Creativity for the Community

Mimi Landes

Ben Brill ’21

Ben Brill ’21 has been designing his own clothes since he was in tenth grade and only recently began selling his handmade T-shirts. 

“Usually the pieces I make are made to fit me,” Brill said. “This time, I wanted to make something that others could wear too.” 

Brill said that because he is passionate about fashion, he decided designing T-shirts was the best way to earn money. Brill said he came up with the concept for his shirts while watching the movie “Christiane F.”

“I saw a black-and-white poster of a woman in the back of a scene and loved it, so I asked who it was in the comments,” Brill said. “It turned out to be [the radical German journalist] Ulrike Meinhof. The graphic focused on themes of criminal justice reform but was made before the protests. I thought the coincidence was interesting and also that it was my strongest piece, so I went with it.”

Brill said he created the design for his T-shirts right before school ended but did not physically make the shirts until June, after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. 

“In light of [George Floyd’s] murder, I decided to donate all of the profits from the project,” Brill said. “I donated the profit from the project to The Equal Justice Initiative.”

The Equal Justice Initiative, a non-profit organization founded by lawyer and social justice activist Bryan Stevenson, works to preserve fundamental human rights and end excessive punishment and mass incarceration in the U.S. by providing legal representation to those who have been wrongly treated.

“After learning about Bryan Stevenson through his book [and] movie, ‘Just Mercy,’ and hearing him on some podcasts, I was inspired by his work and thought his organization would be the best one to give [the proceeds] to,” Brill said.

Emma Walther ’21

 Emma Walther’s ’21 interest in baking has only grown during quarantine. She said that her family inspired her to pick up the hobby in the first place.

“My mom is from Kentucky, so it’s always just been a part of my life,” Walther said. “Both my parents are really good cooks, and so I took on the role of baking.”

Walther said baking helps her cope with the boredom and stress of life in quarantine. 

“Recently, my mom has been making me bake lemon bars, so those are something I really like to bake,” Walther said, “Obviously, chocolate chip cookies and brownies are always fun and easy to make.”

Walther said she initially began selling her baked goods and donating the proceeds to The Black Lives Matter Foundation and Allies for Every Child with the help of her dad.

“At the beginning of quarantine, especially at the beginning of the summer, I had so much time, and I was doing absolutely nothing,” Walther said. “It was actually my dad’s idea to start selling my baked goods and donating the profits.”

Walther said she clearly remembers the first cake she ever sold. Since no bakeries in her area were open, her neighbors asked her to bake a baptism cake.

“It was so rewarding to be able to bake something so meaningful for a family I adore,” Walther said.

Grace Shin ’21

 Grace Shin ’21 has been crocheting since she was in third grade and started out by creating very simple designs, before developing more advanced pieces. During quarantine, Shin said she crocheted many pieces, including an elephant stuffed animal, a pair of socks and a collection of mini whale and penguin keychains. Shin said she has relied on crocheting mainly to relieve stress and provide her with entertainment.

“As long as I have yarn, I don’t even need to go anywhere, ” Shin said. “I definitely have been crocheting more in quarantine because I have more time and because it’s such a relaxing activity.”

Shin said that crocheting is special because it is a personal and meaningful way to give someone a gift.

“The best part of crocheting is being able to share my creations,” Shin said. “[Making homemade crafts] is a really nice way to show that you put a lot of time and effort into a product.”

Shin is also part of a group called Crocheters United for Change and sells some of her creations on Etsy. Through CUFC, she donates the proceeds to Leaders United for Change, a non-profit organization founded by Lyon Chung ’21 that provides younger students with academic and extracurricular support. 

“[Leaders United for Change] is donating money to bridge the technology gap for students,” Shin said. “All the people in Crocheters United for Change are part of Leaders United for Change as tutors, so we all just decided to do this as well for the organization.”

See another students spotlight article here