A student sits at a sewing machine with the concentration of a seasoned seamstress. Others press the fabric against the bodies of headless mannequins trying to gauge how their semi-completed dress will look once finished. Yes, the JSU Summer Art Institute Sewing Camp was in full swing.
From June 10-14, students, 9-18, were taught to sew, expand their creativity and learn the fundamentals of entrepreneurship under the leadership of Kristen Martin, director of the sewing camp, and Dr. Shon McCarthy, director of galleries at JSU.
Also participating in the institute were JSU alums Zacchaeus Simmons, owner of the clothing brand Zacari, and Treon Young, owner of the Country Bumpkin clothing store in Northpark Mall.
“Words cannot express how proud I am of our JSU students and alumni who have returned to not only teach sewing but the business side of fashion,” said McCarthy. “Our students are so dedicated that at the beginning of this summer break, they came to my office and expressed their commitment to our campers and their enthusiasm for the start of camp.”
A New Orleans native, Martin is the owner of dashDaren, an alteration, tailoring and custom design business. She shared how much she enjoys leading the sewing camp and working with the children.
“The greatest benefit is letting them see that they can make things themselves and they don’t have to go out to the store to purchase clothes,” said Martin. “That was my problem when I was younger. I didn’t have certain things, but I didn’t know that I could make it myself.”
Martin said she wants others to recognize that they don’t have to run to the store and spend $100 on a clothing item that everyone else has. “You can make it yourself, and make it how you want to make it.”
Kennedy Anderson, a seventh grader from Northwest Rankin Middle School, wished the camp lasted more than five days. “I like how you can make clothes, and you don’t have a limit to what you can make. You can express yourself,” she said.
Jacksonian Lauryn Ross, 14, shared that the sewing camp is beneficial because she wants to be a hair and clothing stylist. “I always wanted to have a clothing business and a hair supply business. I’m trying to get it in early. I love being creative and adding my own spice,” she explained.
Simmons said he never expected to gain a new skill. “Originally, I was here to teach the kids how they can market their business. I didn’t know how to sew,” he said. “Some of them started helping me learn while I was teaching them the business aspect. Now, I’m over here sewing and stuff. It’s a win-win.”
Having graduated this past May with a bachelor’s in industrial technology, Simmons is passionate about giving back to his hometown and his alma mater. “I really want Jackson to succeed. You have different people who talk down on Jackson somewhat. They fail to realize that other factors stop the city from progressing as it should,” he said.
Simmons pointed out that a declining tax base, among other things, hurt Jackson’s economy. However, he wants to use his brand to uplift and make a difference in the capital city.
“Coming back to JSU to teach campers is showing our youth how to return to their communities and give back. It’s a domino effect,” he said.
Jayah Alexander, a graphic design major, also assisted students. “I wanted them to know that they can make anything and be anything that they want to be no matter what society tells them,” she said.
The senior revealed that she wants to teach art, stack her money, and start a clothing and cosmetics line.
“The most inspirational part of sewing camp is seeing the kids smile, watching them progress, and seeing how happy they are to be here. They have so much fun with us,” she said.
Alexander, Simmons and Martin will be one of several JSU students and alums who will teach the community a variety of liberal art classes at the JSU Art Institute that begins in the fall.