Alive & Unedited: Alex Bandar

  • Jodi Miller photo
From the 12/09/2009 edition
Tucked deep within the galaxy of warehouses that dots the East Side is a most peculiar place. It's filled with hand tools and giant machines, welding sparks and the smell of fresh lumber. It's called the Columbus Idea Foundry, and you're invited to come there and fashion your ideas from scratch. Co-founder Alex Bandar shared more about his wonderful little workshop.


I came to Columbus for my job. I had four offers - one in Japan, one in D.C., one in Columbus, Mississippi, and one in Columbus, Ohio. This was the perfect compromise. As a kind of liberal East Coast type, I never thought I would be this far west, but I'm very happy that I am.

During the day, I write software for the metal-forming industry. I predict the properties of metal based on how it's been formed. It's mostly for aviation, airplane engines, stuff like that. My job satisfies the part of my head that wants to do something productive for other people. What I don't get is a hands-on component.

Three things I can't live without are the internet, DVDs of cartoons to lullaby me to sleep, and a workshop or a set of tools to play around with.

I'm not much of a materialist. The past year has been an exercise in streamlining my personal life. I'm actually trying to get rid of most of my possessions that can't be used to make other possessions.

My sister is a metalsmith, sculptor and art teacher up in Vermont. Even though I had taken welding theory classes in grad school, she's the one who taught me how to strike an arc and make something. Learning to be much more hands-on - and actually hold something I've made - led me to want to find a place where I could do that here.

At the Columbus Idea Foundry, people can take a class or they can come in and pay for a monthly membership. We've offered welding classes, blacksmithing classes, jewelry-making classes. It might be a three- or four-hour class for $50 or $60. Or you can plop down about $100 a month and use the shop like it's yours.

Our mission here is threefold. First would be education, to teach technology with a hands-on and creative bent. Second would be providing a community resource, so people don't need to drop $10K on their own workshop. Third would be community, to congregate with other creative folks.

We're interested in anyone who wants to learn something new. There's no motivator like a person's passion.

I haven't relaxed for several years. "To have a life" has been at the top of my to-do list for a couple years now. I often have conversations with myself in a hospital bed far in the future. I'm trying to make sure he doesn't give me too rough a lecture for sitting on my butt for too long.

I hope my tombstone reads: "Presumed devoured by mysterious sea creature."

Know someone doing cool things around Columbus? E-mail John Ross at