Our History

From Artisan's Asylum

Jump to: navigation, search

Artisan’s Asylum came into existence in early 2010 as the brainchild of Gui Cavalcanti, robotics engineer, and Jenn Martinez, costume designer. Having been accustomed to having access to shops at Olin & MIT, their respective alma maters, and using them prodigiously for projects and hijinks as much as for their coursework, Gui and Jenn were disappointed by how little making they and their friends did in their free time once they graduated.

So Gui and Jenn found a 1,000 square foot industrial space they could afford on their salaries at 560 Windsor St in Somerville (the Taza Chocolate Factory building), and managed to beg and borrow $40,000 for tools (a mill, a lathe, a drill press, a cutoff saw, a bench grinder, a tablesaw, some additional basic woodworking tools, and 3 sewing machines).

At that point, they invited everyone in their extended network to come and check it out and get involved, expecting maybe a couple dozen people to show up and a handful to be interested.

100 people showed up for that first meeting. They couldn’t all fit in the room. Read more about the beginnings from Gui himself here

From that moment onward, Artisan’s Asylum belonged to those who showed up. The organization has been driven and shaped throughout its history by those members of the community of those who cared to participate -- as it continues to be.

The Artisan’s Asylum has grown into a 40,000 square foot community workshop. Working with little to no startup capital, the fast-growing non-profit organization made some innovative business and organizational choices early on which allowed it to create so much with so little:

  • Leasing equipment from members in exchange for membership benefits allowed the Asylum to expand its shop capabilities quickly at little added cost.
  • Offering instructors a high percentage of class revenue attracted teachers and motivated them to participate heavily in the marketing of the programs.
  • Combining studio rental offerings with shop space -- merging the co-working/artist studio model with the standard makerspace model --dramatically increased the value of the studios and the accessibility of the shops.
  • Encouraging members of the community to take ownership of crafting the identity of the organization and filling many of the management and maintenance responsibilities led to a highly engaged membership and allowed the organization to survive its first few years with minimal paid staff.
  • Keeping most shop and studios walls low and providing tools for open community discussion encouraged cross-pollination, mutual inspiration, and relationship-building among members, which has helped create the rich interchange of resources and opportunities which attracts the majority of our members.

In its history, Artisan’s Asylum has seen:

  • 450+ classes, serving 5,000+ unique students
  • 7,500+ people on our announcements mailing list
  • 2,000+ on our Facebook Group
  • 330+ volunteers and 180+ instructors
  • 14,000+ hours of volunteer service
  • $5 million in Kickstarter funding to member projects
  • $4 million in venture capital to member companies
Personal tools
Wiki Maintenance