Mercedes Martin sat behind a table decorated with earrings of all shapes, sizes and colors. Like other people around her, Martin, a senior ethnic studies major, was selling her handmade jewelry at the Mills College Craft Fair held for the first time on Earth Day.
Tables displaying candles, hats, pins, purses and paintings were set up around Adams Plaza April 22. A small stage was also assembled for people to perform on. The wide array of crafts brought a burst of color to the already budding campus and students busied themselves by moving from table to table with cash in hand.
“My earrings are made out of old fliers, magazines and bottle caps,” said Martin, gesturing toward the accessories around her. “Everything reflects what I’m interested in: I’ve got a lot of hip hop, some African American literature authors and some African beads.”
Describing the process of her craft, Martin said that while some pairs are relatively easy to make — such as the small square earrings adorned with pictures of Spike Lee — others, like the California-shaped mosaics on the table, take quite some time.
Next to Martin, Anna Basalaev-Binder sat beside a table covered in cloth patches and T-shirts stenciled with cupcakes, hearts, seahorses and birds.
“I get thin sheets of plastic and cut images into them,” Basalaev-Binder said. “Then I sponge silk screen ink onto the fabric through the plastic.”
When asked why the purple and pink cupcake stencils had “queer” stamped on them, she shrugged and smiled.
“I think cupcakes are pretty inherently queer,” she said with a laugh. “But I thought I’d just state the obvious.”
Moving down the line of tables, it was apparent the Mills community has a diverse set of creative interests. While some craft handmade buttons, others craft knit hats or bound books.
Lara Durback, the studio manager for the book arts program, uses scrap materials to make her pieces.
“I have access to book-binding scrap leather, so I can use scraps entirely to make everything,” Durback said.
Small journals, bracelets and earrings in varying geometric shapes, some embossed with text, covered her table.
“I print on them with this foil-stamping machine called a quick print,” she explained.
Even her business cards looked labor intensive.
“I printed those [on a] letter press,” Durback said. “Lead type, letter by letter.”
Kelly McCoid and Jessica Reff, two sophomores who used a hot pink sign to draw in customers, sat at their station surrounded by bottle cap earrings, magnets and pins. Reffy and Kelly Crafting Co. was created by the two friends who said they often listen to cheesy 1990s music when crafting.
“We listen to the Spice Girls and Avril Lavigne,” Kelly said.
Their bottle cap accessories were decorated with miscellaneous pictures of Lady Gaga, kittens, hamburgers and more, yet the philosophy behind their craft is simple.
“We try to make recycled jewelry out of used beer caps and put pretty pictures in them,” Reff said.
Reff and McCoid get their images online by using Google images and clip art. They also said they use environmentally friendly resin, something they also found online, to fill the bottle caps.
Products made of felt, lacquer, leather and yarn were not the only crafts on display. Even a small organic produce stand visited the campus to sell strawberries, chard, beans and other fresh fruits and vegetables.
Along with the din of chatter were the melodic sounds of musicians performing on stage. Lanterns and handmade flags dangled from the trees in the courtyard and students ate their lunch by the fountain as they were serenaded.
“The theme of the festival was ‘mama Earth is artsy, sexy, musical and smart,'” said First-year Zoe Frost, who helped organize the event. “Smart was generally exhibited through the idea of making smart choices about the environment and supporting the students and their education at Mills.”