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An experiment in a new kind of studio

Hi All:

On Dec. 3, 1-5pm, in Somerville, MA, I will be part of a grand
experiment. My new studio at Artisan’s Asylum, will have their grand opening. It
is an exciting move to be part of a huge studio with 80 plus renters
in the largest Maker Studio in the US making up 30,000 sq feet. The
open plan, with most of the studios of 50 sq ft and 100 sq ft are
only 4 feet high, creating discussion, innovation and networking
throughout the entire building. Gui Cavelcetti, the owner, only 25
years old, felt that by planting a stake in the ground and creating a
space for us to work was the right way to go. Guess he was right, as
there are 80 more people on the waiting list for space. We are part
of a 100,000 sq foot building. Ony a matter of time before it is
consumed by more folks. He and Molly Rubeinstei n run all of the
administration. Yeah. I just get to play.

There is great strength in the community of artists, and I am very
excited to be part of this exceptional group. So many things to
learn, discuss, contemplate, collaborate and teach with three huge
dedicated woodworking, metalworking and welding areas of 1500 sq ft
each. There is everything at my fingertips to explore, learn and it
is like going back to school. Jewelry is coming, but in a totally
different way. Perhaps a kind of think tank of discussion,
exploration, lectures and demonstrations are being proposed and how
to bring the excitement of our industry to the public.

If you are near the Boston area, don’t miss out on this incredible
grand opening. My studio is 200 sq ft, enclosed with a door=8Athere
are only 6 of these. This is a gift beyond comprehension.

Belonging to Orchid and being part of that grand experiment shaped
my life. Thank you Orchid. Thank you Ganoksin. And by the way, throw
them some money. They need your help.

Is this the future of art? I have no idea. Will it work? Who knows?
Will I have fun? Hope so. Possibilities are endless.

See you there.

Karen Christians

The open plan, with most of the studios of 50 sq ft and 100 sq ft
are only 4 feet high, creating discussion, innovation and
networking throughout the entire building. 

Karen, I’m not sure I understand the physical layout of your new
studio. Do you mean 4-foot-tall partitions, with "head space"
above, (I do hope!) that others can see over? (It’s hard to imagine
that an occupancy permit would have been granted for a 30,000-sq-ft
workspace having ceilings only 4 feet off the ground!)



The Someville, MA artists studios sounds most stimulating and I
share your excitement. There’s a lot of potential in what you
describe. And it sounds as if its off to a roaring good start.

Many years ago, the factory buildings for the out of business
Erector Toy Co were turned into artist studios. There were 100
rentals in the Erector Square complex in New Haven, CT. Huge tall
windows, incredible light, large open studio spaces. I rented one of
them and found it special. The management at that time kept a gallery
space for shows and openings and once a year they held artists open
house and it was fun to see the other spaces and what was going on
behind other closed doors. I have no idea what is happening there now
as I left almost three decades ago.

There are quite a few of these renovated factory buildings in the
Northeast that has energized the artist communities. It is difficult
to find space where welding gases are permitted and zoning allows
the artist to work down and dirty.

Ruth Mary

The ceilings are 25 feet high! The studio walls are 4 ft high. This
is what creates the open plan. Already I have learned several new
construction techniques and am building a very sturdy table for the
middle of my studio. It’s really cool to have people at your
fingertips that knows just what you want, and will take the time to
teach you.

Some people are really good building their own studio structures.
I’m not, which is why I chose this place.

Karen Christians

Hi Ruth,

The city of Somerville, MA, which used to be relegated as a student
ghetto, had a long history of corruption and poor public schools.
It’s former slang name, “slummerville” said it all. Dangerous parks,
dilapated streets and high crime. Over the last 10 years, a dramatic
change took place. A large grant from the state to assist artists to
take over empty buildings, assisted a revolutionary change. As many
places where artists settle, changes take place. Unique shops,
cafes, artisan food shops began to proliferate. The city took a stand
supporting the changes and gave artists more latitude in developing
their spaces by expediting building permits which usually take
months to secure.

You are correct though, there has to be some serious handshaking
between the city and its artisan occupants. We are lucky, the Mayor
has already come by, and the city planners are moving permits as fast
as they can. This synergy is important and if you want things to
move, you can’t stay idle. Gui has been to every meeting. He holds an
engineering and creative arts degree from Brown, so he knows his

Somerville is now a vibrant city, and the people moved in…with
their children. Schools improved because more highly educated parents
demanded it. I do find it interesting that the very building we now
occupy, the Ames Envelope Building, where highly skilled machinists
were employed, found their jobs shipped overseas. The artists who
occupy Artisans Asylum, are being trained in those very skills with
lathes, CNC machines and new technologies like small robotic 3D
printers. There is an old envelope binding machine in a vacant area
which the 20 somethings covet and want to learn how to use it for all
kinds of cool stuff.

The difference in the multi use art buildings of where I had my old
studio and factory buildings that are repurposed really lies in the
community structure. When I designed Metalwerx, the community studios
were just that. An open plan which fostered community and discussion.
We are not a row of closed doors which can be for some, isolating.
Already I saw somebody building a huge wood structure above their
space for storage and a cool wood beam system. I looked at the off
the shelf angle brackets and thought, oh, so that’s how it is done.

There is a nice older man who is building a kayak out of wood. Neat!

The future plans for AA will be a small gallery space and a larger
retail space. This is where Cleverwerx hopes to sell small tools and
all those supplies that you run out of. Don’t know when this will
happen. I still have yet to move in and set up myself. I’m having
fun…and isn’t that the point of it all?

Karen Christians

There are quite a few of these renovated factory buildings in the
Northeast that has energized the artist communities. It is
difficult to find space where welding gases are permitted and
zoning allows the artist to work down and dirty. 

Minneapolis/St. Paul has a number of this type of artist
communities. These are a few that I pulled up in a google search.
I’m familiar with the Northrupking community. They host a weekly
Saturday Open House during the holidays, a First Thursday Open
House, Art Attack - November long weekend of open studios and
demonstrations, and Art-A-Whirl - May. long weekend, where most
studios are open and there are demonstrations by some artists. This
community does a good job of marketing the resident artists to the
public. Some of the artists offer classes.

Located in the Northeast Minneapolis Arts District, the Northrup King
Building is home to over 230 tenants, including a creative center to
over 190 artists and various small business and nonprofit
organizations. Here you will find opportunities year round to shop
for art, apparel, furniture, and more. The community is housed in an
old building that was part of the grain and seed company business. In
that general area there are several small galleries.

Check for similar communities in your area.
Pat Gebes


Who says art isn’t important and that artists are frivolous. Such an
encouraging story. Kudos go to all involved.

Ruth Mary

Hello KarenI wonder if you will have problems soldering in that type
of open environment. I have difficulties if a window or the door of
my lab is open.



In all honesty, I haven’t tried it yet. However, there are several
people who do and have not found any obstacles. There is lots of open
space here, and 25,000 feet is a lot of air space. We don’t have gale
force winds blowing through a factory. We have a fresh air system
that gently moves the air around so it doesn’t feel stale.

I personally use an Oki fume filtration system which this list will
undoubtly voice their pros and cons. I find it works well for me as
the system was set up for consistent tin soldering fumes in an
industrial setting. I’m not soldering all day, but just a few times.
I think I will breathe more noxious fumes from riding my bike behind
smelly cars and buses than falling over from bad fumes in soldering.

Karen Christians


Very interesting. The Minneapolis area has always had a reputation
for innovation, especially your marvelous theatre and orchestra.

There are certainly many artist/craftsmen communities across the
country but I find the renovation of urban spaces especially
intriguing. Soho, NYC, started out with loft renovations, then uptown
came down and caused such a rise in prices the artists moved to south
of Soho and now they’re moving to find affordable work space yet
again. Shows you how the buying public will follow the artists.

Ruth- My late father Alan Haemer used to have a studio in an old
factory in SoHo back in the early 1930s. No heat. No running water.
Sure took gentrification a long time to hit there. Only 80 years.

I tell folks that my career as an artist and musician has consisted
of me being kicked out of every perfectly good slum to another in
this city by yuppies with Volvos. I lived without central heat or
running water in my space in an old seed company warehouse and later
a derelict church for 7 years total so that I could save enough money
to buy a house with room for a studio. I also lived in the Art
district in St Paul Minn in an old warehouse. This one was delux.
Heat, running water etc. Many artists lived/worked there and in other
subsidized spaces. It was big fun to have all of that inspiration of
other artists around us in all of the living situations. It’s a good
thing to have the company of other artists.

Have fun and make lots of jewelry.
Jo Haemer

Karen Christians

Would you care to update us on how the experiment is going?