Expanding my Creative Horizons at the Makerspace

By Ava Gessl, Undergraduate LibraryMaking Fellow, 2023-2024

A large part of my Berkeley experience has revolved around lectures, exams, and assignments. However, the Makerspace has become a creative outlet for me and many other undergraduates. This year, I have had the opportunity to help plan and execute workshops, including learning to crochet in order to teach others. I think that for anyone who wants to find a creative outlet at Berkeley, the Makerspace is an amazing place to explore and learn new skills, and I am happy that I have had the opportunity to be a part of it for another year. What I’ve come to appreciate most about teaching sewing, crochet, and every other craft offered at the Makerspace is the gratification it brings to students. I think the Makerspace is an important part of student life at Berkeley. It is the perfect place whether someone wants to learn a new skill or have a space to pursue a craft they already know. By sharing my passion for crafting and providing a supportive learning environment, I hope to inspire other students to unleash their creativity and pursue their projects with confidence.

As a library fellow, I have had the opportunity to share my passion based on over a decade of sewing experience, and use my learning process in crochet to help others. Learning crochet for the Granny Square Workshop was challenging but fun. It is always good to put yourself into the shoes of someone learning a new skill to remember what it’s like. I was able to apply the mistakes and tricks I learned to help new crocheters in the Granny Square and Crochet Rose workshops. It was exciting to work with students new to crochet and see them use what I learned to transform yarn into something beautiful. This felt different than teaching sewing in the T-shirt Tote Bag or providing one-on-one sewing help because of my years of sewing experience. My prior experience has helped me assist with a wide range of problems and projects. However it has also made it harder for me to remember what it was like to be a beginner. Threading a sewing machine is now a trivial step for me, but I must always remember to go slow, explain all my steps, and why when introducing someone to a sewing machine. I love both teaching experiences and how they each inform each other about what is the best way to teach a new skill and provide the most helpful advice and support. I hope to be able to provide a mixture of guidance that comes from mastering a craft with the perspective of someone who just started in order to give tips that are not obvious but extremely helpful to a beginner. 

This year my making journey has focused more on learning new skills, both crafting and organizing. This process has been dynamic and not without bumps, but I think that it helped me be a more effective library fellow. I found a way to master the vinyl cutter, or specifically its unwillingness to connect to my computer. I am happy with how learning crochet has opened a door for me to help students learn a skill that is on the rise with undergraduates. Taking a more active role in designing and working with my library fellows in workshops has been a rewarding process of logistics, effective communication, and troubleshooting unexpected student hurdles. Working in a workshop environment with  time constraints has forced me to streamline my teaching process and ability to quickly move between students at different levels of experience. In the Crochet Rose Workshop I worked with students who had never crocheted before and their enthusiasm for creating a chain with even stitches was another reminder that every step in a creative process is important and worth celebrating. As a library fellow, I’ve had to be patient and supportive, guiding students through the process step by step, encouraging them to persevere, and quickly troubleshoot unexpected problems. It has been a practice in tailoring my teaching approach to meet the diverse learning styles and skill levels of the students. Overall, working in the Makerspace and helping students learn has been an incredibly fulfilling experience. It’s not just about teaching a crafting skill, it’s about fostering creativity and community. I look forward to continuing to share my passion for sewing and learning alongside the students in the Makerspace.