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'Finding your peace': Students channel their creativity during a year of isolation

Embroidery, crocheting, poetry, graphic design, and even TikTok are just a few of the various projects UNC students have taken up during the pandemic.

As the world came to a stop when the pandemic hit, people were in search of activities to keep themselves stimulated during prolonged periods of stillness. For many students, creativity comforted them while in isolation.

Kayla McLaurin, a junior studying media and journalism, said her creativity was inspired by her mom.

“A primary thing that I started really liking was crocheting because my mom also crochets, so she taught me some stitches,” she said.

Through crocheting, McLaurin found a way to express herself and revamp her wardrobe.

“I just started making different clothing items that I liked,” McLaurin said. “I made a sweater over Christmas break. I made a top over the summer and I just finished a top like two weeks ago, and now I'm working on a dress.”

This new passion project helps her to unwind and flex her creative muscles.

“It kind of just gets me out of the work mode, it’s something that I can just pick up and just do something creative and not be focused too much on — it's just something relaxing that I like to do,” she said.

McLaurin isn’t the only student who turned a quarantine hobby into wearable art. Cullen Keogh, a junior studying media and journalism, started embroidering during isolation. Now, he has a collection of items with his designs.

His collection included denim pants, a denim bag and a denim jacket — all with his original embroidered designs.

“At the beginning of quarantine, I created an embroidered denim collection,” Keogh said. “I find old scraps of denim material and I either bleach it, cut it up, make shapes out of it; it's sustainable and it's also upcycling.”

This is something that he will continue to do even after quarantine because it has become a therapeutic practice to manage his ADHD.

“I definitely won't stop with embroidery because it's definitely helped me become a newer person," he said. “We're always constantly evolving and that's the beauty of embroidery, you're taking a blank canvas and you're turning it into something beautiful and something that it hasn't been before.”

For Chasity Pate, a junior studying psychology, her comforting new hobby was found through graphic design.

“I got into graphic design and the crazy thing about it is, I was looking back at my older files and I was seeing that I was actually doing stuff that you could call graphic design in middle school,” Pate said.

For Pate, her hobby was doubly beneficial. Not only did it allow her to express herself, but it also became a profitable opportunity for her.

“I made four logos and profited from them, and now I help my friend run her social media page,” she said.

Pate hopes to continue advancing her knowledge in graphic design even after the pandemic is over. Her advice to others searching for hobbies is to explore what they enjoyed when they were younger.

“Just finding your peace and what was helping you cope when you were younger and diving back into that to see if you still like it,” Pate said.

Jackie de Melo, a junior majoring in psychology, found her solace by doing just that.

“I've been writing poetry since I was a kid,” she said. “I would just be pulling rhymes quite literally out of nowhere, but for me was a form of creative expression.”

Similar to Pate, de Melo turned their passion into something that would help people. Through her Instagram writing account, @mercury_mami, she shares affirmations and their poetry with others.

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de Melo said it wasn’t until isolation started that they became intentional about sharing their work publicly.

“We’re in a time where none of us are in the same boat, but we are riding with the pandemic, different losses and our communities are being affected,” de Melo said. “... It's kind of like not only me expressing myself but wanting to create a community through writing.”