Last weekend I was able to go to the Hello Craft Summit of Awesome. And it was... awesome. I only learned of it because a friend who is the director of nearby Fenton Street Market invited me. I'm so glad she did! Now that I've subscribed to Hello Craft I'll be able to invite myself to the next one.
The purpose of the gathering is to share business resources for crafters. Since I'd ventured into shop management in the last year, there was a lot to love about this get together. I have things to tell you about the Summit, but first I want to tell you about where it was held-- at DC's FabLab.
I had never heard of it-- and now I want every "maker" to hear about it. It started at MIT with a professor that thought he might have a few students who would like to study making things, and it's turned into a network of FabLabs around the world. (Here's a Ted Talk about it, though the less scientific part that I can understand starts at about 6 minutes in.) FabLab refers to "fabrication labratory"-- and it just happens to also be fab-ulous. Nerdy serendipity.
FabLab DC is within sight of the US Capital - but they're also found around the world -- including Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, Kansas City, NYC, San Diego and more exotic locales like Ghana and India. The FabLab offers tools that makers can use to start or build businesses, if they're into industry, or just make things for fun. The labs are connected via web conference, so you can see what the other labs around the world are doing-- and since a lot of the machinery is the same, you could ask for a file that another lab is working on and make it simultaneously where you are.
FabLab hosted the Summit of Awesome, so we got a quick tour of what can be done there. They have a vinyl cutter that's the professional version of a Silhouette-- of all of the tools, that's the machine that is most familiar to me.
One of the sample projects on hand was a silkscreen to which they'd applied outdoor vinyl to screen print. Why hadn't I thought of that?
They have a milling machine that cuts three dimensional objects out of wax. In this case, the wax is the dark purple object cut by the machine, the middle tan one is the rubber that was poured into the wax to create a reusable mold, and the white object was cast from the rubber mold. Wanting to make clay jewelry or custom soaps-- or chocolates? With food-grade materials, you could create a business out of that. Anyone can and is welcome to learn to use these machines.
Some FabLabs also have laser cutters. The guy presenting the machine said that you can use them to cut anything that can be burned or melted-- so that would include metal, plastic, paper, wood, leather, glass, fabric.... and he had this sample folder to show the 7,000 ways it can be used.
He demonstrated how this little chair model can be cut in just a minute or two and press-fit together.
The Baltimore FabLab is closer to me than the DC one, and to go in and use the lab all you have to do is take one 3-hour intro course. The intro course and materials require fees, but using the lab is free. I'm working on my pitch to get Jen to come with me for a crafty exploration field trip.
Seeing FabLab was well worth the trip into DC - but there was also the conference I went in for! More on that tomorrow.