Holiday gifts can be made in UNO Creative Lab


Mars Nevada

An image of a student sitting at a computer
The creative production lab gives students access to all the materials needed for original and unique gifts. Photo courtesy of UNO Communications.

There’s nothing quite like watching someone’s eyes light up when they unwrap a gift on Christmas. It’s easy to get caught up in the gleeful materialism of Christmas and forget what makes gifts meaningful. But, of course, it’s all about the thought. Gift-giving can be a reflection of how well we know our loved ones and appreciate them, idiosyncrasies and all. Sometimes, however, it can be hard to find that perfect gift. No matter how many tabs you open or aisles you search painstakingly, it’s so difficult and often extremely expensive. So how does one come up with perfect, customized and affordable gifts? My solution: Hit the lab.

By lab, of course, I mean the Creative Production Lab in the Criss Library. The lab is outfitted with all sorts of resources, from an audio recording booth to a laser cutter, 3D printer, augmented reality headset and more. It can seem intimidating, but what most people don’t realize is that you can make incredible gifts for mere cents. I once made a fluorescent pair of earrings I wore to a Lizzo concert for a whopping estimated (including the jewelry metal pieces) $1. All one needs is some inspiration, a free afternoon and your naughty and nice lists. Here’s a few examples of pieces you can make:

1. Custom luggage tags
If someone you love is an avid traveler, has a study abroad trip or a family holiday coming up, this is a lovely way to bid them bon voyage. Plan out your design in Adobe Illustrator—there are plenty of tutorials online and the lab has really friendly and knowledgeable staffers on hand to help. Make sure to include a hole for the key ring. Select your desired material, (I myself have neon green custom tags), and have the lab cut it out with the laser cutter. Pop on a key ring attachment and voila! You have a tag fit for the most cosmopolitan traveler.

2. 3D printed sculpture
This is the ultimate customizable gift. You can print almost anything you can imagine and give it a coating of metallic spray paint for a luxe, but affordable, piece of art. A baby Yoda paperweight for your Star Wars nerd darling? Easy. A business card holder for your favorite office folks? I have actually done this before and I’m a klutz, so you know it’s totally possible. Find free 3D print files online at Thingiverse where generous creators upload their files for the world to enjoy and use.

3. Stickers
You know a sticker hoarder. They have a water bottle and laptop absolutely covered in stickers. They complain about running out of room when they order new stickers. You find this adorable, of course, and plan to contribute. At the lab, you can print off a whole sheet of stickers for $2.50. It’s so outrageously cheap that lab patrons are limited to two sheets a day. If you’re artsy, you can make stickers out of your artwork. If you don’t want to do that, you can search for free art online. Don’t steal work from others, though. That’s rude. And illegal. Take your legally-gotten artwork and make it into a PNG file and submit it to the lab for printing and cutting.

4. Laser-etched everything
You can laser etch coasters! And glasses! And cutting boards! The opportunities are endless! You know someone who wants Game of Thrones beer glasses, I know you do. I take great advantage of the laser cutter in the lab. That’s why I am now known as “coaster kid” among some people. I use custom-etched coasters instead of business cards. Because why not?

5. Jewelry
I’ve already mentioned the earrings I’ve made, but it bears mentioning that both the laser cutter and 3D printer are prime opportunities to get into making easy, gorgeous custom jewelry pieces. I’m currently dreaming of Bauhaus-inspired geometric earrings laser-cut out of wood or acrylic, chunky, modern 3D-printed beads for necklaces. The lab has jewelry pliers so all you really need are the metal-ware which you can grab at any hobby or craft store.

So, now that you know there’s a world of possibilities at your fingertips, or rather, inside the library, get crafting. Start a folder on Instagram to save your inspiration or start a Pinterest board. Perfect holiday gifts await!