Artisan's Asylum Fri, 29 Jul 2016 23:16:38 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Artisan's Asylum 32 32 Learning to Fabricate with Argentium Thu, 21 Jul 2016 14:02:23 +0000 by Karen Christians

Everyone should have the opportunity to study under a true master who is passionate about her craft and highly skilled in teaching. I had such an opportunity earlier this year when I spent six weeks studying Argentium fabrication under Ronda Coryell at Creative Side in Austin.

Argentium class

My classmates at Creative Side

Argentium is known as a high karat sterling silver. With the addition of germanium, Argentium is tarnish resistant and maintains its luster longer than traditional sterling silver. What makes Argentium unique is its ability to fuse to virtually any metal, including copper, steel, bronze, brass and high karat gold. Fabrication time is cut in half without need for solder.

Argentium project

The start of one of many projects.

The six-week intensive was Monday through Friday from 10-6pm. Everyday we had a new project, sometimes two. Fridays we could catch up, but sometimes not if the projects ran over. Each day, we were given a packet of all the supplies to make our daily project. Ronda would demo the piece in sections and we would follow her.

Tools and materials

An example of the tools and materials we received everyday to work on our projects.

I have spent many years working with traditional sterling, so Argentium provided some challenges. I had to get used to heating a piece to almost a melting temperature that would have sent regular sterling into a huge lump. It took me about four of the six weeks to master the torch.

Argentium project
Ronda is a perfectionist (which I admire) and she did not hesitate to point out something I was doing incorrectly. I’ll admit that when she left my bench, I often uttered expletives all the while knowing she was correct and I’d go back to make it better. I wanted her to be proud of me.

Ronda Coryell teaching

Ronda demoed each day’s project in stages and we had to follow along.

There were 10 of us in the class. In six weeks, I hardly met anyone. I spent each day with my head down, measuring, cutting, swearing, fusing, filing and working out problems. Several days I woke up in a pure panic. I missed my husband and my cats. I came home nights completely exhausted to my rented Tiny House (which I loved) only to get up and do it again. The experience was intense, but now I find myself missing the focused projects and doing something just for myself.

finished project

All finished!

Karen Christians is an educator and maker in the metal arts. She teaches nationally, lectures around the country, and is published in many professional and technical magazines. Karen has written two books: Making the Most of Your Flex Shaft and The Jewelry of Burning Man. She is teaching Artisan’s first class in Argentium fabrication on July 23rd.

Inside the Inside-Out Gallery Thu, 14 Jul 2016 15:52:47 +0000 How the Artisan’s Asylum’s Inside-Out Gallery ArtBeat installation came to be
by Arlene Elkins

Inside-Out Window

Photo courtesy of Heather Balchunas and the Somerville Arts Council

In 2009, the Somerville Arts Council debuted the Inside-Out Gallery inside the CVS windows in the heart of Davis Square. Since then, several Artisan’s Asylum members have contributed work to the windows, including Emily Garfield’s window for ArtBeat in 2012.

This year, SAC approached Artisan’s about creating a window with work from our members. They offered us the July window coinciding with ArtBeat, one of Somerville’s biggest festivals, and whatever we did had to work with this year’s theme: roots.

“Roots” could have many different meanings. Were we talking about a plant’s root system? Part of a math equation? Or our ancestry? Christine, our Development Manager, came up with our answer: since Somerville has a rich history of manufacturing, and we’re a makerspace, our window should be a tribute to Somerville’s making roots.

A group of our members further fleshed out the idea. We’d find pictures of items manufactured in Somerville and display them next to “modern” versions made by our members. We’d make pedestals to look like bricks to honor Somerville’s first industry. We’d place a giant map of Somerville in the background and hang roots to tie it all together.

ArtBeat Window Mock-up

A mock-up of the original concept, done by Emily Garfield.

Melissa Glick volunteered to research the history, diving into the archives at the central library and collecting images of old factories. She met with Somerville historians and collectors, some of whom allowed us to borrow their artifacts for the window. She also went around Artisan’s and convinced members to let us borrow their work for the window. Meanwhile, Jeanne Flanagan worked on the roots, weaving them to resemble ropes, honoring Somerville’s rope industry.

As time went on, the exhibit evolved. Instead of being a “then and now” display as originally envisioned, we collected work that represented the Artisan’s variety and juxtaposed them with the vintage and antique pieces Melissa had collected. We decided that instead of a historical map, our map would be an artistic representation of Somerville. Emily drew the map’s outlines and then invited the rest of Artisan’s members to fill them in.

Map collaboration

The map took two days two create

The installation took place over two days in the last week of June. First, we displayed the map and hung the roots.

hanging map

Emily and Heather of SAC hang the maps

Hanging roots

Jeanne hanging her roots

Then came the fun part: bringing in all of our members’ work. Even though we had staged it at Artisan’s Asylum, we did most of the design and arrangement on the spot in the window. Once we got all the work in, we hung the historical pictures Melissa gathered and lastly, placed a sign with the names of everyone who participated.

Arranging the work

Heather and Jeanne arrange the work in the window.

Window display

Vintage and antique pieces (including Somerville bricks Jeanne found in her backyard) are side by side with modern work.

Window sign

Jess Muise made this sign on the laser cutter to tie the exhibit together.

“The Roots of Manufacturing in Somerville” will be on display until the end of the month in the Inside-Out Gallery. You can learn more about the artists who participated at our website. Also, visit our table at ArtBeat, Saturday July 16th and learn more about the history and future of making in Somerville!


Robot by Skunk

Additional thanks to Heather Balchunas and Melissa Glick to contributing to this blog and to Derek Seabury, Kate Gormley, and Christine Glowacki for copy editing.

Happy July 4th! Sat, 02 Jul 2016 17:43:45 +0000 Boston_Harbor_Fireworks_-_Composite_(21189670832)

Have a wonderful holiday weekend and a safe and happy Fourth from all of us at the Artisan’s Asylum!

We will be open as usual to our monthly members, but our staffed desk hours will be limited this weekend due to the holiday. Please check our calendar before coming in to use a day pass or to take a tour. Regular public hours will resume Tuesday, July 5th.

Help us make our mark. Thu, 30 Jun 2016 18:35:07 +0000 Makeourmark

Artisan’s Asylum began as an ambitious experiment in community and making. But this year, we’ve taken huge strides to develop our makerspace into an institution that will support creation and fabrication for years to come.

We have laid the groundwork for our future success, including a lease extension on our 40,000 square foot facility. Our community has celebrated tremendous milestones – SCUL marked its 20th anniversary, our Awesomenaut program traded invaluable tool and equipment training for volunteered labor, and our membership has expanded and improved the infrastructure and offerings of our facility with the development of a Metal Casting shop, a Wood Guild, and its Shop Leads program. We are constantly striving to improve and grow, made evident by recent updates to our Computer Lab, the acquisition of new equipment, and the awarding of the most Artisan’s Grants to date.

Please help us celebrate the past, present, and future of Artisan’s Asylum with a donation. Together, we can make sure that creativity and innovation have a place to thrive in Somerville, Greater Boston, and beyond.

Derek Seabury
President and Executive Director

3D Printer Users Meetup at Artisan’s Asylum Tue, 28 Jun 2016 23:31:35 +0000 meet up

On June 27th, around 50 current and future users of 3D printers from all over the Greater Boston area came out to Artisan’s Asylum for a special social and user-friendly demos!

The night started out with four presentations by local users:

  • “BlocksCAD: OpenSCAD for People Who Can’t Code” by Matt Minuti
  • “Integrating 3D Printing with traditional tools in the medical device market” by Sarah Boisvert of Potomac Photonics, Inc.
  • “3D printing fractals, atoms, and more” by Mark Stock
  • “Capturing Fine Detail with Professional 3D Printing” by Caylee Kozak of Formlabs

Afterwards, the attendees socialized and showcased various demonstrations of their 3D printers (Formlabs demonstrated their new castable resin and Zachary Sherman with his Printbot Simple Metal V1). Overall, the event was well attended and the demos were a success. We look forward to having more people familiarize themselves with the 3D Printer revolution and are excited for more events and meet ups at Artisan’s Asylum!

Get Your Make On: Makerspace Exchange Program Wed, 08 Jun 2016 21:08:55 +0000 Announcing Our New
Makerspace Exchange Program

Artisan’s Asylum is launching a new cultural exchange program that will allow makers from all over the world to connect, work, and learn from each other. Partnering with Makerspace Thailand, the first residency is planned for December 2016. With your support, the initial $5,000 grant will fund the first exchange.

We are thrilled to offer this new program that expands our efforts to support the growth makers and makerspaces across the nation and now the world.

Join us for the Kick-Off Event!
Thursday June 9th, 6:30-8:30pm at Artisan’s

Nati Sang and Makerspace Thailand: A Global Perspective on Making
a Social Night and Speaker Series special eventNati Sang, Founder and CEO of Makerspace Thailand in Chiang Mai, will help kick off our new Makerspace Cultural Exchange Program by speaking more about this exciting new collaboration, and share his personal experiences in the makerspace movement.Thank you to member Karen Christians for bringing us this incredible opportunity and for hosting Nati and this event.

Learn more about this program and how to apply here.

Donate to the Exchange Fund

Select “Makerspace Cultural Exchange” in the drop-down for your donation to be earmarked for this program.

Made at Artisan’s: PB&J PROPOSAL PLAQUE by Phil Babcock Thu, 26 May 2016 15:46:00 +0000 Phil Blog 1

When I decided to propose to my girlfriend, I wanted to make the proposal special. However, I didn’t want to make it some fancy, difficult-to-execute, overblown event, lest I end up like this guy. So I thought it would be great to make something to propose with that would be significant to our relationship and also cute as heck. I also wanted it to be metal, because metal is the best. Unfortunately, I didn’t really know how to make what I was envisioning, much less in or with metal. I used my front desk volunteer shift at the Artisan’s Asylum to ask around–pitching ideas and seeing if anyone wanted to help me out, and was pointed in the direction of Karen Burke, a jeweler and metalworker, who was enthusiastic about the project and had a bunch of ideas on how we could execute it. Best of all, she was willing to teach me how to do it again if I wanted. We ended up making the totally awesome plaque you see above, and I’m happy to report that it totally worked. If it’d hadn’t, this would be a way more depressing blog post.

The idea for the plaque came about when I realized that the sentence “Will you make a sandwich with me?” would be a hilarious way to propose to my now-wife, Jane. This references a series of events from early on in our relationship that started we realized how terrible our mashup names were. “Phane” sounds too much like a Batman villain to capture the spirit of our enthusiastic and often quite saccharine affection for each other, and “Jill” is just someone else’s name, which is both boring and misleading. The last name options (working from Babcock and Carter), were “Babter” and “Cartcock,” and while the latter is genuinely hilarious, we felt no attachment to it. Then I realized that our initials could be a mashup. Phil Babcock and Jane Carter; PB & J. We got a good kick out of it–it’s definitely what the tabloids would call us.

A month or so later, Jane asked me out on a date with a card upon which she had drawn a very cute depiction of us as the peanut butter and jelly halves of a sandwich smiling and holding hands. It was this image that inspired the question, and this image that I wanted to capture in metal.

Karen’s plan for making the plaque were to photo etch the image and accompanying text onto a plate of (I think) 20 gauge steel. Photo etching (in this case) is a process which etches a design into metal by submerging it in a corrosive acid. Of course, to avoid corroding away the whole piece of steel, we covered the steel in a resist material, which we then laser cut away, exposing the steel that we wanted to etch. To get the colors of the PB & J image onto the steel, we decided to do a two step bath: first etching away the deeper outline grooves and text, then exposing the peanut butter and jelly areas and etching again, resulting in a contrasting texture. Below is an image of the plate with the resist cut away in preparation for the second etch.

Phil Blog 2

Once the plate came out of the second etchant bath, it looked pretty much like it did when it was finished, which I was quite stoked about. All that was left to do was cut a hole to suspend the ring in, then I could present it to my unsuspecting girlfriend. Karen, though, thought that the heart shaped hole needed some more pizazz. She “took some liberties” and fabricated a second heart out of steel, which she attached with tiny brass bolts and spaced with equally tiny little sections of tubing. The effect is awesome, and provided a nice, neat way to suspend the ring in the heart cutout.


Phil Blog 4

Phil Blog 3

I proposed to Jane on a Tuesday night after making a dinner at our house, presenting the ring displayed in the plaque. She had no idea what was going on until she saw the ring, but she said yes, which was awesome, and we had grilled PB&J sandwiches for dessert. We got married in Maine on July 18th, 2015, and a lovely time was had by all. The plaque made a nice display at our reception in addition to being an excellent ring delivery system. Mission accomplished.


Photos courtesy of Lorie Lin


Somerville Open Studios by Jade Harley Wed, 18 May 2016 19:46:26 +0000 jade 12

Somerville Open Studios 2016

by Jade Harley, Member of Artisan’s Asylum

A few weekends ago, Artisan’s Asylum opened their doors for Somerville Open Studios, introducing the community to the amazing space and concept that is a makerspace.

jade 17

Esther Rahel of Alchemist’s Apprentice shows off her stunning wearable art!

Throughout the weekend, there were several demonstrations from various members of Artisan’s, including 3D printing Demos, jewelry demos, screenprinting, and even a giant Hamster Wheel.

Throughout the day, people received tours of the entire space, seeing the various amazing resources available to the members of the asylum. Makers were selling their wares.

jade 8

BattleBot participants get ready to battle their creations!

Also, during the day on Saturday was Mass Destruction, a BattleBots style robotics competition. Various competitors brought in homemade small robots that were put together in an arena for a battle to the mostly death. Robots were armed with various weapons, from cute faces to deadly, fast spinning sawblades.

A makerspace is alive because of its members and the projects that they have going on. People at the Artisan’s Asylum have skillsets that vary from electronics, robotics, molding and casting, woodworking, machining, and even digital design, forming a community that could theoretically make just about anything. Just because Open Studios is no longer happening though, doesn’t mean that you cannot come in and see all the amazing projects. Tours are available every day, and memberships grant you access not only to a world of tools and shop resources, but a community of amazing people with the ability to make almost any dream project a reality.

To see the rest of her photos, take a look at our Facebook Album!


An Interview with Quang Truong of Evaptainers Mon, 09 May 2016 18:01:31 +0000 Quang Truong, Evaptainers


What brought you to Artisan’s Asylum?

What brought me here is during graduate school, I was taking a class called Development Ventures. It was a class where the first day you go in and the professor challenges you with a really juicy question like, “Your goal for this class is to come up with one business idea. Make it help at least one billion people.” For me, I worked in agriculture; and what I realized is, if I want to think about solving this crazy problem, it’s probably going to be farmers because most of the world is poor, and work or live in rural areas. They do agriculture as their primary source of income and livelihood. It would have something to do with spoilage based on what I’ve seen in the field. From that class, the need to tackle this problem is huge.

During that class I basically said, I’m here at MIT and Boston, which have a lot of great resources, let me try to do something with that. That was really my first step – going to Artisan’s. It was something that I’ve known about for a while. I’ve always heard it was a cool, creative space; people can just make anything!  If you have an idea in your head, you can make it into a real thing. Artisan’s ultimately appealed to our team for that reason. You just have a lot of big machinery that you can play around with. You have a lot of creative people that you can talk to. It was during that class that I said, “I’m going to check this place out and start working out of here. We’re going to start building our prototypes here.”

What is Evaptainers and how did you and your team get inspiration for this company?

I had encountered something in my work called a “zeer pot,” a clay/ceramic pot refrigeration device developed in Nigeria; it is basically the cheapest refrigerator built. The amazing thing is, now that you’re storing fruits and vegetables in it, you can extend the shelf life of things like tomatoes, okra, lettuce, onions or whatever; you can double or triple the shelf life of most of what you store inside. What I realized is this is a really cool invention, but it’s made of ceramic. It’s heavy to move around, dirty, and very fragile. If you drop it, then you’re out of a refrigerator. The Evaptainer is a portable, lightweight refrigerator that runs on water. The point is that it’s supposed to fix all the problems of the zeer pot and become this product that people are proud to buy and put in their home and say, “look at this I have my first refrigerator.”

Walk us through a bit of the process of what you and your team have experienced as a start up.

The company has been around for about a year and I’ve seen such a great amount of success since it started. There are three co-founders, Spencer Taylor who looks a bit like Freddy Mercury, Jeremy Briggs, and myself. I’m the guy that is usually in Morocco. Whatever Jeremy builds, I take it out into the field and get it tested. In terms of the company, we have had a great amount of feedback about our prototypes. Just this past September, we had gotten our prototypes into Morocco to have them tested.

We currently have the opportunity to test them with five different families in three different regions of Morocco. Positively, the families who are testing them love it. For them, they’ve been saving more money than we thought they would save. They would store food and vegetables in it and would save money by not having things spoil. But, the other big thing and the other way it has impacted them is they don’t have to go to the market as much. When you’re in a rural, developing country, it is hard to access fresh food and vegetables. It could take up to a day to get food for most families. They’ll walk an hour to get to the road, wait for a taxi, and maybe the first taxi they see will be full. Then, it’s a forty minute drive to the market, which only meets once per week and then they’ll buy whatever they need and bring it back home. Even with this refrigeration device, they can cut down on the expenses by not needing to take the taxis as much and it saves them an entire day’s worth of work. That was a positive consequence that we had not anticipated early on. With that feedback, we applied to a bunch of grants.

Just recently, we were named the National Geographic Grant Winner in the Fall. We just got one from Massachusetts Clean Energy Center’s Catalyst Program. We got some sponsorship deals and we’re also applying for the U.S. Agency for International Development Grant soon.

What resources do you use at Artisan’s to build your prototypes and help out with your projects

For our prototypes we have used the jump shears, the metal benders, the 3D printers, and we might use the vacuum former in the future. The thing is, as the product develops, there are so many different directions it can go. We really are getting the most out of the resources the space has to offer.

I guess you can say Artisan’s is a buffet of awesome tools you can use. You have to put it in context of other makerspaces. Compared to the number of resources at Artisan’s, other makerspaces are more limited in terms of space and the number of tools that are provided. Having that giant selection is extremely beneficial. What’s also great about the Asylum is the dynamic of the place itself. There are just a lot of different interactions at the Asylum. That’s why we just keep on coming back.

Check out Quang Truong’s full interview here!

Join us for Open Studios, Maker Market & MASSDestruction this weekend! Wed, 27 Apr 2016 00:19:03 +0000 We are opening our doors! Come see us at our Open House and Maker Market Friday 4/29 6-9PM, Saturday 12-6PM and Sunday 12-6PM. Check out individual maker studios, watch plasma cut metal, pick up unique gifts at the maker market, get Artisan’s logo screen printed on anything, and watch epic robot battles throughout the weekend!

Friday 6-9PM* Sneak Preview
Saturday 12-6PM
Sunday 12-6PM

Find unique jewelry, furniture, drawings, wearable art and more on sale (see full exhibitor list below) at our MAKER MARKET

TOURS of our shop areas at 7PM on Friday and 2PM & 4PM on Saturday and Sunday

–Metal Casting* 2PM
–CNC Plasma Cutter* – 1PM & 3PM
–Enameling – all afternoon
–MASSDestruction! All day. Epic robot battles! Suggested $5 donation
Register your robot!

–Screen Printing 1-4PM, bring your own t-shirt (or anything)! Take the Artisan’s logo home with you. Suggested $5 donation
–Metal Casting* 2PM & 4PM
–CNC Plasma Cutter* 1:30PM & 3:30PM
–CNC Router* 1PM, 2PM and 3PM
*Registration on-site required

Who will you find at the Maker Market?

AEO Designs, handcrafted contemporary jewelry

Atomic Earrings3-D Printed Earrings

Barbara Marder,  Enameled works and jewelry

Bennett Chaney, photography, design, and architecture

Bess Morin JewelrySterling Silver & Gold Jewelry

Chris Sledziona, Furniture, Lighting, and other Digitally Fabricated Artifacts

Dominique CusteauFlamework & Fuse Glass Jewelry

Emily GarfieldImaginary Map Drawings

Esther RahelMixed Media & Statement Jewelry

Karen BurkeSilver, Steel, & Niobium Media: Jewelry + Beads, Sculpture

Lori Messenger, Silver/Handmade Glass Jewelry 

Mark Brownawell, Casting Classes at Artisan’s, Humidity Measurement Instrumentation

M.P. Thomas DesignsFine Furniture and Wood Art

Melissa GlickHacker Creations Media: Collage, Mixed-Media, Sculpture

Michael Dewberry, Public Art + Tech Sculpture 

Michael Piantedosi, Near-Infrared and Visible Light Photography

Miles DonovanPrints, Light Art, & More

Norma Heller Studios, Costumes and Wearable Art 

Seeds of Joie Art Studio (Chie Yasuda), Watercolor Paintings with Mixed Media

Tamaryn Designs,  Women’s clothing, accessories and home decor items

Welding on Fire,  Bicycle forks, rotor guards and some metalworking

Winter Hill Jewelry, Fun and Funky 3D printed Jewelry from Somerville, MA