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While most people might cite reading, making music or art, or playing video games as their favorite activ­ities, some Hillsdale stu­dents have gone beyond the main­stream to find their pre­ferred niches. These stu­dents opt for impres­sively uncommon and sur­prising hobbies.

While these activ­ities are dis­parate, those who pursue them share a sense of inge­nuity, cre­ativity, and ini­tiative that they apply to their crafts.

Coffee Roasting with Brendan Clarey

Emily Diekemper | Col­legian

Junior Brendan Clarey became dis­il­lu­sioned with mass-pro­duced coffees in the fall of his freshman year.

“I was drinking a Star­bucks French roast, and it tasted like an ashtray. I thought, there has to be some­thing better,” he said.

Several Google searches and numerous YouTube videos later, he dis­covered that small-batch coffee roasting is sur­pris­ingly acces­sible and that the learning process is pri­marily com­posed of trial and error.

“You have to be willing to fail,” Clarey admitted.

After trying a few dif­ferent methods, he has settled on roasting the raw beans in a pot over a propane flame. Coffee roasting has given him a greater appre­ci­ation for the artistry of coffee, as well as an increased awareness of the global coffee economy, espe­cially the struggles of coffee growers in unde­veloped coun­tries. Since he began roasting, he has joined a vibrant online com­munity of roasters and now writes for Perfect Daily Grind, a blog about all things related to coffee.

Not only is self-roasted coffee typ­i­cally cheaper since raw beans can be pur­chased at $6 per pound, but it tastes better when it’s done right.

“The buzz you get from a freshly roasted cup of coffee is com­pletely dif­ferent,” Clarey said.

The process can be as enjoyable as the final product, and when you’re done, you’ll have an inim­itable batch of fresh coffee that you can share with friends or enjoy by yourself.

Blacksmithing with Sam Phillips

Courtesy Ann Begin

“What I do isn’t tech­ni­cally black­smithing,” junior Sam Phillips said. “Since I don’t use heat. But it is the goal to become a pro­fi­cient black­smith and even­tually build my own forge.”

In the absence of heating, his craft is best described as stock removal: the process of removing the excess material from a work­piece. This hobby sprang from a fas­ci­nation with martial history and hand­crafting and man­i­fested as the natural fusion of the two interests.

Phillips explained that the mate­rials are rel­a­tively easy to find. Metal files, garden trowels, and railroad spikes all lend them­selves as viable options. With stock removal on a student’s budget, the pos­si­bil­ities of what can be made are often limited by the mate­rials available on hand. Phillips acquires his mate­rials by cruising bazaars and flea markets. He explained that his yield is usually com­prised of rust-covered objects which are only of interest to craftsmen.

Phillips creates mostly weapons. While he favors throwing spears, he also makes knives and tom­a­hawks, and even neck­laces and a few rings.

“If I had a forge,” he added. “I’d make a sword, but that would be rather expensive, just to pur­chase the right material for it.”

He con­sults with other black­smiths online in a Facebook group of roughly fifty thousand members from around the world. There, they share ideas, projects, and pic­tures to enrich the accu­mu­lated under­standing of their craft. Phillips said the appeal of black­smithing and stock-removal is the amount of inven­tiveness it requires to be suc­cessful.

“A lot of it hinges on the inge­nuity of, ‘I want X, but I have W, Y, Z, so how do I make that work?” he said.

Cosplaying with Rachael Terril

Courtesy Rachael Terril. Rachael is cos­playing as the TARDIS from Dr. Who.

Cosplay is com­posed of two key com­po­nents: costume and acting. The outfit allows cos­players to visually appear as fic­tional char­acters, but the impression is sold by acting in-char­acter. Veteran cos­player and Hillsdale senior Rachael Terril said that cosplay is the oppor­tunity to create a living story by playing a char­acter and inter­acting nat­u­rally with the world around you.

“Cosplay was an oppor­tunity to express my love of arts and theatre in more of a dynamic, living way than I would have been able to do oth­erwise,” Terril said.

Unlike pro­fes­sional actors or char­acter per­formers, cos­players dress up purely for fun and create their cos­tumes from their own budgets. The process of making a costume from scratch can take any­where from a few months to a year. Terril explained that the process can be sped up with pre-made cos­tumes.

“There are people who just pur­chase their cos­tumes,” Terril said. “But even then, there’s a lot of effort that goes into learning the expres­sions and the man­nerisms and the poses of the char­acter you’ve chosen.”

The cosplay com­munity flour­ishes online and at con­ven­tions, where cos­players don their fin­ished projects. Con­ven­tions may feature such uncanny events as Jack Sparrow taking selfies with Sailor Moon, Captain America arm-wrestling Cin­derella, or five dif­ferent ver­sions of the Doctor sitting down to tea together. Terril likened it to an unscripted play. In other words, any­thing could happen, and it’s this world of pos­si­bility that appeals to prac­ticing cos­players.

Leatherworking with Brian Cliff

Courtesy Brian Cliff

Sophomore Brian Cliff first became inter­ested in leather­working, and espe­cially whip-making, after watching Indiana Jones.

“When I saw Raiders of the Lost Ark, I was mes­merized by Indiana Jones wielding his whip. I wanted one, but they were too expensive, so I decided to make one,” Cliff said.

He began dab­bling in leather­working several years ago, and launched his research into the obscure craft of leather­working.

Cliff described his first bull-whip, made out of cowhide, as a semi-func­tional dis­aster. Having first appealed to the American tra­dition of whip-making and finding himself dis­sat­isfied with what it offered, he turned to the Aus­tralian tra­dition in search a greater degree of finesse. This new vein of research led him to dis­cover kan­garoo leather, which he used to make what he said was his best stock-whip.

Cliff explained that he finds the process of whip-making rewarding.

“[It’s] a tes­tament to how much you can accom­plish on your own if you have the courage to try,” he said. “It was lib­er­ating to realize I could learn this craft myself and not depend upon someone else.”

Ever since his first bull-whip, Cliff has expe­ri­enced a sense of sat­is­faction from con­tributing to what he called a dying craft. Aside from cattle whips, Cliff has also applied his leather­working skills to making belts, pet leashes, and fedora acces­sories, though the whips remain his favorite projects.