafts and beyond. So it seemed a natural to sign up to work in the craft shop for my volunteer job at Snow Mountain Ranch.
Stepping in the door for my first shift, I realized in short order that these were crafts of an entirely different nature. I'd call them camp crafts. Things you do at scout camp or in specialty craft shops where you might go for a kids' birthday party activity. The set-up accommodates a large number of people at long tables well stocked with supplies. All around the shop are examples of the various crafts available for kids and adults to do. Ceramics, leather work, wood burning, tie dying, jewelry making, wooden models to assemble and paint and mosaics are just a few of the offerings.
Our largest set of customers are families. Moms and Dads come in with the kids, who eye all the projects like candy and eagerly select something to work on. The best part is watching families working together, parents helping out their kids and often making things together. And since they are on vacation, they are happy and relaxed. As staff members, our job is to help them pick out projects and teach them the techniques involved if necessary.
I felt a bit out of depth at first, but soon discovered that the only way to learn was by doing. On weekdays traffic is light, so I picked out several projects to make as shop samples. My first attempt was leather work. I'd never done it before, and soon found it fascinating to pound in the designs, stain the leather and stitch together the final project. I finally had my first skill I could share!
From there I progressed to ceramics. We have hundreds of pre-made ceramic pieces that range from figurines to dishes and mugs. For that project, I actually purchased a “scoop bowl” and made it for myself. It took surprisingly long to cover it in three complete coats of glaze. The fascinating thing is that the colors are pastel when painted on, but come out of the kiln in brilliant shades. My design was not exactly intricate, but I was pleased with the result and knew what tips to pass along to our customers.
When the shop manager challenged me to paint a T-Rex dinasaur, I was stumped. I felt I needed to come up with something creative and eye-catching. One of the young seasonal workers who happens to be an artist helped drum up some examples for me on the internet, and that spawned an idea. It took me forever to paint the base design with its detailed shapes – in three coats no less – but then I was able to let my imagination run wild. Adding dots and doodles was the final touch. I couldn't wait to see it come out of the kiln the next morning. I think the reault was quite stunning!
I then turned to mosaics. The more complex process involves grouting the tiles, so I undertook that challenge. I had no idea how to go about it, but enjoyed each step as it was explained to me. By the time it was finished, I felt quite accomplished.
In between I learned the techniques for tie dying and where to find things in our immense inventory. When a busy weekend shift rolled around, I was armed with enough knowledge to jump in and play the expert. Kids' eyes gleamed when I showed them how to do things, and parents watched proudly.
I can see now why my original skills were not applicable. I can't imagine families coming in and knitting together. But my underlying aptitude for hand work was still a benefit. My family has always called me the Crafty Lady. Now I have a whole new set of techniques to add to my resume.