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Thinking outside the box

Art teacher Eric Champion creates wooden boxes

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Killough art teacher Eric Champion rolls dice onto his own hand crafted box.

Killough art teacher Eric Champion rolls dice onto his own hand crafted box.

Photo by Anna Velazquez

Photo by Anna Velazquez

Killough art teacher Eric Champion rolls dice onto his own hand crafted box.

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The sound of sandpaper rubbing back and forth, wood shavings floating in the air, a diligent man is focused on making sure the product is flawless. Inspired by the board game Dungeons and Dragons, art teacher Eric Champion decided to make wooden boxes with leather interior and sell them on Etsy.

“Around Christmas last year, I had a bag that I kept my dice in and [the bag] ripped,” Champion said. “Then I saw on the internet that somebody was charging $100 for this box that you could put your dice in and I thought that’s cool, I’ve got tools, I’ll just go make a box.”

Without a second thought, Champion bought all the tools and materials he needed and started working. Soon after he began, Champion realized this project might take longer than he originally thought.

“I went out in the garage and three days later I came back inside and I had the ugliest box ever,” Champion said. “I mean, it was hideous, it was ugly and I was like, ‘Well, I made a box but it’s ugly so I’ll make another one.’”

After making hundreds of boxes and improving the quality, each one having its own special touch, he had more than enough to sell. The boxes began to take over the majority of the space in his garage and he needed to get rid of them.

“I had to get them out of the house because I had so many of them so it was like, I’ve got 20 of these in a stack, what do I do with them?” Champion said. “I already gave one to all my friends so I just put them on Etsy to see if anybody would want one.”

Soon after, the demand for the boxes surpassed the supply. Champion would return home from teaching and start working on his orders for long periods of time, each box taking over 12 hours to make.

“I thought maybe I’ll take over the world but then I had almost like an emotional breakdown but like a box breakdown last month when I sold one every day,” Champion said.

Junior art student Gloria Montellano admires Champion for taking on other tasks outside of teaching. She values how much time he dedicates his time to the things he’s passionate about.

“He’s taught me that no matter how overwhelming things get, I can push through and achieve a lot,” Montellano said.

Colleague and art teacher Erin Daniels also commends Champion for dedicating so much time and energy to making boxes. He includes a large amount of detail to the product and even goes as far as adding a backstory to each box.

“I think it’s amazing he does it as a side job in general, but the time and thought that he puts into each box is just purely fantastical,” Daniels said. “Not only does he make the boxes but he adds a little magic to each box to give the buyer a little something extra to make them feel like they are each special in their own way.”

The boxes he makes may seem like insignificant objects to others, but to the people around him, they’re a symbol of hard work and dedication because he continues to do what he’s passionate about, despite the stress that comes with it.

“With Champion, you get someone who within seconds you know loves what he does and is good at what he does,” Daniels said. “Which means you will have students who want to learn from him and will grow throughout the semester by learning from him, and not necessarily with just art too.”

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