The Rise of the Shecanics

Screen Shot 2015-10-22 at 10.26.19 AM

Patrice Banks, founder of the Girls Auto Clinic, teaching car maintenance to a group of women in her home town of Philadelphia. Photo courtesy of Girls Auto Clinic.

Last year, I learned to change my own brake pads. I posted pics of the process and made one my profile picture because I felt like a HERO. I’m a generally handy person but working on cars intimidates me, in part because there are so many electrical components in newer cars, and, in part because it seems like it may be pretty easy to die if I don’t put things back together correctly. I know I’m not the only person out there blindly trusting in their mechanic, but it’s pretty obvious that women disproportionately shy away from maintaining their own vehicles. What may not be as obvious is that in this country, there are more female than male drivers and women are the #1 consumers of cars.

In 2013, 25.4% of jobs in the Motor Vehicles and Motor Vehicles Equipment Manufacturing industry were held by women. However, women made up only 1.5% of automotive body and related repairers and 1.8% of automotive service technicians and mechanics. So why is the number so high? Because almost 57% of the industry's female workers are doing office and clerical work.

In 2013, 25.4% of jobs in the Motor Vehicles and Motor Vehicles Equipment Manufacturing industry were held by women. However, women made up only 1.5% of automotive body and related repairers and 1.8% of automotive service technicians and mechanics. So where does the 25.4% stat come from? Check out that looooong green line. Almost 57% of the industry’s female workers are doing office and clerical work.

To find out why there was such a discrepancy, and to see who may be working to remedy this, I decided to Google around for programs training women to become mechanics, or, to at least teach basic maintenance skills. Unsurprisingly, only a handful of programs exist in the U.S. It’s always tougher to find women doing hands-on trades work, but the auto industry seems to be especially lacking in this respect.

The first woman my search turned up is Patrice Banks, a Philadelphian who is “working on disrupting the auto industry by catering to women.” How do you not click on that link? Patrice was working as a materials engineer for DuPont until she realized she knew nothing about cars despite spending a tremendous amount of money on them, couldn’t find other women who knew about cars, and couldn’t find a single female mechanic to work on her car. So, she decided to take classes, work for free at a garage on the weekends, and became a mechanic herself. And then she went even further and started the Girls Auto Clinic.

Screen Shot 2015-10-22 at 10.31.20 AM

The clinics have received a tremendous amount of press and women asking if there are clinics available in their cities. This is a clip pulled from CBS This Morning, but the clinics have also been featured on Fox News, the Washington Post, the Huffington Post, the Chicago Tribune, the Dallas Morning News and numerous other outlets.

The Girls Auto Clinic “strives to be a visionary leader in the automotive industry by changing the way the industry views and markets to women while also changing the beliefs women have towards the industry through education and niche marketing.” Basically, the auto industry doesn’t reflect the needs, wants, and views of it’s #1 customer. Patrice also recognized that because women spend the most money on cars, they have real power to change the industry through education, and should be a part of the process from concept and design to maintenance and repair.

To help remedy this disconnect, Patrice teaches free classes for women each month, created an online forum for women to talk about cars, wrote the Girls Auto Clinic Glove Box Guide, and even sells clothing merch for “Shecanics.” She is also working around the clock to open her own shop and expand the mission, so we’re sending her a bunch of Craftsman tools to help with that.

Screen Shot 2015-10-23 at 3.23.24 PM

In June, Patrice lead a free clinic for high school girls who drive. Fantastic. Shop classes have been cut from a majority of high schools across the country, but even when they did exist, only boys seemed to register.

The Girls Auto Clinic logo, language and images are hyper feminized, but because of this, classes reach a large and especially disempowered (in this arena) portion of women. Basically, Patrice takes the damsel in distress archetype and turns it on its head. I wear Doc Martens work boots when I’m in a shop. Patrice wears some serious heels when she’s teaching classes in a garage. It’s strange to see but also makes me think, “good lord, is there anything women can’t do, even in restrictive garb?”

Patrice’s classes appeal in a meaningful way to a whole lot of women who could never imagine themselves lifting up their car hood until now. While she is adamant that “all are welcome,” the mistreatment and underrepresentation of women in the auto industry is clearly what drives her passion for increased education and equality. This passion has not gone unnoticed. Girls Auto Clinic has garnered a ton of press and Patrice was even asked to do a Ted Talk about her work last year. Currently, less than 2% of mechanics are women. That is clearly going to change soon. Pictures from the Girls Auto Clinic November classes will be posted on ToolMade, so stay tuned!

Screen Shot 2015-10-23 at 1.39.40 PM

Patrice, still kicking ass in heels. Photo courtesy of Girls Auto Clinic.

Advertisements

Dream Camp for Handy Adults: Craftsman MAKEcation 2.0

12063822_10152989896771213_59647811081394364_n

Villain in Brooklyn. Photo courtesy of Craftsman.

Working in historic preservation and salvage/reuse means having a good grasp of material science and an eye for craftsmanship. One of the biggest hurdles of working in these fields is assuring people who own vintage buildings or who do a lot of building that they can easily repair, restore, and reuse older materials. In fact, these materials usually have several lives left in them. But as much as I hammer home this point (cymbal crash!), even I don’t get nearly enough time to play around with many of the tools out there that can help make restoration and reuse projects even easier, not to mention the time to stoke the coals of my creative side.

12049242_10152990180786213_3019590888538057913_n

This became a room full of excited adults, lathes, and rather a lot of wood shavings a couple of hours after this was taken. Photo courtesy of Craftsman.

Enter MAKEcation. This is essentially two days of nonstop building, learning and playing, and when you’re invited as a special guest, it’s rude to say no, right? I was asked to come and teach a workshop last year at the inaugural MAKEcation, and I remember thinking, “Is this a real thing? We just get to build stuff all weekend and in the evenings, we learn about whiskey and grilling and take a boat ride after a private concert?” It’s a thing. When I was asked back, rest assured I immediately rearranged my five jobs to make it work. MAKEcation is like camp for curious and creative adults with some of the best makers in the country. At a really nice hotel.

12036511_10152991746541213_6953393142596704806_n

Making coat hooks with master craftsman Rob North. Photo Courtesy of Craftsman.

The purpose of the event, which lasts 2-1/2 days, is to reward loyal Craftsman Club members for their support and to show active DIY bloggers what Craftsman tools can do. An added bonus of coming two years in a row was seeing many of the ideas that came out of last year manifest through new tool designs and adjustments. Participants were shown all of the upgrades and allowed to try them out. Honestly, I fell in love with several tools I didn’t even know I wanted. My kingdom for more workspace in Chicago because…lathe. Sigh.

12065585_10152994407896213_5358032179711622276_n

LATHE!!! I cannot express how satisfying it is to use the 12″ x 16″ midi lathe. I’d never used this tool before and it was super smooth. It was essentially like meditation that left you with a piece of functional art. Photo courtesy of Craftsman.

photo 3

I only had time to make two handles, but this bottle and pizza cutter are going to be buried with me.

Day 1.

Arrive in Brooklyn early to explore solo for a few hours.

  • Walk Williamsburg
  • Buy a Rocky Balboa onesie for my niece
  • Have incredible pizza and a lager in the courtyard of Fornino’s
  • Return to hotel for cocktails by the saltwater pool (as one does)
  • Head to Brooklyn Brewery for a private tour and more New York style pizza and beer (Chicagoans have no threshold for pizza consumption)
  • Get the only decent night’s sleep on this trip
12049641_10152994405041213_5740314084000685837_n

Master craftsmen, loyal Craftsman Club members, handy people who write about makers and tools for a living, and a few folks from the Craftsman marketing team who schemed this whole wonderful thing up and worked their tails off for the greater good. Thanks, thanks, thanks. Photo courtesy of Craftsman.

Day 2

  • 7am breakfast in the hotel
  • Head over to Villain, a maker space in Brooklyn that includes all the tools and stations we need, as well as a gigantic bar (for AFTER we used the nail guns and miter saws)
  • Make our own belts and leather cuffs under the expert tutelage of Will Lisak from ETWAS
  • Make a coat rack by repurposing hammers with DIY Guru Rob North 
  • Take apart and rebuild carburetors with Max Herman and Sean Brayton from the Oilers Club
  • Get an incredibly detailed mixology lesson from the lovely Lacy Hawkins, an award winning bartender from the Clover Club
  • Return to the hotel for dinner on the rooftop, delicious drinks, and a private concert by country star Eric Paslay, who did my favorite cover of Wicked Game, ever
  • Eventually…five minutes of sleep
photo 1

Justin DiPego doing some stellar leatherwork. I got to know Justin at last year’s MAKEcation and highly recommend checking out his DIY videos.

12032975_10152991751751213_6639838646841683928_n

Mixologist Lacy Hawkins and her assistant teach us everything we ever wanted to know about making the perfect Manhattan. Photo courtesy of Craftsman.

Day 3

  • Up early for breakfast in the hotel (ow, but yum, but ow)
  • Head over to World Maker Faire for the morning with blurry eyes that soon widen from creative overdrive
  • Take the shuttle on back to Villain to make pizza cutter and bottle opener handles using a lathe taught by Rob Johnstone and Dan Cary from Woodworker’s Journal (I want one, I want one, I want one. Please. Please. Please.)
  • Make a toolbox with a drawer and a bottle opener with the incredibly talented and kind Karl Champley to lug around some of our spoils when we get home.
  • Oh, then we went to go see a private motorcycle stunt show by ILLConduct. Just for us. Because, why not?
  • Then another dinner by the pool and Coney Island Magician and Performer Adam Realman, who swallows swords and cigarettes and shoves spikes into his face and resembles Tom Waits.
12038248_10152994407061213_3306580589612731002_n

The C3 19.2V Brad Nailer was my other favorite tool on this trip. After messing around with a manual staple gun at home earlier this month, this tool made me realize all those kicked up staples and curse words were completely unnecessary. Peace shall now reign in the Bruni studio. Thanks to the venerable Karl Champley, host on the DIY Network, HGTV, and recent winner of Ellen’s Design Challenge for this toolbox workshop. Photo courtesy of Craftsman.

12065712_10152994404496213_410729498714889951_n

We expected to be taken back to the hotel to clean ourselves up before dinner, but instead were taken down a side street for a private show by the motorcycle stunt riders at ILLConduct. This is a great capture, but I highly recommend looking at the videos on the media page of their website to understand how incredible these guys are. Photo courtesy of Craftsman.

12063315_10152994404341213_2780283101651081549_n

This is Adam Realman. He eats cigarette, bends wrenches, swallows swords, and he let me pull a giant nail out of his nose and called me lovely. No regrets. Photo courtesy of Craftsman.

Day 4

  • Thank the Gods that your flight is late enough that you don’t need to leave the hotel until 11:30am, intend to explore in the morning but instead sleep until 10am, watch HBO in a fog for another hour, pack frantically, and unceremoniously run out the door to meet your driver.
  • Smile as you collapse into your window seat, sleep until drooling.

So, this was a dream trip. Assuming this happens a third year, sign up to be a member of the Craftsman Club if you haven’t already (it’s free), and enter to win as many times as you’re able. Remember: camp for adults with great food and liquor and a nice hotel and bizarre and ridiculously entertaining side trips and performances. Oh, and they ship everything you make back to you and every single thing on the trip is paid for. Yes. I’ll see you next year.

photo 5

Nerd sidebar: Hanging out with Vincent Lai of the Brooklyn-based Fixers Collective, a group that helped me and a friend launch Community Glue Workshop several years ago (which we’re proud to note is the first repair clinic in the state of Illinois). I read that his crew had a booth at the World Maker Faire and we finally got to hug in earnest (and then he gave me a free iFixit tool kit!).

rocky

I can’t wait to give this to my niece. Thanks, Brooklyn street vendor.

Meet the Colorado Firecamp: A nonprofit training veterans to preserve and protect our increasingly vulnerable wildlands

553819_10151163864503721_1984541596_n

During the first year in 2004, there were around 37 applicants at the Colorado Firecamp. This year, there are 900 students and that number is expected to grow to around 1500 in the near future. Photo credit: Colorado Firecamp.

I live in Chicago. In terms of inconveniences caused by intense heat, my greatest bother is having to schlep my window A/C unit up from storage during that one week in August that makes sleeping tricky. I’m not impacted (directly) by wildfires, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t noticed a marked increase in news coverage of impossibly large fires. While listening to the radio recently, an interview with a firefighter in Colorado confirmed that due to climate change and changes in the ways that we build and live, there really isn’t a fire season anymore–”every season is fire season.”

Photo creditCNS photo/Rick Wilking, Reuters.

2012 was an especially devastating year in Colorado, with several separate fires occurring in June, July, and August 2012. At least 34,500 residents were evacuated that June alone. By the year 2050, the number of wildfires are expected to increase by 50% in the West and to double across the U.S. 90% of these fires are caused by humans. Photo credit: CNS photo/Rick Wilking, Reuters.

To learn more about what is being done to cope with these fires, I called up Kent Maxwell, founder of the Colorado Firecamp. Kent, a volunteer firefighter himself for 25 years (and a Captain for 12 years) got the idea to start the school in 2002 after experiencing a shortage of help during some especially massive fires, including the Iron Mountain Fire that took out 133 homes and 138,000 acres of land. He decided to use his family’s land and start a school to train more firefighters and by 2004, the program was up and running.

Screen Shot 2015-09-19 at 11.21.16 AM

Kent began the firecamp on 40 acres of land owned by his parents. Facilities on the land consist of 13 buildings, including a lodge, a converted barn (above), a gym, and several out houses. Photo courtesy of Peter Marshall, http://www.pamarshall.co.uk/

Today, the Colorado Firecamp is a 501c3 nonprofit wildland firefighter school that trains about 900 students annually. Yes, 900. The skills are universal, but there is also a focus on local community, so the firecamp has partnered with local fire departments and land management agencies in preparing for emergency response, conducting wildfire mitigation, and performing forest restoration work. The camp is also a nationally recognized advocate for firefighter safety and the country’s largest chainsaw tree faller training program.

1012748_10151871941408721_1347318295_n

Photo credit: Colorado Firecamp.

Some sobering statistics from the Insurance Information Institute to drive home the importance of the work that Kent, his trainers, and his students are doing:

  • A 2015 study by CoreLogic identifies almost 900,000 residential properties across 13 states in the western U.S. currently at high or very high risk of wildfire damage. They represent a combined total property value estimated at more than $237 billion. Of the total properties identified, 192,000 homes fall into the very high risk category, with total residential exposure valued at more than $49 billion.
  • California, Colorado and Texas are the states with the largest number of properties categorized as very high risk, with a combined property value exceeding 36 billion. The exposure jumps to $188 billion when properties at high and very high risk are included.
  • The cost of fighting wildfires reached $3.5 billion per year from 2002 to 2012 according to a report by Headwaters Economics, a nonprofit Research group.
  • Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences researchers have concluded that by 2050 the number of wildfires in the West could rise by 50 percent, and across the U.S. the number would double.
  • 2015 Wildfire Season: Between January 1 and September 3, 2015 there were 44,080 wildfires in the U.S., which burned 8,441,223 acres, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.  During the same period a year ago, 38,869 fires burned 2,758,113 acres. As of September 3, large fire activity continues throughout Idaho, Montana and Washington.
  • 2014 Wildfire Season: Over the 20-year period, 1995 to 2014, fires, including wildfires, accounted for 1.5 percent of insured catastrophes losses, totaling about $6.0 billion, according to the Property Claims Services (PCS) unit of ISO.
  • In 2014 there were 63,312 wildfires which burned over about 3.6 million acres.
922971_10151471148363721_816809102_n

Photo credit: Colorado Firecamp.

Many of the students are veterans who served as a response to 9/11. The camp became the recipient of an 800 pound steel column salvaged from the World Trade Center, dedicated on the 10th anniversary of the attacks, which is now the centerpiece of a memorial flagpole. Training men and women who served in these wars to now protect our public lands and western heritage has became a central mission for the camp. As Kent explained, “many veterans are attracted to and used to difficult, exhilarating, physical work outdoors, so this kind of work really suits them.” Veterans also need help reintegrating after serving – another focus of the programm – and the camp was recently approved as a G.I. Bill school, which helps ease the burden of training costs.

Maintaining chainsaws and other equipment is a matter of life and death. All students are trained on how to service their equipment.

Having well-maintained chainsaws and other equipment can mean the difference between life and death in the field. All students are trained extensively  on how to service their equipment. Photo courtesy of Peter Marshall, http://www.pamarshall.co.uk/

While much of the work at the camp involves taming fires, wielding chainsaws, and a variety of extreme physical activity, the other side of training is making sure things run as smoothly and efficiently as possible. Firecamp students are preparing for highly dangerous scenarios, but things would be considerably worse for them if their equipment and chainsaws weren’t in good working order during a fire (or really, even during a training). Kent selected a list of tools needed to maintain this critical equipment, and we worked with Craftsman to secure a full donation.

995174_10151634411408721_552718071_n

A Wildland Fire Chain Saw class. The Colorado Firecamp now runs the largest chainsaw tree faller training program in the country. Photo credit: Colorado Firecamp.

I’ll follow up with the trainings in the coming months, but for more info on the incredible work that Kent, his forty instructors and hundreds of students are doing, check out the Colorado Firecamp website and Facebook page (there are many more incredible images on Facebook), and listen to this interview on NPR’s “Talk of the Nation,” which describes what it really takes to do this kind of work.

Keepin’ it Clean in Detroit: The Americorps Urban Safety Project’s Global Youth Service Day

amus10

Many hands make lighter work while boarding up 10 open and vacant houses and cleaning the surrounding properties in this Southwest Detroit school zone.

In case you didn’t catch the first story about the masterfully collaborative and successful AmeriCorps Urban Safety Project (AMUS), this organization recruits and activates neighborhood volunteers to tackle blight and safety issues on their block. Volunteers organize themselves into neighborhood groups that become watchdogs for their neighborhood, working with a number of different partners and sponsors, and these volunteers also work to put on large-scale neighborhood clean-ups. In April, AMUS had their Global Youth Safety Day, so before the event I connected them with Craftsman, who donated hedge clippers (action bypass loppers), mechanics tools, a wheelbarrow, a weed wacker (volt line trimmers), a hand vac, drill and impact drivers and a few other helpful things to have on site.

This “Safe Pathways” board up event targeted the Southwest Detroit neighborhood surrounding Neinas Elementary School. Citizen volunteers of all ages joined Neinas students in boarding up 10 open and vacant houses and cleaning the surrounding properties of blight and debris to make their neighborhood safer. The Detroit Police Force, dozens of pizzas, and a boatload of tools were there to help this crew get through a long day of (the best kind of) dirty work.

For more about this organization and the staggering amount of work they do to keep their city safe and engaged, visit www.amusdetroit.org. All photos courtesy of AMUS Detroit.

How the philosophy behind the Chicago Industrial Arts and Design Center could solve the world’s problems

A bold headline perhaps, but hey, it’s true. In June, I visited the CIADC to learn more about the new nonprofit arts center in Chicago’s Rogers Park neighborhood, and was blown away by the facilities and philosophy behind the Center. What resonated most was the founder’s focus on not having prescriptive end products in the classes. It seems there is considerably less room and encouragement than there was in past decades, even in realms that are supposedly promoting these efforts, to make original work via trial and error and creative problem solving.

Last year, there was some criticism (that I very much agree with) of Legos (gasp!), drawing attention to the fact that these building blocks are not quite the creativity-inspired units they once were. Instead, we purchase pre-made kits that direct us to follow instructions with every brick having a predetermined location. This does not exactly build skills that lead to brilliant discoveries. Beyond this, the kits even tell you what girls can build vs. what boys can build, which should drive any self-respecting human insane. I don’t understand how innovation has a gender, do you? How exactly are these projects contributing to our/our kids learning process?

rachel_giordano_hed_2014

Beautiful, non-gendered, monstrous creation that will never be made twice (left) vs. a prescribed, cutesy end product with only the exact pieces needed to make the same prepackaged item every time (right).

Of course, this isn’t only a Lego phenomenon, not by a longshot. I took a painting class with my nieces a while back and everyone had to paint the exact same image–every kid was looking around to make sure they were doing it “right.” The paintings were still adorable, sure, but I found the process to be anxiety producing because we had to focus on recreating an expected end goal (the teacher’s example painting), instead of focusing on playing with color and space and creating something out of our imaginations, which can never be “wrong.” This isn’t about being touchy feely, it’s about not correcting a Picasso when he paints something a different way. As a society, we mass manufacture, buy wholesale, feel pressured to keep up with norms, and are called out on all of our choices on social media to keep us in check. If we all do everything the same way, how on earth will we ever progress, solve the problems of the world, push the boundaries of the arts, etc.? How will we ever do anything great?

craftsman_hammer

CIADC Member, Natalie, forging steel belt buckles by heating the steel round stock and hammering into shape with the 24oz Craftsman ball-pein hammer.

craftsman_hammer_detail

The hammer and anvil are a classic combination for metal makers.

But I digress…the point is simply to remember the spirit of creativity and the benefits it reaps.  I believe this spirit is captured at the CIADC. None of the projects shown were for classes that specifically taught belt making or frame fabricating or, lord knows, bike trailer manufacturing. They simply evolved as the process unfolded. Methods changed, mediums changed. This is encouraged, not frowned upon.

DCIM100GOPRO

When you want ultimate control of the fastening torque, nothing beats a good old manual phillips head screwdriver. Laura, the CIADC Woodworking Department Manager, is assembling a plywood cross-cut box for the table saw.

Basically, classes at the Center teach you about a specific medium and you decide the trajectory. If you decide that you want to work with metal and wood simultaneously to complete a project you dream up, all the better. The idea is not to limit but to expand options and methods. As someone who works in various architectural fields, I can’t tell you how useful it would be if architects, engineers, and contractors would cross-collaborate!

craftsman_snips

CIADCs founder and Metalworking Department Manager, Matt, shows students the Craftsman aviator sheet metal snips while cutting 18ga steel to be bent into an open-faced box. Snips are great for cutting both geometric and organic forms from sheet metal.

The man behind the initiative, Matt Runfola, was kind enough to send some pictures of the CIADC students and members in action. You don’t have to be a member to take classes, by the way, but members do have additional privileges such as discounted classes.

craftsman_square

Long-time CIADC student, Jeremy, demonstrates an outside-the-box use of the Craftsman 24” Carpenter Square. Here, he uses it to set a parallel fence to cut perfect sizes on our metal cutting band saw. Jeremy is working on a bicycle cargo trailer at CIADC.

craftsman_wrench

Having the right tools on hand make the tasks safer and easier. New CIADC student, Shelly, adjusts the miter gauge for the table saw with combination wrenches. Shelly was cutting beautiful mitered wood frames for her 2D art.

The best part about tools is that they can be used in many different ways for many different things–this is but a tiny sampling of how the CIADC will use the tools we shipped from Craftsman. For more information on the wide range of class options and the philosophy that guides the Center, please check out their website. Tools help us to make our world more functional, interesting, and beautiful, but of course the most versatile tool of all is our noggin. Use it. Explore. Have fun out there!

The Chicago Artists Coalition: Building Community and Spaces for Artists. Literally.

BOLT Alumni Exhibition

Exhibition view of “A Challenge to the Summer Group Show: BOLT Alumni Exhibition & Dialogue.” Photo credit: Joseph Belknap.


The Chicago art scene has never been New York’s in terms of the number of overall galleries, artists, critics, and patrons. But, as a biased Chicagoan, I’d argue that this has been a benefit to many of our artists and by extension, the world at large. While we’ve won renown for our collections and art institutions, the local artists found their own paths to supporting themselves and their peers. One could argue that this has helped artists dig deeper and develop their personal styles to a greater degree and to even be irreverent(!) towards prevailing movements, which, of course, is where the really interesting stuff comes in.

tumblr_nl9gknI75m1rpdtgyo1_1280

“The Entry of Christ into Chicago,” 1976. Artist: Roger Brown. Brown was an important part of Chicago’s art scene in the 1970s (and in the following couple of decades) as part of the Chicago Imagists movement. The Roger Brown Study Collection, a house museum, gallery space, and archive is still open to the public. His collection is incredible. If you haven’t been to the Roger Brown House

Getting into the history of art in Chicago is more a novel than a blog post, but it’s worth digging into the history of groups and smaller museums such as the Hyde Park Art Center, the DuSable Museum, the Chicago Imagists, the Public Art Workshop, Movimiento Artistico Chicago, and Artemesia, which played especially important roles for artists in the 1960s and 70s. These entities fostered creative environments, outlets for social activism and overall support in a city that is and was incredibly diverse but not investing much in its local artists. We’ve exported many of our best and most innovative artists through the years, but their roots in Chicago were undeniably crucial to their development.

7140155

Public Art Workshop mural project created with Chicago Community Youth in 1970. “Protect the People’s Homes.” Photo credit: Mark Rogovin. There is an excellent archive of Rogovin’s photographs documenting public art murals during this time here.

IMG_4818

Recent group discussion of a Chicago Artists Coalition HATCH Projects exhibition “Extraordinary Effort, Spectacular Failure.” Photo credit: Lori Felker.

This is why we were so excited to connect with the Chicago Artists Coalition (CAC), another group that grew out of the 1970s movement to create a better environment and future for Chicago’s artistic community. As the identity and needs of local artists have evolved, the Coalition’s approaches and advocacy have adapted to keep artists working and supported. A number of workshops are hosted in a wide variety of mediums, including providing opportunities for emerging artists to hone their ability to mount professional exhibitions in the CAC’s gallery space. You know what building and installing an exhibit requires? Incredible amounts of creativity and lead preparators who can teach best practices and innovative, experimental methods for installation and exhibition? Yes. But it also requires, well, tools.

MARA BAKER NINA BARNETT

Install THAT. Gallery view of installation by HATCH Artists, Mara Baker and Nina Barnett. Photo credit: Eva Deitch.

We’ll show off some installation building (something I’ve certainly never gotten to see in action) in the near future with the help of some Craftsman tools and fantastic teachers and Chicago artists. In the meantime, check out current workshops and exhibitions happening at the CAC!

The Chicago Industrial Arts & Design Center: Forging Creativity. Literally.

photo 4 copyI’ve been playing around with metal arts since I was 15, so when I heard that a multidisciplinary arts center with welding and forging facilities was moving into a giant warehouse near my home, some blood vessels burst in my eye. There are not many of these spaces in Chicago, so I immediately contacted Chicago Industrial Arts & Design Center (CIADC) founder Matt Runfola to see how to get involved and how Craftsman might be able to help.

photo 1 copy

The Chicago Radio Laboratory signage still remains in the building, and Matt is proud of the history of the space, which gave birth to Zenith Electronics via the work of makers a century ago.

Matt ran the Evanston Arts Center’s metalworking program for the last 13 years, but when the organization made plans to move to a new building this year, the new space was unable to accommodate metalworking facilities. So Matt decided to go off on his own and go bigger and better by taking over a poured concrete and masonry building that would be mighty hard to burn down. This woodless construction allowed for welding, forging, and even casting to take place in the building and with a full three stories to play with, there was ample space to fabricate objects using any methods he could dream up.

Forging and metalworking equipment!

Forging and metalworking equipment!

So, beyond the firey arts that make my heart swell, there are numerous other workstations in the CIADC building, allowing for glass blowing, wood working (which Craftsman will now be providing numerous tools for, since the greatest need was in this department), and even 3-D printing and electronics. This is all very intentional–the purpose is not to teach people how to fabricate a prescribed end product, but to make them work out a project using a broader creative process.

Woodworking space.

Woodworking space.

Basically, you could learn to make a wood table top, then learn how to weld a table base, then cast a vase to sit on top of the thing. Then you could buy some flowers for the vase, model a necklace on a computer, and fabricate it at a jewelry station and have a damned dinner party. It’s not about production, it’s about process and creating something that is truly unique and from your own wonderful brain.

3-D printing studio space.

3-D printing studio and electronics space.

This way of thinking reminded me of my time spent with the Austin Tinkering School and their philosophy of learning and fostering true creativity and problem solving skills, which we are sorely lacking these days. If you can’t make this one way, figure out another way, or take the project in a new direction. There are a million ways to accomplish a goal and nothing is right or wrong. That’s the fun of it and what expands our brains. That’s art, science, alchemy, and what’s going to get us through any number of sticky situations in the future, in and out of the studio.

For more on the CIADC and to sign up for classes (this session is starting soon!), click here.

Where the magic happens. (Photo courtesy of the CIADC)

Where the magic happens in Chicago’s Rogers Park neighborhood. (Photo courtesy of the CIADC)