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Arts and Crafts Center helps hone lifelong skills

Kelly Randolph, recreation assistant, shows what an experienced mat cutter can do at the Fort Rucker Arts and Crafts Center. (Photo by Jay Mann)

Kelly Randolph, recreation assistant, shows what an experienced mat cutter can do at the Fort Rucker Arts and Crafts Center. (Photo by Jay Mann)

Published: November 21, 2014

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (November 21, 2014) -- The classic image of an old craftsman, hunched over a masterpiece, pouring a lifetime of hard-learned lessons into every movement might be an inspiration to some, pushing them to take up a craft.  But the masterpiece is not the prize – the value is in the act of crafting, according to the Fort Rucker Arts and Crafts Center manager.

“If you have a creative outlet and a place to let that creativity out, it can take a lot of stress off of you,” said Joan Varner, arts and crafts center program manager. “People who don’t know what their medium is can start small, maybe with scrapbooking, and then take other classes to explore their creative side.

“In today’s society, to hang on to these skills or even have a place to practice them is such a relaxing thing,” said Varner. “And if you have those skills, you can take them wherever you go. You can’t carry all the crafting tools and equipment you need with you to a new duty station. We have flight students come in all the time that are only here for a year or year and a half.”

People using the arts and crafts center don’t need to bring much to practice their crafts, she said.

“We have all the tools that they need here,” Varner said. “Back in the wood shop, they can even find drawings and plans for projects they might want to build.”

But the tools and materials don’t stop at the wood shop, she added.

“They can come in and learn to paint, sketch, or throw pottery – all the tools are here for them,” Varner said. “If people feel they can’t express themselves in their job or life, they should just come in and try something. We offer stained glass classes, drawing, acrylics, watercolors, and we are planning an oil painting class. If you don’t like it, you’ll know within the first hour, and then you can move on and try something else.

“Pottery is pretty big here. It seems a lot of the flight students have made pottery before,” she said. “They come in for classes or studio time and sit at the wheel and throw. They seem to have a good time. They can run the slab roller or the extruder, whatever they want to do. It is all here for them.”

And there is no experience necessary to get started, Varner added.

“Pottery is one of those skills that most people enjoy right away, but it takes a few times for people to get it,” she said. “But we have an excellent teacher here. He is a volunteer and teaches a two-hour class. It is a lot of fun – you can play in the clay, and your hands are all mucky and a mess. We’ll throw an apron on you and you’ll have a great time.

“There is a little bit of everything here. We have a gentleman who comes in and volunteers his time teaching wood burning,” Varner said. “That is becoming a lost art with laser engravers becoming so popular. He came in and took a class and was hooked. Now he teaches his own class. That is his outlet.”

Varner feels arts and crafts can be good for everyone.

“People need an outlet … a focus,” she said. “Today everyone is going so fast, and this is a way to slow down. I wish everyone would walk in here. The center has all the tools and equipment you need. We had a Soldier show up here with a knapsack, and by the time he PCS’d, he had built a moving truck full of furniture. He was a character and a good kid. He made a bedroom set, a dining set, a living room set – he had it all when he left.”

Varner welcomes all authorized patrons to drop by and see what the center has to offer – they might find a lifelong hobby within the center’s walls.

“People should come in and take a tour because this is a pretty awesome place,” she said.

The Fort Rucker Arts and Crafts Center is open Tuesdays-Fridays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

This article was originally published at http://www.army.mil/article/138770/

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