Artisan's Asylum Wed, 28 Sep 2016 19:47:57 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Artisan's Asylum 32 32 How to Make a Makerspace: Open Works Baltimore Thu, 22 Sep 2016 20:02:38 +0000 In the past three years, the Artisan’s Asylum had worked with an amazing bunch of people to bring a new makerspace to Baltimore. This weekend is its grand opening.

by Derek Seabury

The Robert W. Deustch Foundation invests in innovation to improve the quality of life in Baltimore and beyond. They had been looking at new ways to revitalize some of the neighborhoods that have fallen from their heyday. When the idea of a makerspace caught their attention they set out to learn more. One of the people involved was Will Holman who traveled across the country visiting makerspaces and denoting what was and wasn’t working. When they came to Artisan’s Asylum they found that our combination of studio and workspaces led to a vibrancy and diversity of work that was not often found. The plans for Open Works began.

Now three years after first acquiring a 34,000 sq.ft. site in the heart of a historic Baltimore manufacturing district, Open Works is ready to open its doors!

OpenWorks Baltimore

Member Services Director Jess Muise and I were able to stop by and take a look on our way to the White House.

Station North Tool Library

First, we swung by the Station North Tool Library, another RWD Foundation recipient to check out how they were enabling Baltimore. Co-Founder John Shea showed us around and gave some sage advice – if you want to have a tool library expect to repair a lot of weed whackers! We also got to hear from Armin who heads up the Surface Project, a workforce development program that teaches woodworking skills while creating custom tables and counter tops from wood reclaimed from the many renovation projects nearby.

A quick walk across the street and we were in Open Works. Wow. It is really humbling to see the ideas pioneered by so many here applied in a brand new space, or “new Artisan’s Asylum with windows” as I saw it. Open Works has made the most of many of the lessons we have learned to put together a really amazing set of tools and facilities. Starting with backing rather than just through tool donations, they have been able to put together really impressive media, cad, laser, metalwork, wood shop and 3D printing areas (in progress!).

3D Printers at OpenWorks OpenWorks Baltimore woodshop

I think I’m jealous– but that’s a lot of windows to clean!

But most exciting, Open Works is proudly featuring their modular version of our studios:

OpenWorks studios based OpenWorks studios based on Artisan's Asylum, but with windows!


Hopefully they can cultivate the same amazing breadth of talent we enjoy here!

If you’d like to check it out their grand opening, it is on the 24th and they are just a 15 minute walk from the Amtrak station!

Derek Seabury is the Executive Director and President of the Artisan’s Asylum.

How to Make a Makerspace: Technocopia Thu, 15 Sep 2016 16:44:20 +0000 Technocopia staff

The Technocopia team at the grand opening. The author is the fifth from the right.

Artisan’s Asylum’s Make a Makerspace outreach program has supported Massachusett’s newest makerspace, Technocopia over the last year. We were thrilled to be able to offer guidance and comradery throughout the process of starting a makerspace in our home state. We were even more thrilled to see all their hard work pay off at their grand opening last month. Here is a bit more about their space and programs from co-founder Nick Bold.

By Nick Bold

Technocopia enjoyed celebrating our Grand Opening August 4th. This event marks the beginning of an all new Technocopia made up of cooperative local maker communities and their businesses. The primary partners include the original Technocopia group (tech/hackers and other misfits), Ian Anderson’s Woodshop (A wood working and metal working cooperative), and the Worcester ThinkTank (STEAM education with offerings for home-schooled and after-school students).

Technocopia has grown a lot in our three years, and there have been some major changes in the last year. We raised money with IndieGoGo, and private donations, to move into our new 11,500 sq. ft. location at the Printer’s Building at 44 Portland St, Sixth Floor in Worcester. We received our first large state grant through MassDevelopment which helped us purchase new machinery and major renovations to our space.

So, if you are in the area, Technocopia holds weekly Open Hacks & Crafts events on Thursday nights starting at 7:30, where people are free to tour the space, show off, and get help on their projects. Come check out our new tools and shops, adult and youth educational offerings, and large community of tradesmen, educators and entrepreneurs.

Technocopia grand reopening

Technocopia celebrated their opening last month. Artisan’s staff members, Jess Muise and Derek Seabury were in attendance.

Nation of Makers – Mr. Seabury goes to Washington Thu, 01 Sep 2016 20:36:54 +0000 NationOfMakers
We were quite exited to be invited to participate in the Nation of Makers meeting of Makerspace Organizers at the White House last month.

Member Services Manager Jess Muise and I went down to DC excited to share our thoughts based on our experiences at Artisan’s Asylum and the work we have done with hundreds of other folks starting makerspaces of the their own. On the way we stopped to see one such group – OpenWorks Baltimore.


We were super excited to see how things were going for them after working with them over the last few years to put together a plan. Will Holman their GM gave us a tour and it is going to be amazing! If you ever wondered what Artisan’s Asylum would look like with windows…
It was also a chance to meet with our friends at the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation to thank them for their support.  Look for more in an upcoming blog.

Back on the Amtrak line behind OpenWorks and we were off to DC!

After a level of security one might expect we spent the day speaking with folks from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and other government agencies and came away with some great ideas. It was also a chance to meet with representatives from the National Endowment for the Arts and catch up with folks from the Department of Labor that I have given tours to in the past. We’ve already begun laying some groundwork for funding opportunities.

As nice as it is to be recognized for the amazing things coming out of this place and the help we give others I think Jess and I mostly came back excited to see what we can do better and next to help our community continue to grow and achieve even more in the future.

Derek Seabury

The Flugtag Adventure of What Sphinx? Thu, 01 Sep 2016 19:09:37 +0000 What Sphinx Flugtag

In part two of our Flugtag blog, the captain of the second place finishing team, What Sphinx? writes about his Red Bull Flugtag experience. All members of the What Sphinx? team are or have been Artisan’s members or daypass users.

by Alex Ezorsky

If engineering wild art is your hobby that generally means you don’t get paid, and you don’t get much of a spotlight. You do it for the love of the hobby or the need to get it out or else you’ll explode. Thanks to Red Bull Flugtag, our crack team of passionate hobby makers and freelancers not only got the chance to apply our creative drive, but to make something that flies and to do it under a massive spotlight (that wasn’t even police headlights!).


The true inspiration for the theme was my desire to have the pilot look like a part of the craft. The original design had the beast’s hind legs down so that from the side view the pilot’s legs and the craft’s legs helped form a half man half winged beast, pegasus, griffin, and yes look it up, Sphinx’s often had wings! The front support arms that held the pilot looked a lot like the extended arms of a sitting sphinx, the idea of a Sphinx felt complete, needing only the tinge of humor to keep it from being too fantasy-nerd serious.

There was an unbelievable amount of room to express my artistic desires and I filled every inch of the plane and our costumes with my sense of humor and aesthetic. Every inch that would’ve gotten in the way of making it fly was thankfully trimmed back and forced into proper angles, materials and aerodynamics by our engineers on the team, J-Lo and Andy. Max Jeff, and Nicole’s work on the skits and costumes were at least 1/3rd of why we won second place and I can’t thank them enough for their contribution. My mom and stepdad are probably the ones to thank the most, for their allowing us to build in their backyard in Cambridge. But our patchwork airplane hangar grew immeasurably better when we graciously received the free use of the Aristan’s Asylum’s space, time, tools, and expertise.


The craft on the Esplanade before its big moment

It still blows my mind that it all came together. My memory and understanding of what actually went into building stops around Aug 15th when we had a few conduit tubes from home depot, a handful of airfoils and a sketch of an airplane. From then on I must’ve blacked out from the adrenaline and speed at which we learned from trial and error. I think I regained consciousness around noon on the day of the event; we had a giant beautifully spray-painted airplane that looked even better than any of our sketches. We were wearing some of the most badass sparkling costumes on the esplanade, and we were getting photos taken with families who thought our giant farting lion was worthy of their home photo album.


The What Sphinx pilot in flight.

Sure, if you watch the video in realtime our flight looks a bit more like a graceful plummet. But considering that many crafts often go straight down, our 45 feet in front of where we left, was a huge accomplishment. If you ask our J-Lo, our “downward” angle was intentional, ensuring we wouldn’t stall while also assuming we would at the very least get enough lift to keep from diving. In other words, had we pointed the wing a tad more upward or positioned the pilot a tad further back (thus tilting the wings up like a see-saw effect) we might’ve gone further… or ended up behind our starting point. We only had one chance to test the possible outcomes, so J-Lo made a very safe choice, winning us a second place trophy I can’t cherish enough.

What Sphinx award

The What Sphinx team collect their second prize trophy during the award ceremony at the Hatch Shell.

I still feel like I’m in a parallel universe where all of the sudden the sense of humor that has always kept me in the back of the class or the time-out corner now had us posing in front of 50,000 people, flying out over the Charles, and landing a second place trophy by one of the biggest franchises in the world. Maybe I am dreaming, or maybe the world (especially Boston) is becoming a place more open and interested in people’s wilder dreams. I’m definitely going to hope it’s the second.

That being said, I did find at least one thing that still hasn’t changed: The fact companies prefer not to have their logos on the sides of giant farting lions (would’ve ruined the look anyway). In other words, we paid for this out of pocket and would love any opportunity to provide the same creative talents that built this beast for an organization or company next time!

sponsorship flyer

The flyer that the What Sphinx team made to solicit sponsorships.

Much more info about our build/experience to come, so please like our facebook page to find out more.

Finally, I want to thank Red Bull for the amazing one-of-a-kind opportunity to express an innate creative drive to propel our dreams out of our heads onto ramps and into reality. I urge anyone with dreams of making anything to apply to contests festivals and open mics. If there’s a platform for this giant flying fart lion, there’s got to be one for yours.

Creative Captain – Alex Ezorsky – filmmaker, animator –
Machinist / Pilot – Andy Haycox – freelance machinist, engineer –
Engineer – Jonathan Lopatin – BSE in Mechanical Engineering –
Skit writer / Pusher – Max Prum – filmmaker / editor
Skit writer / Pusher – Jeff Magni – filmmaker
Costume maker – Nicole Mongeon

Artisan’s Asylum and Red Bull Partner for Flugtag Boston Thu, 25 Aug 2016 19:03:44 +0000 Red Bull Flugtag Boston

This past Saturday, Red Bull held their annual Flugtag competition in Boston for the first time. The Artisan’s Asylum worked with Red Bull, becoming the first makerspace to officially do so. We hosted build days where participants could come and work on their projects. A third of the competing craft were either partially or completely built at Artisan’s, including the second and third place finishers. Red Bull also asked us to help with two very special craft.

by Arlene Elkins

Earlier this year, Red Bull approached the Artisan’s Asylum and asked us to hold a design contest open only to our members for two Flugtag craft that would be shown to the media before the competition. One craft would have a sports theme and the other would be inspired by Boston’s rich history.

“When Derek [Seabury, Artisan’s executive director] sent out an email to [the members], I replied saying I would love to help organize the contest and help in any way,” said member Adam Day.

Red Bull flugtag design challenge

Red Bull kicks off the design challenge at Artisan’s Asylum

Adam acted as a liaison between Red Bull and the Artisan’s Asylum and even set up a few meetings to work on design ideas.

“My original design was a MBTA redline subway car with four wacky balloon men: a Red Sox fan with a beer belly, bald head, and beard; a hockey fan with long black hair and glasses like from the movie, Slapstick, the Celtics mascot with big orange hair; and for the Patriots we put a cape on him and made him a masked superhero,” said contest winner, Sarah Miller.

“One of the crafts in the event was also an MBTA subway car. Red Bull asked us to come up with something else. We threw around three-pointed hat and a baseball glove before at some point Adam or I said, ‘Larry Bird!’”

MBTA flugtag

The competing MBTA themed Flugtag craft on event day. Photo by Kevin Lamont (Artisan’s Asylum member and volunteer).

Once RedBull chose the two winning designs: “Larry the Bird” and the “Somerville Sluggers,” a baseball bat-shaped craft by Adam Day, it was time to pull fabrication teams together and get to work. “I reached out to everyone who had submitted designs and included them in the design and construction process,” said Adam.

Larry the Bird head

Sarah posing with what would later become Larry’s head

“Adam was amazing!” said Sarah. “He not only worked on his own bat, but designed the bird in SolidWorks and used 8×12′ sheets of 2″ thick foam boards and cut them on our CNC router.”

Flugtag design

Sarah and her team sketch out plans and designs for their Flugtag craft

For Adam, the build was a family affair. Members of his family came to Artisan’s to work on both crafts. “The whole Day family was incredible,” Sarah explained. “Adam’s wife came in, six-months pregnant, and kicked major butt. Adam’s dad coming in and helping in the last three days was absolutely crucial.”

Building Larry the Bird

Sarah and Adam’s father work on one of Larry’s wings

A week before the competition, Sarah realized her craft was too small. “It looked as though somebody would be sitting on a dog instead of a horse,” she said. “I went and bought an insulation pack using two five-gallon propane tanks and a gun. I used it all weekend to double the size of the bird. I think it ended up looking rough with the shape of a pig instead of a bird. But that’s fine.”

Larry the Bird body

Trying to make Larry’s body bigger

The day before the competition, Adam and Sarah’s crafts were presented to the media, with two reporters riding the crafts into the Charles: Danielle Niles of CBS Boston on Larry the Bird into the Charles and the Boston Globe’s Steve Annear on the bat.

With the hard work done, both Sarah and Adam got to relax and enjoy the event the next day in style. “The competition was amazing!” says Sarah. “They were really nice to us and gave us free food and Red Bull, and a really great place to sit during the competition. I felt pretty first class!”

Nice Judge Science Bob

Artisan’s member, Science Bob (far right) was one of the Flugtag judges. He filled the role of “nice judge” and generally gave higher scores than the other judges

“It was really fun building the crafts even with the short deadline and long nights, but Redbull was very appreciative and treated us very well,” said Adam. “It was really fun watching them get sent off the ramp.”

Arlene Elkins is an arts administrator, marketer, and project manager. Her hobbies include dance, jewelry-making, and sarcasm.

Empowering People with Free/Libre Software Thu, 18 Aug 2016 19:35:40 +0000 Artisan’s Grant recipient Devin Ulibarri of Free Computer Labs explains how he became a free/libre software evangelist. Free Computer Labs teaches students how to build their own computer by refurbishing old computers and installing free software. They will be offering a teaser demonstration at the Artisan’s Asylum Friday, August 26th from 5:30 to 7:30. You can register for the full class starting in September at Eventbrite.

Free Computer Labs

Devin (right) with Julian Daich.

by Devin Ulibarri

Three years ago, I was doing all my work on a MacBook Pro. I am a professional musician and I was using it to document some music testing. One day, I found that I could not use my computer for what I needed it to do anymore. My computer basically said, “Upgrade, or I will not do what you want.” I thought it was ridiculous that my computer was telling me to do anything. It should be doing what I tell it to do, not the other way around.

I was broke. The upgrades to the operating system would have cost between $50-100 at that time, but I didn’t have that then. Even if I did, I did not want to spend it on an upgrade. That is when I discovered “free software.”

“Free software” is software that puts its users in control by giving them the same freedoms as its developers enjoy. This gives the power back to the people. Plus, you can download much of it for free from the Internet. I decided at that point that my next upgrade would be from Mac OS to GNU/Linux, a free software operating system.

I loved it.

I love it because it puts me in total control of my computing–an increasingly important part of our everyday lives. I learn so much about computers just by using it. I also can share it with others.

Free Computer Labs class

Julian Daich teaches a student about free/libre software

I decided to start Free Computer Labs with my friend, Julian Daich, in order to have a way to share this software with others, as well to give them the knowledge they need to really take advantage of free software’s best aspects–freedom, power, and community.

We use old computers in our classes (that students then get to take home). We receive many hardware donations and we need a place to store them.The Artisan’s Grant has helped us with what we needed the most–space.

Donated hardware

Devin shows off some of the donated hardware they use in class

Many of our hardware donations come in working perfectly fine upon delivery, so it is not too much work. The only thing “wrong” with many of them is that they are old and the latest version of Windows will not work on them anymore. However, an up-to-date version of GNU/Linux will work on these older computers just fine. And for those still needing more power, we can show you how to exchange parts to maximize performance.

We do receive some computers that are not fully functional. For those units, we experiment to see if trading out parts will bring it back to life. Usually trading out a hard drive or a fan will work. These units become a great lesson, too. Free Computer Lab teachers work together with students so that they can accurately diagnose problems with their computers and help them gain the knowledge on how to fix them.

We’ve had many success stories. A recent student did not have a computer at all before she participated in Free Computer Labs classes. Now she has her own computer loaded with powerful software tools. With her computer, she is now doing her banking online, accessing her email, doing research, and archiving her personal photos. She uses her computer almost everyday.

Student B

A student with the computer she built with FCL

We want to share our knowledge at Artisan’s Asylum with our “Make Your Own Computer” class to help empower others with technology and introduce many new folks to the wonderful world of free software. Please come join us!

Did I mention that all participants who complete the course get to bring the computer they build home?

As well as being a free software advocate, Devin is a musician and educator. His latest project is Music Blocks, a free/libre software that teaches children music and programming. Along with Julian Daich, he will teach Make Your Own Computer this September. They will offer a teaser class and demonstration on Friday, August 26th from 5:30-7:30 PM. The teaser class is free for members and friends, and by suggest donations of $10 to the public. Donations can be made by check or cash at the front desk or on our website.

Cosplayers Get Ready for Cons at Artisan’s Asylum Thu, 11 Aug 2016 18:24:41 +0000 By Arlene Elkins


Sarah Kaiser (lower left) posing with friends in cosplay.

The Boston area has it fair share of fan conventions (or cons for short) from Arisia in the winter to Anime Boston in the spring to Boston Comic Con, happening this coming weekend. Many Artisan’s Asylum members participate in local cons and some even travel to go to out-of-state cons. Some go as volunteers and others go to cosplay. For them, cons are a break from the normal day-to-day. “I get to pretend I’m someone much cooler for a few hours!” says member, Sarah Kaiser.

Sarah makes props and costumes out of a variety of materials, including foam and silicone, in her studio space. “[Artisan’s Asylum has] given me a large, easy to clean space out of my roommate’s hair with a wealth of knowledgeable helpful neighbors.”

Jade Harley is another maker who uses her studio space to work on cosplay. “It provides an environment that I call the ‘get off your ass and work’ environment. The presence of several artisans makes it easier to find motivation to do work, and being in a creative space helps me find the will to get things done.”

Jade started to do cosplay after a friend suggested she try it. “Cosplay was just meant to be an idle pastime,” she says. Over time, it became an important creative outlet. “I always try to take on an outfit that has at least one component that I don’t know how to make, in order to challenge myself to learn a new technique.”

Jade in her Korra of Legend of Korra cosplay.  Photo by Regan Cerato, of CowButtCrunchies Cosplay

Jade in Legend of Korra cosplay. Photo by Regan Cerato, of CowButtCrunchies Cosplay

Like Sarah, Jade casts in silicone, but she also uses other methods from high (3D printing) to low-tech (chainmaille). “Having easy access to tools like a 3D printer and the metal/woodshop has allowed for much more detailed pieces to be made.”

Jacob LaRocca uses resources, including the shared workshops and help from the community, at Artisan’s to make his cosplay. “I 3D print props, as well as use foam, metal, and wood, but EVA foam is my main costume material, and I have someone else do all of the actual cloth work,” he says. “[Being at Artisan’ Asylum] allows me to collaborate with other cosplayers, costumers, and prop builders. The tools are nice, but the resources in the people have been immensely educational and I have learned so many things from the people here.”

Jacob takes that community mindset outside of the Artisan’s Asylum walls. He brings tools with him to cons and offers free cosplay repair. “I was at DragonCon last year, and didn’t want to wear the one costume I had for the last few days. I realized I had my whole tool kit with me, so I went to CVS, bought some cardboard, some extra supplies for repairs, and some markers and my free cosplay repair gig began.”


Jacob offers free cosplay repair at cons.

Photos of him in his repair gear went viral in May and he was interviewed in Kotaku, prompting many online commenters to refer to him as a real-life hero. “One of the first fixes I did was duct tape a girls shoe back together. It had literally disintegrated. The fix worked!”

But not all of it is cosplay. Brian Johnson is the owner of MakeWright, a company he runs out of Artisan’s that creates immersive experiences, including pop-up escape rooms and a starship bridge set, complete with crew. “We once had the pleasure of having Garret Wang (Ensign Kim from Star Trek: Voyager) be the captain of one of our bridges for a few hours. He really got into it, and everyone had a great time!”


Brian dressed up as a Starship captain.

Last year, Brian received an Artisan’s Grant that allowed him to create Escape Velocity, a pop-up escape room. Visitors had to solve a series of puzzles in order to escape a crashing space ship. It made its debut at the Artisan’s Asylum in the fall and Brian plans to take it to conventions in the future. “Conventions are a great way to reach a wide variety of like-minded people. I really enjoy bringing events to cons, where people can bring home great memories!”

Escape Velocity

Escape Velocity’s control room, set up at Artisan’s

While everyone’s work is different, they all agree that preplanning is important. “For Escape Velocity, we built a 1:10th scale model of the entire layout, and it allowed us to see how we’d flow people through the area, as well as where we wanted to put puzzles, clues, and props. It allows us to make sure we’re telling a good story,” explains Brian.

“Everything starts with reference materials,” says Jade. “Where I can, I like to get 3D models to spin around, but most of the time, references are just a corkboard of screenshots and concept art of the character. From there, I break down the piece into its components. Almost everything gets a pattern or schematic drawn up, and from there I make the pieces one by one until it’s done.”

When asked about her process, Sarah says, “it’s different for every get-up, but it always begins with sketching.”

Our con makers are always looking for new and improved ways to make their creations. “I’m really looking forward to the prop shop opening up [in Artisan’s Asylum], which will feature a large vacuum thermoformer, as well as casting booths, a spray paint booth, and tools!” says Brian.

Keep an eye out for our makers this weekend at Boston Comic Con! Says Jacob, “It’s a fun way to express my nerdiness in a way I can also showcase some of my favorite hobbies and skills. It’s really just an outlet and a way to connect to other nerds.”

Arlene Elkins is an arts administrator, marketer, and project manager. Her hobbies include dance, jewelry-making, and sarcasm.

My First Maker Faire Thu, 04 Aug 2016 17:00:38 +0000 by Dylan Citron

A few weeks ago, I volunteered with the Artisan’s Asylum at Boston’s first Mini Maker Faire, held at the Children’s Museum. I had never been to a Maker Faire before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.
A2 banner

The first thing I did on arrival after stopping by the Artisan’s Asylum booth was take a good walk around. The Faire was split into three large tents, each filled with companies and makers, showing off their particular skill sets. Among the larger names in attendance were Google (handing out sunglasses like party favors), Bose, and Battlebots.

Walking around the Maker Faire was a lot like walking around a toy store as a kid, but if the toy store appealed to every age group, all at once. Even though some booths aimed at a specific age group (ours was set up for adults), the features themselves were captivating to all. Between the hand-sewn stuffed animal faux-taxidermy booth to the dozens of activity stations aimed at teaching children to program or engineer, there was never a dull moment.

Inside the Makerfaire

The view of the Boston Mini Maker Faire from our table.

By the time I returned to Artisan’s booth, I was excited and in a great mindset to talk about what we do. Our booth was lined with projects from dozens of our makers, including but not limited to the 3Doodler pen, sample investment casting models, and a SCUL bike. The bike was especially a large draw, with a good portion of faire-goers stopping to inspect it.

While the Maker Faire itself was incredibly busy and crowded, when it came to approaching our booth, many seemed tentative at first, preferring to watch from a distance than to actually engage us. I found the best and most satisfying conversations were with people who seemed uncertain at first, but slowly realized their interest in us along the way. About after an hour, we had given away a good amount of business cards and I had nearly lost my voice!

It was incredible the support people showed once they realized what our mission was, and I hope to see them all stop by for a tour sometime soon!

Boston Mini MakerFaire

Dylan Citron is a student at Northeastern University and is currently doing his co-op with the Artisan’s Asylum.

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.