Occidental community touts talent at Handmade Oxy

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Under the hot afternoon sun, vendors touting everything from soap to American Girl doll clothes transformed the JSC quad into a craft market last Thursday. From 4–6 p.m. crowds of excited students, faculty and staff dashed from one booth to another looking at the one-of-a-kind artwork, jewelry, apparel and crafts that Occidental community members had to offer. King Courtney and The Dukes set a lively mood with their upbeat covers of popular songs, and the free ice cream stand distracted attendees from the Southern California heat. This event was the first of its kind at Occidental.

Twenty vendors lined the quad, revealing the hobbies students and staff devote their time to outside their academic and professional lives.

Founder of Absurdity Clothing Chris Brandt (first-year) displayed his original streetwear and artwork. Brandt began designing t-shirts when he was 16 years old and has since expanded his line to include hoodies, windbreakers, hats and art pieces. He decided to participate in Handmade Oxy to introduce his artwork and clothing to the Occidental community.

“What was great about the … event was that I got to show a side of my artwork that most people don’t know about from seeing my clothing,” Brandt said. “[Handmade Oxy] was a success because even if I didn’t sell too much I received a lot of support and interest from the Oxy community.”

The opportunity to engage fellow Occidental students with their hobbies also inspired vendor Anna Geare (senior) to participate in the event. Geare has been selling handmade jewelry, coasters, plushes and other miscellaneous items on Etsy, a website that promotes handmade items, since high school. After graduating, Geare wants to dedicate more time to arts and crafts fairs.

“I jump at the chance to do any fair, but especially one where my friends and peers can see my biggest hobby displayed,” Geare said. “I definitely think the event was a success and definitely had a lot of fun talking to people who appreciated my work, especially the nerdier pop culture pieces. I love meeting fellow fans.”

The fair exposed staff members who may not ordinarily interact with many students to the wider Occidental population. One staff member who participated was Director of Support Services for Information Technology Services Lisa Mattia, who pursues photography in her free time. Mattia uses her camera as a chance to slow down and engage with her environment and other people in a creative way.

“It’s not often you see that many folks flow through an event, and it was a great avenue to strike up unexpected conversations with people that you haven’t previously met,” Mattia said. “I spoke with one student who was excited to chat about how much she enjoyed her trip to Nepal because she saw one of my photos from Nepal. We never would have had that conversation otherwise, and it was a nice connection.”

The idea for this event grew from the conversations between Sherman York, a media services coordinator at Occidental’s Information Technology Services, and Lori Fiacco, assistant director of Conference Services.

“Sherman and I were setting up for an event and chatting and discovered a shared interest in art,” Fiacco said. “Sherman is a painter and I am a printmaker. We’d worked together for several years but did not know this about each other.”

After talking to one another about other people on campus who share their passion for art, Fiacco and York decided to create an event that would offer Occidental community members a chance to showcase their talents and sell their work.

The event was created with three goals in mind, according to Fiacco. She and York wanted this event to foster new relationships, support Occidental’s talent and contribute financial support to the college.

Ten percent of gross receipts from the event were donated to the Occidental College Annual Fund Current Year Scholarship, while vendors kept the rest of the income. According to an email sent to the Occidental community by Administrator Staff Council, Handmade Oxy raised over $500 for the Current Year Scholarship.

Attendees as well as participants gave the event positive reviews and credited it with expanding their knowledge of Occidental’s diverse community. Aidan Holliday (first-year) enjoyed browsing the booths as well as helping Margaret Su* (first-year) sell hand knit cup cozies.

“I think any promotion of the arts, especially for a good cause, is valuable, and it’s especially important to allow students to showcase their work,” Holliday said. “I was impressed with everything that I saw—it’s always exciting to find out about people’s unique talents.”

*Margaret Su is a member of the Occidental Weekly.