Arts clubs offer ‘casual, self-motivating’ respite from academics – The Williams Record

As locations for beginners and masters, art clubs like the Off the Hook Crochet Club, the Ceramics Club, and Williams FireFlies offer spaces for artistic downtime on campus. These clubs, which are not affiliated with the college’s studio art department, allow students to learn or practice their passions for crochet, ceramics, or flow art.

From the hook crochet club

Off the Hook Crochet Club students meet in Sawyer every other week. (Courtesy photo by Julia Chiang.)

Off the Hook Crochet Club, new this year, meets for an hour every other week at the Sawyer Fabrication Studio and provides materials and support for students interested in crocheting. Projects range from stuffed animals and hats to more intricate items like sweaters and scarves.

After Julia Chiang set up crochet zoom meetings with her friends during the pandemic in ’22, Julia Chiang decided it was time to officially bring her passion to college. “You’d be surprised how many people are closet knitters or crochet workers,” said Chiang, who is an off-the-hook guide.

The free materials are a draw for anyone who joins the club as knitting and crochet materials can be expensive. Other members enjoy the peaceful space that the club offers away from academics.

“It’s nice to have a peer-run space because it’s casual and self-motivating,” said club member Genevieve Randazzo ’25. “The club makes me feel like I’m taking a concentrated break.”

Chiang expressed a similar opinion. “Williams has a strong work culture,” she said. “Having a space that embraces the idea that productivity is not equal to self-esteem gives people a necessary break.”

Ceramic Club

Ceramics Club students have access to the Mark Hopkins studio. (Courtesy photo by Grace Clarke.)

Grace Clarke ’23 re-registered the Ceramics Club (originally founded in 2001) because it offered something drastically different from the college fine arts curriculum. Since there is no ceramic class at the university, The club is the only place on campus where students can make pottery.

The Ceramics Club meets in the ceramics studio on the ground floor of Mark Hopkins. Although the club does not have official meetings, it does offer beginner classes taught by members with experience in throwing (making pottery on a disc). As soon as members show interest, they receive the code to open the studio door so that they can access it at any time.

“I was never able to take an art class with Williams, but I still felt like I had to create this space for myself,” said Clarke. “I’m a very creative person, and if I can’t be creative in an academic environment, or if I don’t want this academic structure, it’s great to have this open space.”

According to Clarke, the ceramics club is particularly open to throwing beginners. “More than half of the students who showed interest in the club during the Purple Key Fair signed up because they wanted to try a new skill,” she said.

According to club member Campbell Leonard ’25, the club offers a break from academics. “The club is a really nice outlet,” she said. “I can organize my day completely differently and have the time, space and materials already there.”

Williams fireflies

Vincent Jiang ’23 practices flow arts through Williams Fireflies. (Courtesy photo by Aliya Gentry.)

Williams Fireflies offers students the opportunity to learn and practice flow arts – which, according to club directors Vincent Jiang ’23 and Aliya Gentry ‘23.5, involves manipulating glowing lights through dance to create patterns in the dark.

Jiang’s passion for flow arts began in high school and he decided to take her to college in the winter of 2019. The club was suspended due to COVID-19 but continued to hold technical drills via Zoom. The club now meets in person once a week and welcomes newcomers. “About 75 percent of the club is new,” said Jiang. “We have practice outside at night and people tend to be interested in what we do and always want to try it out.”

“I think the importance of such a student-run space is that it creates a low pressure environment where people can learn from friends,” said Gentry. “It’s great to have the opportunity to try something new and get to know other students.”

Jiang noted that the club members have the opportunity to experience something they would never find in the classroom. “I’m sure if I didn’t have this place on campus I wouldn’t be doing flow arts as often,” he said.

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