MAKEatx interview

Kristen and Eve of MAKEatx recently opened the doors to their member-based art workshop in the Pump Project Satellite in East Austin currently with an emphasis on laser-cutting which they offer classes for weekly. They answered a few questions for Women & Their Work about how the project began, their plans to expand and their place in the growing arts and crafts movement in Austin –

Can you give us a little background behind the project? And how long did it take you to turn your dream of a community workshop into a reality (and if possible, what was the process like)? 

kristen and i originally met back in 2003, when working together as architectural historians. kristen decided to study architecture in grad school and moved away, interning one summer at the firm i was working as an architect at the time. when kristen graduated, she contacted me to see if i knew of any architectural leads in austin — this was shortly after the economy had plummeted, and i knew of a lot more unemployed architects than entry level positions. kristen really wanted to return to austin, so we started scheming to see if we could think up any creative job opportunities for ourselves.

kristen had been introduced to laser cutting through architecture school, and i was aware of the technology, but hadn’t used it first-hand. we thought getting a laser cutter might be an interesting way to explore different creative avenues and do design prototyping quickly and efficiently. the idea grew from us producing our own designs into a collective workshop — one in which we share the technology with others and offer a collaborative, supportive setting for people to pursue their diverse design and fabrication interests.

we started dreaming up the idea last spring (2010). kristen relocated to austin in august 2010. we got the business registered with the state, and started producing a line of laser cut stationary that we debuted at the east austin studio tour last year — which was fairly popular. we then participated in the blue genie arts bazaar. we decided to launch a kickstarter campaign in january 2011, which provided the funding we needed to put the downpayment on a laser cutter of our very own. in addition to the funding we received, kickstarter proved to be an important part of our grassroots marketing campaign — a number of individuals and organizations reached out to us after finding us on kickstarter. we’ve continued to expand our product line and have participated in a number of craft shows to help get the word out about what we’re up to!

when in need of a space earlier this year, we reached out to the east austin studio tour listserv to see if anyone had spaces available for lease and found our current space. we did some renovations before moving in, which proved to be challenging but rewarding!

Now that you have the MAKEatx studio officially set-up and have your own equipment (and no longer have to outsource production), do you feel you have more of a sense of freedom with your personal work and collaborations? 

absolutely! at first we outsourced the laser cutting to a great local trophy shop — while we appreciated all of their hard work and attention to detail, we felt somewhat limited in our inability to access, experiment with and prototype on the laser cutter ourselves. then we got memberships at a large workshop in california — kristen spent about a month there doing a lot of prototyping work — it was great to have that production capability, but tough to work long distance. now that we have our own lovely laser cutter (patty princess of power), we can design and prototype much more easily — that new piece is just a few mouse clicks away! and having a nice workshop and ample workspace makes collaborations a lot easier.

For your collaborative MAKEatx work, do you see your projects staying within the realm of “craft” or venturing into fine arts? How does your background in architecture play into your work? 

to date, the majority of our work probably falls into the ‘craft’ category, with a few forays into fine art.

our design sensibilities were certainly influenced by our backgrounds in architecture — and our interest in pursuing larger-scaled projects (branching into furniture design and interior architecture installations as we acquire new tools and expand the workshop). after renovating the workshop space, we have a strong desire to tackle some design-build projects!

What are your thoughts about MAKEatx workshop’s place within the blow-up of the craft movement in Austin and in general (Etsy, etc…)? Do you see it as a part of the “trendy” craft movement or something beyond that? 

as two people who love to get involved with hands-on projects, we are certainly excited by the resurgence of the craft movement in recent years. we participated in an etsy pop-up at west elm earlier this year, along with the renegade craft fair, and both of those events offered us the opportunity to meet other like-minded folks.

we think that the variety of members we attract makes the MAKEatx workshop a unique and special place — one that we certainly hope transcends the ‘trendy’ craft movement. we have members with many different professional backgrounds, from fine arts, to graphic design, to architecture, to engineering, to business and law — each of whom brings a different perspective and design ideas–and we love cultivating this more the merrier attitude!

You can out more about MAKEatx’s class schedule and location at their website, http://makeatx.com/. All images from their website.

– Caroline Knowles
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About Women and Their Work Gallery

Known for its pioneering spirit, embrace of artistic innovation, and commitment to Texas audiences and artists, Women & Their Work Art Space is a one of a kind statewide non-profit organization. Voted “Best Gallery” numerous times in the Austin Chronicle Readers Poll, Women & Their Work Gallery showcases exhibitions of contemporary art throughout the year and presents performances, readings, film screenings and educational outreach programs.
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