Underneath Braxton Tower lies a hidden treasure.

The West Virginia University Craft Center has called the basement of the complex its home since the 1970s, yet it remains a little-known asset to the campus.

“Honestly, I have no idea why more people haven’t found it. It’s an underutilized way for people to relax,” said Justin Yanni, a graduate student. “A lot of people don’t know its here.”

The Craft Center offers a variety of activities. Tie-dyed T-shirts hang to dry near a single sewing machine. Five-gallon buckets, heaped with shards of broken glass in varying colors for creating stained glass mosaics, sit near a workstation.

A wooden table is covered by neat rows of tiny bags separating jewelry-making beads by color and shape. Another is cluttered with molds and cookie cutters for shaping clay. Combs, toothbrushes and seashells used for adding texture to pottery are separated into bowls and old coffee cans.

A wheel throwing area, where pottery makers mold clay on spinning wheels, lies in the center of the room. It is this area that David Buchanan, staff manager of the student recreation center, says is the most popular area of the center. Evidence of this can be found in the multitude of clay creations that sit, in various stages of completion, on shelves lining the walls.

Three of these creations, each a shallow and rectangular dish, belong to Jose Gonzalez, a sophomore human nutrition major who has been doing pottery at the center for about a year.

“It’s a good way to have dishes in my apartment,” Gonzalez said. “It makes me proud to have something I made.”

The dishes he is currently working on were shaped from molds, but Gonzalez says that shaping original pottery on a wheel is a great way to relax.

Gonzalez and Yanni agree that the center provides a welcoming environment.

“I really enjoy coming here because of the atmosphere, and because I can do something that I’m good at,” Gonzalez said.

According to Yanni, “people are willing to share what they know in a positive way.”

One way this sharing occurs is through the one-hour tutorials that Buchanan offers, free of charge, to teach new users how to create pottery or meld stained glass.

“In an hour he gets through about two to three weeks of pottery classes,” he said.

Fees for using the center are assessed based on use. Clay is charged at $1 per pound, stained glass is 10 cents per square inch. Tie dye is $2-3 per item, and the customer must bring their own shirt or other item to be dyed.

“There’s a positivity that exists there,” Yanni said. “People come in and everyone enjoys their day. I don’t know where else they can find that on campus.”



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