Artisan’s Asylum is Going International

artisan's asylum

A brand new program from Artisan’s Asylum is connecting Somerville’s maker community with makers in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Last September, local jeweler and Artisan’s Asylum member Karen Christians had the opportunity to visit Thailand for Bangkok Maker Faire. A first-of-its-kind event for the country, the Maker Faire drew in a community of creatives from makerspaces around the world to learn about new techniques and different cultures.

Over the course of the weekend-long event, Christians also heard from numerous people who were fans of Artisan’s Asylum and who were full of questions about the center. Some even told her that they had used Artisan’s Asylum as the model for makerspaces in their own cities and countries.

“She had what seemed like a no-brainer idea: Why aren’t we connecting these international makerspaces? Why aren’t we all working together?” asks Artisan’s Asylum Development Manager Christine Glowacki.

There was no good reason not to—which is why this year, the educational center will debut the Makerspace Cultural Exchange.

makerspace thailand

Makerspace Thailand founder and CEO Nati Sang.

The cultural exchange actually began last month, when Nati Sang, the founder and CEO of Makerspace Thailand, came to Somerville to meet with Artisan’s Asylum members and share his experiences with the maker movement in Thailand. Sang—who has traveled broadly—was able to talk about the way the maker movement is impacting different cultures and creators around the world.

But the program doesn’t end there; in December, one local artisan will travel abroad to complete a month-long residency with Sang at Makerspace Thailand. In the spring, Makerspace Thailand will send one of its members here to Somerville. During their travels, each maker will teach a workshop in their medium and work with members of the host space to create a project of their own—ideally while implementing techniques and raw materials they wouldn’t put to use in their countries of origin.

“Growing up in different cultures, with different mindsets, is definitely going to influence the way that you experience creativity—the way that you express yourself,” Glowacki says. “We’re so privileged in many ways here in the U.S., here in Somerville, to make things the way that we do. But we have as much to learn from others about creativity as they have to learn from us.”

Artisan’s Asylum will select the program’s first participant by the end of August, and they’ll be fundraising to cover the costs—roundtrip airfare, lodging, access to Makerspace Thailand and the price of materials for the project they complete while abroad—with a series of events over the coming months.

If the pilot program is successful, Glowacki would love to take it to other cities—Shanghai, or maybe Tokyo. She explains that there are makerspaces popping up around the world, which means that the possibilities of the program are almost limitless. Eventually, Artisan’s Asylum could be a hub for the international program, a place where there’s a consistent exchange of ideas, techniques and cultures that extends far beyond the limits of Somerville.

“We have a lot to learn from each other, in what we make, in how we make it, in how we learn from our mistakes and how we work together,” Glowacki says.

“On paper, sure, we’re all doing the same thing. But it’s those nuances that make a world.”