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February 7, 2012
We decided it was important to learn from other established established maker spaces. Here's some notes I put together on Artisan's Aslyum. Their web site and wiki is a gold mine of helpful information and I'll be adding to this when I get some more time.
Artisan Asylum was started in 2012 by Gui Cavalcanti, an engineer at a Boston-based robot company. His partner, Jenn Martinez, is a costume designer. Both "had a desire to create and we needed a dedicated space and heavy duty tools. And they "needed a team of people with different abilities who could collaborate.”
Somerville MA was chosen because it has the highest number of artists per capita in the US (behind Manhattan, NY). It also has a urban and suburban feel, low rents, small business support, and zoning laws that encourage mixing factory, commercial and residential space together.
They started out in a 9000 square foot space (with 80 members?), and then moved into their current 25,000 SQF space (130 members?). They would like to expand again to 40,000 SQF.
Gui says, “I see us becoming a patron of the arts and small businesses in Somerville, especially with arts and manufacturing. I hope that we can become a huge driving force in Somerville as we continue to develop.”
May 13, 2012
May 13, 2012
Just came back from Artisan’s Asylum. That place is incredible. It’s a massive facility with little office cubicles that people decorate and build on and make it their own space. There are incredible projects going on like giant hexapods, a full bike fab place, and like glass blowing and all sorts of AWESOME stuff.
I talked to three people mainly: Gui, Jimmie, and Joe. Jimmie created the LoL shield for the Arduino, which some people might be familiar with. And Joe started a very successful hexapod kickstarter project recently. They were all very helpful. They all started in different groups. Gui, from what I remember, always was in the same group. It started out with him saying, “I’m just going to do it”. And he created his smaller space. Very quickly outgrew that and moved into this space, which is 30,000sqf.
He says you can’t make a space like this without talking to the city. And you can’t talk to the city without an Architect (because the zoning office doesn’t speak our language). You also can’t do this without a Real Estate Attorney. The real estate attorney was the one who helped them with the zoning, the space acquisition, and wrote up the terms of agreement for members of the space.
He says the space is sustainable because of the rented space. The rented space is necessary because, when you have only classes and memberships, the attendance ebbs and flows and is irregular. When you have space rented to people, it gives them something to do every day and is a solid income from month to month. I would like to mention that they didn’t look like they had any trouble filling up the whole space with people. And almost every cubicle was full. It was amazing.
Both Jimmie and Joe came from spaces that failed. Nobody likes to talk about it, but it happens. Jimmie’s space met its demise because the group became cliquey, the person running it did not like the direction the space was going in, so she left the whole mess to them. Jimmie found Gui and they joined forces. Jimmie did not mind taking the name of Gui’s organization and they became Artisan’s Asylum.
Joe’s space failed in a totally different way. He got shut down by the city! He emphasized that YOU MUST ALWAYS BE PROACTIVE IN GETTING INSPECTED AND REGISTERED AND EVERYTHING. Apparently his building was not up to code, (something his landlord should have taken care of) and was held responsible for a ton of renovations that he couldn’t do. This was the end of Joe’s space and he joined Gui. He said that even though the right way is more expensive, taking shortcuts does NOT pay.
Everyone there suggested getting friendly with the city (Fire department, zoning office, mayor’s office) Because it really worked for them and helped speed up many processes (like getting the open flame permit and other permits).
The tools they have there are spectacular. They have everything. They have huge welders tables (10000 lbs each); A CNC router that can churn out ikea furnature in minutes; they have a whole fully functional bike shop; a glass working shop; a screenprinting shop (darkroom and all); a huge electronics area with cheap soldering irons to smt stuff and microscopes; a classroom with a dimension printer in it; and that’s just the community tools. Everyone has a cubicle. The cubicles are amazing. There are people building cnc tables, doing metal sculpture, fine jewelry, tons of robotics, insane bike frames, a giant two seated hydraulic hexapod, beautiful paintings. Jimmie’s friends booth(the one I was chatting with him in) had the corner of a room with wallpaper, chandelier and everything, attached to the side of his work area.
But ya, that is Artisan’s Asylum in a nutshell. If there is anything else anyone wants to know, I can ask them. I’m probably getting a 5-day pass and hang out over there. There’s probably a lot I forgot to write, but there was just so much information.
February 7, 2012
If you get an opportunity, can you ask how much they pay they for liability insurance in case someone gets hurt using a piece of equipment, and also who they're getting their policy from? I'm also very curious about how much money they raised to get started and how they did it.
It sounds like they're giving you good advice. I agree with them about renting space. I think we should have central area for community tools and equipment and then individual spaces for those who are willing to pay extra for a place to put their projects or their own workbenches, materials, etc.
BTW, have you got any pictures :-)
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