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Crafting clubs can appeal to teens’ creative side

June 6, 2011
By Amy Lorentzen, The Associated Press

Like a lot of teenagers, 16-year-old Geno Saenz of San Antonio spends his fair share of time watching television and playing video games.

But the high school sophomore doesn't want to waste all his time in front of a screen. Nearly every day after school, he heads to the public library, where one of his favorite activities is making crafts.

"They're really fun, and it really helps kill time when I've got nothing to do," says Saenz, citing a recent calendar he made featuring the character Master Chief from the video game "Halo."

He also likes the social aspect of crafting.

"It's better than just sitting at home and watching TV. I have so many friends here," he says.

Persuading teens to step away from their laptops, iPods and gaming consoles can be difficult. But crafts can be a way to get them to slow down and express themselves.

"It doesn't matter if you're creative or not - you do what you like to do," says 17-year-old Erika Maldonado, who attends many of the same activities as Saenz. She gives some of her crafts to family and friends instead of buying gifts.

"That comes from the heart," she says. "I think that's something better."

Recent teen craft events at the San Antonio Public Library have included clay charms and bracelets from bubble-gum wrappers (an "eco-friendly fashion piece"). There's a scrapbooking session on Sundays for teens and adults.

Listening to what teens like Saenz and Maldonado want is what gets them to participate in crafts, says Jennifer Velasquez, coordinator of teen services at the library.

"Again and again, they want to make stuff that's personal to them," she says.

Tina Coleman, co-author of "The Hipster Librarian's Guide to Teen Craft Projects" (American Library Association, 2009), says TV shows such as Bravo's "Project Runway" have brought crafting back in vogue. One of the most appealing aspects to teens is being able to reuse and recycle things.

"Kids really respond to the idea of taking something that's going to be trash and turning it into something beautiful," she says.

Coleman and her mother, Peggie Llanes, are preparing to publish a second teen crafts book, including memory boards, patches and jewelry. The first book featured projects such as pressed-flower note cards, vinyl totes and a book pillow.

Rod Buttermore, youth services librarian at the public library in Grimes, Iowa, says he gets up to 10 teens at a time at his craft workshops. They are most interested in items they can wear.

"I think crafting is definitely in right now in terms of the cool factor because it's another level of self-expression," says Buttermore, whose projects have included making wallets from duct tape. "It's definitely something that sets you apart from the crowd."

Technology may be competing for teenagers' time, he says, but it also makes crafting easier.

For example, there are virtual teen craft clubs, such as one at Teens.com, where a recent project featured a funky commentator with bleached hair, black nails and a tattoo demonstrating a macrame technique while wearing fingerless leather gloves. The craft club is found among celebrity gossip, fashion, entertainment and music. Such sites can give teens ideas for creating something "tangible, seeable and wearable," Buttermore says.

Some teen crafters can even make a little extra money.

Marci Guzowski, 17, has turned crafts into cash on the website Etsy.com, dedicated to selling handmade and vintage items. With the help of her mother, a professional potter, the teen from Asheville, N.C., has sold around 1,000 pottery pieces. The money will go toward college expenses next fall, and possibly a car, she says.

 
 
 

 

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