The Crafting Guild: A Community for Creators

Silas McClung
Contributing Writer

It didn’t seem like much, just three guys goofing around doing what they liked to do. Joseph Brown (C’23) and Ian Boer (C’23) dumpster dove and picked up trash to find sustainable leftover material to make things; Ben Hatfield (C’23) hoped to whittle some time away carving wooden spoons. Together, they started on campus what is now one of the most popular clubs focused on creating–The Crafting Guild. In less than a year, the Guild is a one hundred and twenty-person group of students dabbling in fiber arts, tie-dying, jewelry making, scavenging, woodworking, welding, glass blowing, bench building, and so much more. The Crafting Guild now serves as a vibrant on-campus hub at Sewanee for experienced and inexperienced students and community members interested in crafting with their hands. The crazy thing is, not a single one of the Crafting Guild’s founders ever imagined it would be so successful.

While quarantined last year, Brown became fixated with crafting — all kinds of things, from bushcraft fire-making to welding and woodworking. As a sophomore entering his second semester, Brown said he discovered one small problem, “I came out of quarantine to Sewanee and still wanted to make stuff, but I was like there’s nowhere to make stuff. There’s nobody to help me make stuff.”

After realizing there was neither an organized group nor a place in Sewanee to build and create, Brown got in touch with his friends and fellow Sewanee students, Hatfield and Boer. They began to scheme, and Brown said they resolved to “…bring together like-minded people on campus who are interested in and committed to learning about the process of making things by hand.” With a vision in mind, they decided the best way to access more resources was to create a legitimate club. So, they trotted off to the SGA and created The Crafting Guild.

Because of Hatfield’s wooden spoon fascination, The Crafting Guild’s first event was wooden spoon carving in February of 2020. And it was a huge hit with students. Since then, The Crafting Guild has expanded into various sustainable skills, such as bushcraft, which included learning about making fires and searching for wild plant food. The Crafting Guild has also received commissions from the school and community. They have already made benches for Gamma Sigma Phi, a fraternity on campus. Brown said, “We’re making meditation size benches for Peter Gray probably this week or next week.”

Founding member Joseph Brown (C’23) learning to weld. Photo courtesy of Emma Ross-Sermons.

The Crafting Guild is working on getting access to a space where they can work. There are at least four workshops on campus that the University is in charge of, and none of those four are public. One of their efforts recently is to make one of those spaces public–the art building. To offset the need for fees, they’re using The Crafting Build budget. Brown said they hope to be able to train others and have a “…space that anyone can use to exercise that creative freedom to make things.” They want to lend tools out to anyone and get a system going. They think a theme house would be a good home for that kind of operation. 

The Crafting Guild is a club open to all. If anyone is interested in helping plan and lead Crafting Guild events, they can reach out to Hatfield, Brown, and Boer via their Instagram, Engage Page, or Group Me. They meet every Monday at McClurg at 6:30 pm. Brown said, “We want to be a good influence, and the idea of crafting in the 21st century is learning how to do it with a good relationship to the environment.”