Crafts Center program takes flight

With a widespread campus of Living and Learning Villages, academic departments and student organizations, it can be difficult to find a common interest in the community. The Crafts Center and University Housing are working together to bring the community together and represent individual interest.

“Why not use something as simple as birdhouses to express both our individuality along with that which brings us together?” said George Thomas, director of the Crafts Center at NC State.

The idea arose from Thomas’ participation judging the 2014 JC Raulston Blooms festival birdhouse competition. “I really enjoyed seeing how much fun Girl Scout troops, elementary school classes and other groups of young children had in building tiny houses for our winged friends,” he said.

At NC State specifically, students found pleasure in the Crafts Center’s birdhouse-building class with artist Marina Bosetti, so Thomas spoke with Christopher Glenn, programs and education coordinator for the JC Raulston Arboretum. Together they created a competition of NC State student-built birdhouses, scheduled for April 2.

Christopher Glenn, programs and education coordinator at JC Raulston Arboretum, said specifics about the NC State competition have not been set in stone, but in addition to regular judging criteria, students will be judged for their birdhouses’ designs in relation to NC State and their majors.

The News & Observer and the JC Raulston Arboretum started the birdhouse competition in 2001. The News & Observer withdrew its support about five years ago, but is returning as a media sponsor in 2016.

The 16th annual Birdhouse Competition is scheduled for April 1 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and April 2 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The creations range from “barrels of laughs to studies in craftsmanship and beauty,” according to the JC Raulston Arboretum >website.

First place in the competition earns a $30 gift certificate from Garden Supply Company, second place earns a $20 gift certificate from Garden Supply Company and third place earns a $10 gift certificate from Garden Supply Company. The competition is open to all ages and is free to enter. Admission is free for members, $5 for nonmembers and $10 per family.

“I’d love to see our students live their lives, at least for a time, through the birds that fly past them daily,” Thomas said.

The goal of building the birdhouses is for different communities on campus to express their interests through the designs. For example, an Honors birdhouse will look differently than a design student’s birdhouse.

Thomas is excited to see the variety of birdhouses throughout campus and thinks it will be a good representation of the diversity at NC State. He listed examples such as a Fraternity and Sorority Life birdhouse, a GLBT Center birdhouse and a Sustainability birdhouse.

The Crafts Center held a talk about considerations crafters need to keep in mind when making birdhouses on Jan. 25. This event kicked off three separate birdhouse-making classes — clay, wood and gourd. There was also an additional “crafternoon” class for $5 that teaches attendants to build birdhouses using nonstandard materials.

Thomas’ class was offered for all skill levels. The class encouraged students to build on their own ideas and explore the use of nontraditional materials. The birdhouses are put on display at the JC Raulston Arboretum’s annual parade of birdhouses. The class was offered Monday evenings from 6:30–9:30 p.m. from Jan. 25 through Feb. 15.

Most of the classes are non-students and staff, but there was one student in the wood class, Ginger Deason, and several in the clay class.

Deason, a fourth-year graduate student studying parks, recreation and tourism management, took the woodworking class a year or two ago and loved it so took the class again.

“I also love birds and wanted to make a Brown-Headed Nuthatch house for my backyard,” Deason said. “Brown-Headed Nuthatches are in need of housing, so I thought it would be fun.”

Deason said that birdhouses make great gifts, and the many different designs ensure the process of constructing them never gets boring. She also plans to enter her birdhouse in the competition in April.

“The class is fun and George is great!” she said. “It’s so cool to actually make something out of wood with my hands that turns out looking pretty good. I never thought I would be able to do anything like this.”

However, Thomas intends for the project to be more than just formal classes. Villages are also participating to spread birdhouses through different areas around campus. Thus far, 20 University Scholars students met and designed four houses in their area and spent the remaining time making 15 birdhouse kits for children to build and paint. Recently, kids at E.S. King Village apartments met and used the kits made by the students to build birdhouses for E.S. King and Wolf Village.

Jan. 30, Thomas worked with a small group of students from Arts Village to make a birdhouse for their location and is working now with a lead for Honors.

“The goal is to slowly build houses over the next month or so for various locations on campus,” Thomas said.

Glenn said he hopes participants in all of the birdhouse projects learn more about birds and their needs. “Wild areas for birds to use are ever decreasing, and many birds now find homes in landscapes — some of them man-made,” he said.

The Crafts Center and University Housing plan to keep an eagle eye on the project to test its success. As of now, the program is not concerned about the number of birdhouses built, but instead about sending a message in a fun way that welcomes spring. Thomas anticipated more than 30 birdhouses made formally just during the Crafts Center classes.

“Beyond that, who knows … 100, 200 or more?”

For more information about the birdhouse competition, visit the JC Raulston Arboretum website.