Handmade: Enjoy creativity with Arts & Crafts Ministry Team

Jocelynn Brown
The Detroit News

Some "kids" never grow up, and that's a good thing, especially for those of us who are passionate about "playing" arts and crafts.

Vice chair person Wilma Barber, left, of Southfield, makes jewelry with Oneika Mobley, of Farmington Hills.

Crafter and skilled basket weaver Ethel M. Gill of Farmington, realized one day that she needed someone to "play with," so she started what's become the "Arts & Crafts Ministry Team" at Scott Memorial United Methodist Church (15361 Plymouth) in Detroit.

"I didn't have anyone to play with," said Gill, who serves as the ministry team's chairperson, with Wilma Barber of Southfield as vice-chairperson. "None of my friends are really interested in all the things that I'm interested in. All my friends went down different paths, but I found there were a lot of people in church who were crafty with crocheting, cross stitch (etc.)

Chairperson Ethel Gill, right, of Farmington, says one of their team's missions is to pass on their knowledge of arts and crafts to the next generation as she and crochet instructor Gregg (CQ) Burrell, left, of Highland Park, work with children during their meeting.

"In 2010, we had a couple events we called "show and tell" to get everybody to come out and show us the things they did -- art, music -- creative things. We had a couple "show and tells," then we started having crocheting classes. After about six months, we asked to be formally named as a ministry team, and our mission, basically, was to foster Christian fellowship around arts and crafts."

Ever since Gill found the creative side of her "kindred spirit" at church, the Arts & Crafts Ministry Team has been meeting every third Saturday of the month, from 10 a.m.-3 p.m., in the church's fellowship hall. And, although the average age is 30-60 -- on any given day, "there's someone as young as five and someone as old as 80" participating in the workshop, which sometimes includes a couple men. Gill said, "We have probably about 15 steady members."

Crochet instructor Gregg Burrell, of Highland Park, works on braided scarf. Members of the Arts & Crafts Ministry Team fellowship as they make essential winter items, jewelry and other items during their monthly meeting at the Scott Memorial United Methodist Church, Saturday morning, December 15, 2018.

Most activities are free of charge, unless the instructor has to purchase materials for a particular project. "I have more than enough craft material and I'm willing to share. I needed to find an avenue to get rid of some of the stuff I have," explained Gill, who has a "drawer of bling" for anyone wanting to "deck out" their project.

Inspired to pass on needleart skills to younger generations, Gregg Burrell of Highland Park instructs the crocheting classes, for a fee of $10-$15 per session. Gill noted, they also have people who come in and knit, but so far, they don't have a knitting instructor.

In addition to knitting and crocheting, past projects have included jewelry making, decoupaging abstract pictures, working with 4-by-4 ceramic tiles and alcohol ink to make magnets, turning a T-shirt into a hobo-like bag, and giving a purchased picture frame the look of stained glass, using Elmer's glue and acrylic paints. 

However, everyone is not required to work on the same project. "Some crochet, and some do jewelry making," said Gill. "We always have a featured project, but you can bring something you want to do, or one of the things we've already done. Everybody is not doing the same thing, and that's the beauty of it. Everything doesn't resonate with everybody.

"I believe that being exposed to, and participating in creative arts and crafts increases your confidence, reduces stress and promotes peacefulness. It also provides opportunities to create beautiful objects and gifts for you and others. Creative talents are a gift from God. I feel it is important that we use our gifts and share them (with) others."

Gill shares her basket weaving skills with members, usually from March to September. "I've had classes with up to five or six people at a time. It takes 4-5 hours to complete a beginning basket, so they can take it home to complete it," she said. 

In the past, the ministry team has hosted a couple craft shows a year to raise money for supplies to make items for charity. With "more crocheters than anything else," they've given away (crocheted) hats, scarves, gloves and lap blankets to persons in need.

People from outside the church, interested in developing or sharing arts and crafts skills, are welcome to attend the group's monthly meetings. 

Detroit News columnist Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Metro Detroit crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150, jbrown@detroitnews.com or facebook.com/DetroitNewsHandmade. 

Contact the Arts & Crafts Ministry Team of Scott Memorial United Methodist Church (15361 Plymouth, Detroit) at (313) 836-6301.