Every day, someone new walks into the shop and says, “so, what exactly do you do here?”
And to be honest, that’s a pretty loaded question.
Our makerspace is stocked with the tools and equipment to allow our members to work in dozens of different mediums. But sometimes, it can be a bit overwhelming to look out across a workshop stuffed with equipment. There are so many possibilities, you don’t know where to start. It happens to me all the time. I call it “creativity paralysis.”
But today, I’m going to break down what’s in the shop and what you can do with it. If you’re stuck in creativity paralysis and don’t know what to do, read on!
Our ceramics studio is one of the most straightforward areas of the shop, but it’s definitely not a one-size-fits-all medium. After all, a lump of clay is just another blank canvas.
Our ceramics studio is currently stocked with…
Potters have been using pottery wheels to create pieces since the Bronze Age. The earliest fast wheels date back to the third millennium BC, but it’s still the most popular and effective way to create bowls, vases, plates, and other pieces. Our wheel-throwing classes are some of our most popular, but you can use the wheel without taking a class beforehand. We have three in the ceramics studio, and they are first come, first serve.
Slab building is another common method of making clay sculptures. But working the clay into a thin, consistent slab is a difficult task if done by hand.
A slab roller lets you do this quickly and easily. Just set the desired height, cover the clay with canvas, and get to building.
Canvas Work Table
Clay is remarkably pliable, which makes it very easy to work with. But it can also be pretty sticky, and when you’re rolling the clay against a surface, it can get stuck, ruining your piece.
Canvas can help counteract that adhesion, making your handbuilding less frustrating.
Clay is renowned for its durability, but unless it’s fired in a kiln, it remains brittle. We have two kilns in the shop, which our staff operate. We have a full-sized ceramics kiln and a jewelry kiln that can be used to fuse glass and fire smaller pieces.
If you’re taking a class or using the shop with a membership or day pass, we’ll fire your pieces for no extra charge. You can also drop off ready-to-fire pieces and we’ll fire them for the price of a day pass.
There’s a lot you can do with glass. From custom beads to pendants to terrariums to stained glass suncatchers. And you can do it all in the shop with these tools
In order to work with stained glass, you need a glass cutter to cut the pieces into the desired shapes. Glass cutters are much easier to use than you might think. You can even cut curves!
Whether you’re making a suncatcher, a glass cactus sculpture, or a terrarium, you need to use a soldering iron to keep the pieces in place. Just make sure you don’t touch the metal part—it’s hot!
There’s more than one way to manipulate glass. Lampworking torches allow you to melt glass down into beautiful custom beads.
Who doesn’t love making their own jewelry? Our shop has a jewelers bench with plenty of metal working tools to create your own pieces. It would take far too long to list them all, so here are a few.
Fiber Arts and Textiles
Mankind’s relationship with fabric stretches back tens of thousands of years. And if you want to try your own hand at these ancient arts, we have the tools to do it.
If you want to make your own custom clothing, stuffed animals, or bags, there’s no tool more essential than a sewing machine. We have a few on hand that you can use if you don’t have one of your own, as well as tools for hand stitching.
Leather is one of the toughest materials, which makes it a popular choice for jackets, shoes, and bags. But if you don’t have the right tools, it can be almost impossible to work with. Luckily, we have leather punches, stitching awls, rotary cutters, and even letter stamps so you can create your own leather goods.
Yarn crafts like knitting and crochet aren’t only relaxing: they’re practical. You can use them to create comfy scarves, socks, hats...you name it. These mediums are easy to do at home, but where’s the fun in that? We have yarn and needles that you can use here, or you can use your own and come for the company.
What kind of art studio would we be if you couldn’t make a picture here? Our studio is outfitted with all kinds of paints, paintbrushes, canvases, colored pencils, easels, and whatever else you could think of. All free to use with a day pass.
Printmaking is one of the most ancient methods of duplicating art work. There are several different methods—and you can try a few in the shop.
Everyone loves a great T-shirt. Just look at Threadless.com, which has been printing beautiful and clever shirt designs for almost twenty years. But if you have a design you want to make for your band, slow-pitch softball team, your annual church picnic, or maybe just an inside joke you want to wear on your sleeve, you can use our screenprinting studio to make it a reality.
Our studio is full stocked with an exposing table, washout sink, a four-color press, a flash dryer, and other tools to make high-quality prints of your own. You can also print on tote bags, pillowcases, skateboards, paper, or just about anything else you like.
We offer screenprinting classes, but they are not required to use the studio. Although, it is highly recommended that you contact us first to make sure we have screens available—unless you plan on bringing your own.
Block printing works much like a stamp. You carve away all the negative space, then ink what’s left over and press it onto cardstock, paper, fabric, or whatever you like. We have some simple carving tools that you can use to cut your own designs into linoleum blocks, which we also have on hand.
The printing press was an absolute revolution. And while printing from a computer or copy machine is the go-to method these days, there’s something satisfying about arranging the type yourself.
We have a type set in the shop, as well as a rolling press for consistent prints. Great for greeting cards and posters!
Don’t have a garage? Use ours! Our woodshop is stocked with enough tools to make all of your woodworking dreams come true. Our current woodshop inventory includes:
Technology is more accessible than ever. And you can experience that firsthand in our tech lab, which is stocked with a few great tools. You can learn how to use all of these tools in our basic usage Tech Lab 101 class.
3D printing is one of the most exciting mediums in the last decade, making breakthroughs in medicine, design, and just plain old hobbying. 3D printers allow you to design your own three-dimensional designs and bring them into the real world. Or, you can download models from websites like Thingiverse. You can use the machine yourself, or send us your designs to print for you. Models cost 10¢/gram, or 5¢/gram for members.
A laser cutter uses a high-powered laser beam to etch wood, leather, acrylic, glass, or other materials. It can also cut through thin pieces of wood, acrylic, and leather.
Use the laser cutter to create a set of customized photographic wood coasters, make jigsaw puzzles, cut geometric necklace pendants, or more. Your imagination is the limit!
Our Silhouette plot cutter can cut thin materials like vinyl, paper, cardboard, or fabric with precision. Create die-cut greeting cards, vinyl decals, or intricate heat transfers with ease.
Computer Numerical Control machines or now the standard in industry to manufacture objects with precision. Unlike the laser cutter, this machine uses three axes. It uses a small, computer controlled lathe to turn wood and acrylic into intricate relief sculptures.
And wouldn’t you know it, we’re not done yet. We have plenty of other tools that don’t really fit into the other categories. Such as…
Buttons are a great way to send a message on your bag, jacket lapel, punk rock vest, or more. Show your support for a local political candidate, promote your band, or make promotional items for your small business. You could see options to custom order buttons, but there’s something satisfying about making them yourself.
One of the easiest ways to make customized clothing is to print your design onto iron-ons and...iron it on. But we all know that looks a bit tacky. And it doesn’t last long, either.
Think of a heat press like an iron-on on steroids. It’s the same basic process, but the end result is much, much nicer.
There are tons of tools we haven’t even mentioned yet that are absolutely indispensable for a number of art forms. From glue guns to calligraphy pens to wood burning irons, our shop is stocked full of valuable tools that can help you bring what’s in your head into the real world.
What will you MAKE?
Have you been staring at your Pinterest board wishing you were able to make the same things for your house? Or maybe you’ve had an idea that’s been knocking on the inside of your head, begging to come out.
Don’t wish any more. Come into the shop and let us help you turn your dreams into reality. Buy a day pass, check out our membership rates to get more access to the space, or maybe just stop by for a free tour. We’ll be glad to meet you!
Five years ago, my husband Nat and I were working at a local charter school. We had never meant to end up in education, but somehow, our paths had led us there.
And for all intents and purposes, we were in it for the long haul.
That is, until Nat got laid off.
Suddenly, all bets were off. I resigned later that year, and we struck out on our own.
After years of keeping art as a hobby, I decided it was time to try it it for a living.
In these past five years, I've met a lot of people who have found themselves at a similar crossroads.
I've met a lot of people who have toyed around with the idea of turning their part-time passions into full-time careers.
And a lot of those people are hampered by hesitation.
Most of the time, that hesitation is rooted in a sort of aimlessness. They'd love to go into business for themselves—but they don't know where to start.
If that sounds familiar, never fear: here's a step-by-step guide to help you start your own handmade business in 2019.
Set Your Goals
How do you define success? Everyone has different benchmarks for what success means to them.
Some people want to completely replace their nine-to-five. Others are happy if they make a couple extra bucks through their art.
Before starting your own business, take some time to get introspective. Sit down and make some goals. This could be a dollar amount or a number of units sold. Maybe you want to quit your full-time job by the end of the year. Or maybe you just want to sell something.
You can set your sights as high—or as low—as you want. Just make sure that your goals are realistic. If they're not, you could set yourself up for failure.
Regardless of where you want to take your handmade business, you can't get there all in one fell swoop. It should go without saying, but you shouldn't quit your day job to do art full-time without selling a few pieces on the side first.
Test the market. Sell at a couple one-day art shows. Put some of your goods in a local shop and see how well they go over. Post some pictures on Instagram and try to find some buyers there.
Start as small as you need to. You can always grow from there. It's much harder to un-quit your job.
Define Your Niche
In the words of Steve Jobs, "don't try to do everything. Do one thing well."
I know, that's easier said than done.
If you're anything like me, you don't really have a medium of choice. Some people are comfortable calling themselves a painter or a jewelry maker or a sculptor. But people like us have a hard time choosing. Which is part of the reason why I teach art instead of just selling it.
And obviously, I would never say that there's anything wrong with working in a variety of mediums. But when you're first starting your handmade business, offering a wide variety of goods can blur your message a bit.
Customers are easily distracted. If you want to break through to them, you need to be clear and direct. Offering too many different products can keep your customers from understanding what exactly it is you do. On the other hand, if you do one thing really well, you can gain attention in a hurry.
Build Your Web Presence
If you want to start any kind of business in 2019, you're going to need to have a solid web presence. Sure, there are still a number of art festivals and local shops where you can sell your wares. But if you limit yourself to your local market, you can be robbing yourself of a huge crop of customers.
You probably don't need me to tell you that the internet can connect you to buyers from all over the globe. But that takes a bit more work than just starting a Facebook page for your art and inviting your friends and family to like it.
For starters, it's a good idea to start with a page in an online marketplace. Nearly 2 million sellers are currently active on Etsy—and for good reason. Etsy has a massive customer base actively looking for unique handmade goods.
If you want to take it a step further, buy a custom domain and build a dedicated website for your wares. A standalone website can go a long way toward making you seem more professional and legitimate. Make sure that your small business website design is clean and uncluttered. Focus on high-quality product photos to show off your products.
Be sure to include a bio where customers can get to know you. Customers aren't just buying your product—they're buying your story. If your story resonates with them, they want to buy a piece of it.
Don't Neglect the Day-to-Day
For a lot of people, this is the hard part. We all know where we want our lives to go.
But the steps to get there are a little fuzzier.
You probably won't make sales every single day. In fact, I can pretty much guarantee that—especially at the beginning. But every day, you need to be doing something to make those sales happen.
Set a regular to-do list of things that you do every day. Make regular posts on social media. Spend some time brainstorming new products. Schedule in some unstructured creative time.
Resist the urge to wake up after noon and stay in your pajamas all day. A regular routine (and some work clothes)can help your brain get into "work mode" more easily.
Stick to your to-do list even when it feels like it's not making a difference. Those little things add up over time.
There's no fool proof way to start your own handmade business. There isn't a guaranteed 10-step model that will ensure success.
But if you're going to be successful, you need to give it your sweat.
There are going to be days where you want to quit. Days where you would rather sit behind a boring reception desk than make one more crocheted cactus.
That's perfectly normal. And if you realize that selling your own art isn't for you, that's fine. The world needs some people to sit behind a desk.
But if you're committed to making your handmade business work, it's going to take work. So keep at it. Keep grinding. Hustle like you mean it. And if you need a place to work with some fellow creatives who can push and encourage you, the shop's open for you.