A Day at the Artisan’s Asylum

Artisan's AsylumPhotos by Adrianne Mathiowetz.

The Artisan’s Asylum is one of the largest makerspaces in the country, and on any given day, you’re bound to run into a slew of local creators—all working on completely different projects. We dropped by one rainy Monday to capture a snapshot of what a typical afternoon in the building might look like.

Artisan's Asylum

Dick Rubinstein specializes in crafting technical theater props, like the model of an early attempt at the computer he is currently working on for the Central Square Theater’s production of “Ada and the Engine.” The storage space and the shared facilities make the Asylum the perfect spot for Rubinstein—when he downsized to a condo, he lost his basement workshop space and needed to find a home for his prop materials. “But the best thing is the people here,” he says.  

Artisan's Asylum

Michael Shonle’s most recent project is the E-corder, an all-electric version of a recorder that lights up and can make a wide range of sounds, like a keyboard. “It’s something I’ve always wanted somebody else to do, and nobody else was doing it,” he says.

Artisan's Asylum

Richard Driver and Michael Beach share a space, and they work together on a lot of three-dimensional printing work at the Asylum. As a result, their space is filled with all kinds of fun objects like this skull. Driver, a physicist, says this is where he goes to have fun: “I’m retired, so I just kind of play here.” Beach is a consulting engineer who spends his time teaching hands-on basic electronics courses with Driver.

Artisan's Asylum

“I’ve been sanding all day,” says Melissa Glick, who is using the woodshop to  make a table for her nephew as a side-project. The lumber came from a local maple tree that was revealed to be sick before it was chopped down, and she says it takes about a year to dry before it becomes workable. Her main endeavor is called Hacker Creations, in which she uses discarded and outdated electronics and computer components to create art.

Artisan's Asylum

SCUL, the “SciFi Bicycle Chopper Gang” previously covered in Scout, was based in various basements before it found its headquarters in the Artisan’s Asylum, SCUL member Stogie says. “It’s super cool because it’s kind of upped our integration into the maker scene, and maybe made us have to look a little more sharp and act a little more pro,” he adds. 

Artisan's Asylum

Known for her geometric furniture design, Irene Ferri is currently taking on a new challenge in collaboration with Jennifer Maestre, who works with wood embedded in resin. Ferri is in the early stages of working with colored pencils embedded in resin to create intricate and colorful designs that fit together like puzzle pieces. She says she’s been allowing their work to take unexpected turns. “We’re trying to create something that’s alive and dynamic that has depth, which is kind of magical and illuminating,” Ferri says. “What we intend is not what we get. We work with happy accidents.” 

Ilana Krepchin, who teaches in addition to creating her jewelry line Sculpture to Wear at the Artisan’s Asylum, makes good use of the heavy machinery available in the space. She is using a post-ARC welding machine, “which is basically just a tiny welding machine,” because it works better with titanium than a traditional jewelry soldering method, she says.

Artisan's Asylum

Not usual residents of the Artisan’s Asylum, the Somerville High School robotics team has landed in the space due to construction at the school. They are in the process of building and preparing their robot for competition season, and will continue to be based out of the Artisan’s Asylum for the rest of the academic year. 

This story appears in the March/April print issue of Scout Somerville, which is available for free at more than 220 drop spots throughout Somerville (and just beyond its borders) or by subscription.

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About the Author

Lilly Milman
Lilly Milman is the managing editor at Scout Magazines. She started as an intern while attending Emerson College in downtown Boston, where she received a B.A. in Writing, Literature and Publishing.

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