If you're wandering around Somerville, MA, you might stumble across the Artisan's Asylum, a non-profit "Community Craft Studio" started in May 2010 by Gui Cavalcanti '09 and his partner Jenn Martinez. When starting the Asylum, Cavalcanti "...was looking for a culture similar to Olin and my high school robotics team, where the emphasis was on collaboration and peer learning to make cool stuff possible. While I was at Olin, we frequently used the student shops for fun personal projects, and I always loved an environment where I could make anything at any time with a cool group of people."
Family and friends put together a $40,000 loan that funded the initial tools and 1,000 square foot space, but with over 100 people accepting initial invitations, it quickly became apparent that Artisan's needed to go bigger.
Currently, Artisan's is a 31,000 square foot facility with over 150 regular members. There are over 100 studio spaces that members can rent and call their own. Many members actually use these spaces as their offices. There are also hundreds of shelf units and palletized storage space, in addition to a vast array of woodworking, metalworking, welding, rapid prototyping, and electronics equipment. "The space is membership-based; anyone can walk up to the front door and purchase a membership to use whatever tools that person gets checked off on or trained on." In terms of training, Artisan's offers 20-25 classes a month that don't require membership or, in most cases, any experience. These classes can cover everything from jewelry-making to photography, fire-eating to drawing, or casting to welding, to name a few, and are all taught by Artisan's members.
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Cavalcanti recalls t that "while...at Olin, we frequently used the student shops for fun personal projects, and I always loved an environment where I could make anything at any time with a cool group of people."
Artisan's is notjust a physical place, it's a culture. Many of the machines are actually on loan from and maintained by members.
"Artisan's Asylum is unique in that it combines hugely diverse shops with studio space for almost every kind of maker there is. This lends the Asylum the feeling of a vibrant, active community with a huge amount of in-house talent", says Cavalcanti. Artisan'saims to unite disparate types of creative fabricators - from "pure craftspeople" to "pure engineers", making it easier for members to get the tools they need and take their projects to completion, not just leaving a half-finished idea on a shelf.