Columbus Idea Foundry's new space

From the 01/20/2011 edition

"We're still settling in," said Columbus Idea Foundry director Alex Bandar while leading a tour of its new, much larger space just off East Fifth Avenue - but the process doesn't seem to be curbing activity any.

Members were chatting and working on individual projects in what was previously the showroom for an electronics distribution company and is now a gallery. Former office spaces have been repurposed as cubbyholes for computer stations, 3D printing facilities and laser-cutting equipment. Even the kitchen will double as a screen-printing shop.

In the warehouse work area are studios for artists and small businesses like wooden toymaker Little Alouette. One space holds designs and parts for Dieselpunk rockets. Stations for welding, blacksmithing, metal casting and a massive ShopBot router help fill the rest of the space.

Altogether, the place suggests a vibe somewhere between Santa's workshop and Doc Brown's lab in "Back to the Future." The curious can get a taste for themselves at the Idea Foundry's open house party this Saturday.

Bandar, who writes software for the metal industry, started the Idea Foundry in part to have a physical connection to his work. The big-picture goal is to encourage experimentation, collaboration and a blending of artistic and engineering practices, and also to provide access to machinery and expertise that's out of most individuals' reach.

"We've helped make more than we've made ourselves," Bandar said. "We act more as a catalyst."

The open house will include a show of some of the foundry's creations, including Bandar's touch-screen music player in a replica of an Edison phonograph and a Chevy tailgate coffee table by member Allison Meade.

Interactive fabrication demos, food from local restaurants and raffle prizes are also on tap. And the event is an unofficial kick-off for a full suite of public classes starting in February, including metal fabrication and a jewelry workshop led by Diamond Cellar goldsmith Margaret Kennedy.