The Crafts Center at Tufts University, an entirely student-run arts and crafts makerspace, was founded by a group of undergraduate students in the fall of 1979 interested in creating an environment in which students could actively express their creative and artistic interests and talents in an informal setting. Although the original site was in the basement of the Crafts House, a Tufts special interest house, in 1983, as interest and participation rose, the Crafts Center was moved to its current location in the basement of Lewis Hall. Equipment and facilities were upgraded to accommodate the increased demand and the growing variety of areas of interest among students—now a 2,000 sq. ft workspace with a dedicated woodworking area, silk screen equipment, sewing machines, weaving areas, and a fully equipped pottery studio. By 1989, the TCU Senate was funding a salary of $15,000 for a full-time Crafts Center coordinator, who is credited with significantly expanding arts-related programming and activities on campus. By 1994, the managerial structure had changed to include two student managers, a faculty sponsor, and the Student Activities Office. Beginning in the summer of 2014, a student-led renovation effort brought in over $15,000 worth of equipment and facilities upgrades, rebranding the Center as a makerspace and expanding electronics and engineering sections.
The space is managed by members of the Crafts Center, a TCU-funded student group, with a yearly budget for workshops, new tools and equipment, and consumables. Access to the space is FREE and open to all Tufts university students and staff. Hours are Monday through Thursday, 7-11pm and Friday and Sunday, 1-5pm. All students are required to sign in when they enter the space and consent to our Code of Conduct before using any materials or tools.
The space is divided into 14 crafts sections, each with unique equipment, tools and materials.
Candle & Soap Making
Jewelry & Button Making
Glass, Metals & Electronics
The cost to use the space and materials is FREE and all consumables are bought in bulk at the beginning of each semester. The consumption policy for materials is use only what you need and that materials are only to be used for projects made within the Crafts Center. Groups are encouraged to purchase their own supplies for larger projects.
The Crafts Center is managed entirely by student volunteers, who are required to hold one weekly shift (opening or closing) and are assigned to a specific craft section(s) for which they are responsible for maintaining and organizing related workshops under. There are two Crafts Center managers responsible for overall management, volunteer logistics, budgeting and interfacing with the Office for Campus Life, as well as a faculty advisor and alumni coordinator. The Office for Campus Life directly oversees the space and enforces safety and cleanliness guidelines in conjunction with Tufts Facilities and Tufts Environmental Health and Safety.
Tool training and certification are required for all power tools and specialized equipment before access is granted. Workshops also allow students to learn and develop a variety of skills. We are currently working on bringing in professional artists and makers to the space to teach workshops and training for particular crafts and skills and are developing online certification tutorials.
The space is visited by a variety of students and on campus groups and serves as Tufts’ creative hub and collaborative workspace. Activist groups frequent the space to organize for direct actions and to make posters and signs. Engineering students frequent the wood shop and the electronics sections for prototyping projects. Other students use the space to work on individual creative projects for courses.
The Crafts Center has served as the de-facto hub of student creativity for decades. It fosters growing relationships and collaborative efforts amongst a diversity of student groups, including the activist community, cultural groups, engineering-focused groups and art students. It’s location in the basement of a student dormitory makes it a fun, accessible space to all. Music can usually be heard playing on the sound system and snack sharing is encouraged, adding to the informal, communal culture of the space.
The Crafts Center has a unique challenge of being an entirely student-run makerspace. Some of the major challenges we have faced over the years include theft of equipment & materials, outdated, inadequate or nonexistent (but necessary) section equipment, improper use and safety precautions, unclear protocols for volunteers and visitors, lack of accountability and proper oversight and a chaotic, crammed and unorganized environment. We’ve overcome many of these challenges by systematically renovating the entire Crafts Center and restructuring our internal organization. We developed an advisory board of students and faculty that meets to discuss long-term goals and how to address arising challenges, changed the volunteer structure and expectations, and underwent a massive functional reorganization of the space.
● Invest in high quality, durable equipment
● Have locked cabinets and rooms for maintenance and security
● Clearly labeled craft sections
● Maintain a master inventory list
● Asset tags for inventory management
● Volunteers orientation program
● Clear, visible signage and policies