Makerspace Provides Home for Doers, Learners

Syracuse New Times

A collaborative space, where creative people could come together and share their expertise

Michael Giannattasio didn’t realize he wanted to create a makerspace.

He knew he wanted to make a collaborative space, where creative people could come together and share their expertise. And he knew he wanted to do it in Syracuse, a city the Californian fell in love with during his time as a graduate student at Syracuse University.

“I really enjoyed with my undergraduate degree spending time in a space that had every tool I needed to make anything I could imagine, and I always wanted to come back to that,” Giannattasio said.

After some investigating, Giannattasio, 31, discovered other makerspaces and realized it was exactly what he wanted to create.

Last month, that dream, which he started working toward in 2012, became a reality. SALT Makerspace (Syracuse Arts Learning & Technology) had its grand opening on Thursday, Sept. 11.

The makerspace, at 110 Wyoming St., is a community access workshop that provides the space, equipment and materials needed for metal work, wood work and 3-D prototyping. Giannattasio wanted the space’s name to draw inspiration from the city’s history, hence the “SALT” acronym.

WATCH the #takeatour video of SALT Makerspace below:

“It’s on your clothes, it’s on your boots, it’s covering your car – it’s part of the being of this city,” he said. “It just kind of made sense.”

The space offers memberships for those who plan to be frequent users, similar to a membership you’d have at a gym, Giannattasio said.

It will host about five workshops each week on topics such as kiln work, welding, 3-D printing, basic woodshop training and jewelry making, among other things. The workshop schedule just went live last week. No experience is required to participate in a workshop.

At the beginning of this year, Giannattasio made getting the space up and running his full-time job. It’s all on a volunteer basis, too. Giannattasio estimates he’s put in at least $20,000 at this point.

Though it was scary at first to leave his steady income behind and put so much of himself into the makerspace, Giannattasio says it’s something he truly believes in.

“I really think that this is something that’s going to really revolutionize and give people the opportunity to expand their skill set and connect with people that they wouldn’t have met or been able to collaborate with in any other terms,” he said.

Giannattasio hasn’t had much of a chance to do much creating at his makerspace. He’s messed around with a few of the 3-D printers, but not much beyond that.

“If I’ve made anything, it’s the makerspace,” he said. “This is my ultimate creation.”

SALT Makerspace

SALT Makerspace.
Photo by Ty Marshal

The makerspace started offering memberships in August. There are nine members. Giannattasio said he’s hoping for at least 30, as that would make the space self-sustaining. More than 30, and he may even get a paycheck, he said, laughing.

One of these members is Tony Russo, 55. With an engineer for a mother, it wasn’t surprising that Russo took an interest in making things work at a young age. He took apart his first telephone when he was about 3 years old.

But today, there aren’t as many kids like Russo, who lives in Fairmount. He says we’ve evolved into a “service economy,” in which people simply call a repairman whenever something is broken.

The makerspace will show people they don’t always need a repairman. To him, Russo said, the makerspace is meant to show members of the community they can make things, whether that’s art or home repairs.

“It’s pretty much the sky’s the limit,” he said.

Steve Gulick, 65, has been waiting for Syracuse to get a makerspace of its own. He had come across them in places like Nairobi and Nepal, but never Syracuse – until a recent Google search led him to the SALT Makerspace.

The Syracuse resident has been working with 3-D printers and laser cutters at the makerspace to develop enclosures for anti-poaching cameras that will be used in national parks and other protected areas. The equipment needed for projects like Gulick’s is expensive and constantly evolving. It doesn’t make sense, and often isn’t feasible, for an individual to purchase it themselves. The makerspace provides access to the equipment Gulick and others need, almost as if they’re renting it, he said.

But the space provides more than just the equipment. It also provides a community.

“It’s more than the access to the materials,” Gulick said. “It’s access to people who are also interested in making things themselves.”

F. Page Steinhardt, 48, will be making jewelry at the makerspace. He’s been doing it since he was a kid; he had his first apprenticeship at 10 years old. The Syracuse resident makes also makes knives and fencing swords.

The makerspace provides Steinhardt and others a place to harness their creative energy. Steinhardt compared the feeling you get in a makerspace surrounded with like-minded creative people to the feeling musicians get when they perform together on stage.

Steinhardt plans to teach workshops there about basic metalsmithing and, at some point, advanced jewelry construction. It’s important, Steinhardt said, to make sure the skills he and other craftsmen have are passed along to the “video game generation.” The makerspace will make that possible.

“Old guys like me can pass on what we know before we die with it,” he said.

There’s a phrase Steinhardt lives by that is also at the core of the SALT Makerspace: “Without craftsmanship, there is no art – only a sad suggestion of what might have been.”

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