The Forge opens their Greensboro location July 22, 2014

 

In doing research for MIXXER I took a drive out to Greensboro tonight to check out The Forge  – Greensboro’s new maker/hacker space. Their grand opening ceremony is scheduled for Tuesday July 22. I have to tell ya – That place is super cool. From the custom made doors and architectural features, to the back-yard canopy that is truly a work of art, the style of the place screams inspiration and ingenuity. Their arsenal of tools is small at the moment, but they are still setting up so that is no surprise. One of the nicest features is the uber-cozy back room complete with a mix of art deco and craftsman furniture, handmade art pieces, and of course a plethora of high-tech tools, including a 3D printer. The only downsideIMG_3646 I can see to the place is that it’s so comfy-cozy that people may be just chillin’ too much to get any work done.

 

But all of that hip décor and high-tech equipment is not what I consider the greatest asset to The Forge. The greatest asset of The Forge is the people. Co-Founder Mario Aldayuz told me an abridged version of how the Forge came into being, here’s a quick synopsis:

 

In January 2013 Joseph Adams sent word out via the internet that he wants to gather a group of people to open a makers space in Greensboro. He went to a local coffee shop and waited. It didn’t take long before this became a regular occurrence, and Joseph found he was not alone in his vision to create a makers space. Greensboro Hackerspace was born – in a coffee shop by a small group of guys sitting around talking and planning. An amazing thing happened – these guys started paying membership dues before any equipment was procured, before a space was found or developed. These guys believed in this plan enough to invest in it with little to no guarantee that it would work. Now one and a half years later The Forge, formerly known as Greensboro Hackerspace, is opening their doors to the public.

 

There is one other great story about the power of people and their commitment to the project. The fantastic space that houses The Forge – right in some of the most desirable real estate in Greensboro- was provided at a very reasonable rate by a local entrepreneur and real estate developer. I’ll not share his name until I get his approval, but this guy believes in the concept and the people of The Forge enough to foot the bill on the upfit of this beautiful old building. (It’s beautiful now, but it was in rough shape a year ago) This forward thinking developer sees the potential in a place like The Forge, and he put his money down to prove it.

 

People investing in their own future, in their community; this is one of the greatest things about maker spaces and places of that type. Leveraging the power of sharing and community to make a better world – that’s what I’m talkin’ about.

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MIXXER

Screen Shot 2014-07-11 at 11.19.17 PMis the name of my latest project. MIXXER will be a maker space in Winston-Salem, NC, and if that is a new term for you – a maker space is a place where people gather to share resources to make things. The kinds of things made, and the way they are made, depend on the people that organize and use the maker space. MIXXER could be a mix of artists space, a metal shop, wood shop, rapid prototype shop, robotics lab, scrap exchange and more (or less); really there are few parameters to constrain what happens in a makers space. The only real constraint, other than physics, is the limitations of the imagination and interests of the people that participate.

I have talked to a lot of people about this idea for a few years now; starting out as casual conversations, and then over time the conversation came more frequently and with more intensity. What I have discovered is that there are a lot of people in the Winston-Salem community that connect with the idea of a maker space. I decided it is time to move beyond just talking about it; MIXXER is an idea Winston-Salem is ready for.

Recently I partnered with Community Design Studio to ask for help in organizing a meeting to start developing a plan to bring MIXXER into being. Steve Harberger of CDS helped me to conduct a meeting with some influential people in Winston-Salem. Now there is a team of people working to bring MIXXER into being. So far we have some preliminary objectives that we need to meet to begin formally organizing. In addition to the research we are doing, we are throwing a party on Sunday July 27 from 4-7pm at The Olio at 840 Millworks St. Winston-Salem, NC 27101 where we will gather people to introduce them to MIXXER. When all of these people arrive to see and meet all the other people in town that are interested in sharing resources, I believe we’ll be able to get people to commit to supporting MIXXER.

MIXXER will take advantage of the power of sharing to make it possible for people to take their great ideas from vision to reality. If you consider the cost of high-tech equipment and the space to use it, for an individual with a need for a specialty tool or machine it should not take too much calculating to see the power of sharing. Need a welder to build a custom piece for your motorcycle – sign up with MIXXER. Need tools to build a new cabinet or table for your home – sign up with MIXXER. Have an idea for a new invention and need to make a prototype – sign up with MIXXER. Soon you will be able to sign up. For now you need only make your voice heard. Contact me to tell me your vision, and if you show up at our party you’ll have plenty of opportunity to be heard.

More to come later so keep checking in. Things are really heating up.

A trellis by any other name would be as sweet.

If you look through previous posts you can find Steel and Roses. A short post about a design for a trellis that will stand in front of a home and allow for a climbing plant to run across the front of the house. That design included a lot of forged pieces that would add considerable cost to the project. I created a new minimalist design that would require less materials, and have more of an organic shape. Here is a process picture, click on it to see a gallery of more process pics.

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Recycle, Repurpose, Reuse

Recycle, Repurpose, Reuse are words that get a lot of press these days. Many people participate in these practices today, but some people take it a step further. I have a good friend, Carol, that runs a business in which she assists people with getting organized and make decisions about how to deal with having too much stuff. Very little of that stuff makes it to the landfill. She has become an expert in parsing out usable items to get the most cash for her clients and to find people that can make the most use of those items. She recently turned me loose on a project to reuse some doors she has been collecting to design and build a small storage building.

There is more new materials than we wanted to use, but the need for storage space took residence over taking time to seek out more materials to repurpose. The platform for the structure is made from connecting pallets together and boxing them in with treated lumber. There are 2×4’s providing the surface to connect the doors together, and these panels make a very strong support for the roof. The roof is covered with corrugated sheetmetal and one sheet of clear acrylic to make the inside more visible in the daylight.

It took a bit longer to construct the building using the doors to make walls. The first thing I had to do was figure out how to arrange the doors to get the parallel walls to at least come close to being the same size. Although the effect of having walls of disparate lengths could make a more interesting building, it could also drive up the cost. If I were doing it myself I could afford to take the time to figure it out, but this was someone else’s money I would be spending. I started by carefully measuring each door, down to the 1/16th of an inch, and photographing each one. I then “built” each door in a computer program called Sketchup and pasted the picture of the door it represented on the face. I could then arrange the doors into panels and build the rest of the building around them.

So with my computer generated plans on site I built each panel on the ground and checked all my measurements. I then built the platform from the pallets I had picked up around town and laid out where the walls would be placed. Even with my computer generated plans, there were still enough variables that I could not plan too far ahead. That is one unique aspect of building with repurposed materials, and one reason it is possible to create such interesting things by doing so.  I planned as I went for much of the project. It could have been less costly to Carol for me to use new materials in the floor, because I had several hours in getting the pallets fastened together, pulling up boards from one pallet and nailing it to another, but very little new lumber was used.

Please check out my gallery to see construction pics.

Design, Build Transform

IYBI posterIn the summer of 2012 I met a group of talented designers that make up the Community Design Studio of Winston-Salem (CDS). I have been lucky enough to work with some of these talented architects, graphic and industrial designers, and tech savvy professionals on occasion to help add a layer of creativity to our local area. When the leadership of CDS  arranged to bring the film If You Build It to Aperture Cinema of Winston-Salem and host community conversation after each showing, I jumped at the chance to be involved. I actually had no idea how I could help out, but I knew I had to be more than a viewer of this film.

You see this film is about something very important to me – Creative Collaboration. In my life I have been exposed to quite a few collaborative ventures around the design/build premise, and I have found that it fuels my passion in life. By participating in these types of ventures I have discovered my purpose in life – to be a driving force in the success of a design/build community collaborative program. I don’t yet know how this is going to happen, but I know it will. I can feel it deep in my soul.

One of the first projects of this type that I was exposed to was a project of UNCG’s Interior Design Program as they build what is now called “My Sister Susan’s House” a respite home for young at-risk mothers in Greensboro, NC. It was here that I met Robert (pronounced Ro- bear), a French-Canadian Architecture Professor at UNCG. The company I was working for was installing the electronic security systems in the building. My crew of installers came back to the office going on and on about this unique house being built by college students. Eventually I found it necessary to stop by the site to check on the progress and I immediately realized what all of the buzz was about. The design was unlike anything I had seen in person; but what was more unique to me was the atmosphere on the job site. The positive energy of college students doing the construction was intoxicating to me. The source of their energy is more from a place of love and a need for accomplishment, as opposed to a need to make money as quickly as possible and limit liability, which is what I was accustomed to on a job site. The leader of this band of eager beavers was Robert. With his french accent, infectious smile, and long hair he almost looked like one of the students, but it was quickly obvious he was responsible for every move made by all of the students. Robert empowered them to learn by doing, but somehow managed to keep them on track and calmly answer a bazillion questions daily.

IYBI poster 2Last week when I discovered that CDS was looking for guest speakers for their film event, and that one of their intended speakers would not be able to attend I immediately offered to do whatever I could to help out. Suddenly I am the guest speaker for one of the events. So I nervously began to prepare myself for the upcoming event, but I also put in a call to Robert to see if he could possibly clear some time in in super-busy schedule to participate. As luck would have it he was available. So now I found myself privileged enough to be sharing the “stage” with my good friend, whom I respect greatly, and participating in a community conversation about something I am very passionate about.

One of the taglines of the film is Design, Build, Transform. I totally get it now. Design/Build type projects are not for everyone, but for those of us that are so inclined, it can be transformative to a degree that is difficult to explain to someone that “doesn’t get it”. For those who do “get it” it’s not simply the words used to describe the transformation, it’s the passion that shows through when we talk about it and do the work. It can be infectious and intoxicating. I will stand by my friend Robert in two days in front of an audience. I hope my passion rather than my nervousness shows through, and I hope we make some new allies in our search to do meaningful work.

Imagine when…

ii dreams come trueJuly 2, 2012 was a very important day in my life. In the week prior to that day I was struggling to find balance in my life. I was working very hard at building my electronic security business, but I was not making much progress. I had recently transitioned a relationship from pseudo-romantic to indifferent. I was struggling financially even though I felt as though I was working nearly all day every day. Then I heard the blurb on the local public radio station event calendar.

Imagination Installations was hosting a design marathon at SECCA (South Eastern Center of Contemporary Art) and everyone was invited. The purpose of the event was to imagine a public art installation and design it so that it could be built and installed in Winston-Salem. I was so stoked! This is my jam. This is just what I needed – a chance to be a part of something dynamic and creative. I cleared my calendar for the day Saturday July 2, 2012 and sent the word out on facebook and via email. I remember talking to people the entire week asking them if they had heard about the event. “Can you come out”? “Do you want me to stop by and pick you up”? I wanted to share the good news with everyone.

On the day of the event I showed up early and as I dismounted my chopper the butterflies started furiously fluttering in my belly. I was greeted by the organizers of the event and it was obvious that they were professional designers. I suddenly became very self conscious and wondered if anyone would decide me not worthy of participation in a design charette. As people filed in I found that I knew only a small number of people there, which helped to maintain my nervousness.

Right on time the organizers rallied all of us in the auditorium and set out the parameters of the day. They introduced themselves and the intent of the  “Imagine when… project”. They then organized us into teams and sent us to tables supplied with pens, pencils, markers, paper, and various art supplies. My team consisted of an industrial designer, a recent college grad with a BA in Fine Art, a female pastor, a financial consultant and her 12 year old daughter, and me. As the ideas started to flow I didn’t even notice how the butterflies inside of me turned to a fountain of creative ideas that flowed like a rushing river. I was so excited that I had to sit on my hands from time to time to keep from monopolizing the conversation.

My team of designers had diverse backgrounds and viewpoints, and it was quickly obvious that we had very different visions of what makes a great art installation. Differences of opinion often times leads to friction and sometimes argument, but in this structured environment with a common goal we were able to use these differences to expand our individual thinking to places we could not have gotten to otherwise. I think this is called chemistry, good chemistry. There were some moments of near frustration, but our will to create a winning design before the deadline over ruled and we moved forward.

At the end of the day all of the teams gathered to present final design concepts and explain each team’s ideas. There were few similarities between the 8 final ideas presented. They ranged from a design that included a labyrinth and a public garden, to a digital waterfall that works like a dot matrix printer to transmit messages in water that the public could create at various points around town and view online. After presentations awards were handed out in the form of tiny little trophies.

I don’t remember what the trophies were for, save for one. I did win the trophy for most ridiculous pursuit of a tiny plastic trophy, but that was part of what made that day such an important day in my life. As we were voting by applause I whooped and hollered and clapped as loud as I could to cast my votes, and some of those votes were for my team’s ideas. I noticed a kindred spirit just behind me during one of my voting rants and I turned to see a beautiful girl smiling and giggling at me. I asked her to help me out here and in a few minutes, after an extremely raucous vote by me and my new accomplice,  I had my trophy – the little plastic one. What I didn’t know that day is that the girl smiling and laughing at me would become the love of my life, but that’s a story for another day.

One of the many lessons I learned that day was that collaboratively we can accomplish magical things. All of the good ideas, and even some “bad” ones helped to open up new passages of thought during our design marathon, passages that could have been left untraveled otherwise. That day I found so much more than a way to pass the day or forget about my troubles, I found the real me; and as a bonus, the greatest bonus, I found Cyndi.