The beginning of the end…

Before I get into this, I want to take a moment to thank everyone for their help along the way with the starting, running and now ending of the Philadelphia Sculpture Gym. I have learned so much throughout the process and have met so many amazing people because of this space. I truly could not have done it alone and every single little bit helped this idea along, from the biggest acts of kindness and support, down to the smallest ones. So thank you, from the bottom of my heart for all of it. And in order to properly talk about the end, I feel like I need to start at the beginning…

In 2010, Kara (aka the PSG Fairy Godmother) told me I should apply for a Knight Arts Challenge Grant, which consisted of coming up with an amazing idea for the arts in Philadelphia, in 160 words or less. So I, an artist with a nearly one year old baby, applied with the idea of the Philadelphia Sculpture Gym, a membership based sculpture studio that would run classes and show sculpture in its gallery, “helping the artists of Philadelphia get their art made and out into the world… without chopping off their fingers or catching on fire.” Yes. I wrote that. At the end of 2010, despite my eloquent and, ahem, straightforward writing style, I found out I was one of 63 finalists. While answering the required second round questions, I assumed I was up against a bunch of people like myself… individual artists with ideas they thought would be exciting to see come to realization, talking about people not catching on fire in their grant applications. It wasn’t until after those answers were sent in that the full list of semi finalists was released…and included big name arts organizations like the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Barnes Foundation… So, naturally I panicked and assumed I wouldn’t win.

AND THEN I WON.  I was one of 36 winners among a group of organizations I respect and admire. So, naturally I panicked and assumed I would fail. I mean, look at the photo I sent them when they asked for photos for the press…me and a shark in birthday hats. Birthday hats! Obviously I was not cut out for running a business based on this photo alone.

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Not to mention that I didn’t know how to run a business or raise money or be a boss or talk to lawyers or accountants or any or those things one thinks of when someone says “I have my own business.” And did I mention that I had a small child? Yep. Perfect recipe for complete and total failure. But what I did not consider are the following two points: 1. That being stubborn will get you very far. and 2. That there are so many people who want to see you succeed. People who don’t know you. People who have never met and maybe never will meet you. In addition to all the people who already know and love you, there are so many amazingly good people out there who want to help. And if it were not for these two things, my stubbornness and amazing people, I probably would have failed.
So instead of failing, I started to raise money to match the funds from the Knight Foundation, because that was a requirement of the grant. I had chosen $20,000 solely because I thought I could probably raise that much. I figured I knew at least 2,000 people who would want to give me $10 for what I thought was a cool idea. So T-shirts and mugs and tote bags were made and tables were set up at various events and there I was talking about this thing that didn’t really exist yet. AND PEOPLE THOUGHT IT WAS A GOOD IDEA. Between all these events PSG had raised over $2,000 in individual donations, which was amazing to me, because it still really was just an idea.

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So next we did a Kickstarter. (Naturally I took it very seriously and wore cat ears in the video.) And it was a hellish month because I worried the whole way through, but we hit our goal with 3 days left and in the end raised over $10,000. And then (!) someone called me out of the clear blue sky and said they would like to anonymously donate $10,000. I nearly died. It floored me to have people I knew supporting a space that didn’t exist yet, but perfect strangers? Madness. It made me believe in this crazy idea even more than I already had.
Now at this point funds were matched (in less than a year I might add) so the next step was to find a building. We looked at practically every warehouse building that had a roof (and some that didn’t) in Fishtown and beyond. Some were amazing but out of the budgeted price range. Some were in the price range but missing key elements, like big doors, concrete floors, a roof, etc. Some were perfect but just not somewhere people wanted to be late at night. And then at the end of 2011, 1834 Frankford came along…and I fell in love. Mind you it was a shit hole. Literally, as in there was dog poop and car parts everywhere. But I knew right away THIS WAS IT. So naturally everyone thought I was crazy but I persisted (have I mentioned being stubborn?) and after ALOT of help on the (scarily long term) lease from a PVLA appointed lawyer, in March of 2012 this building became PSG’s future home. So let’s just take a moment to look over what I first saw upon entering this space:
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Needless to say we had our work cut out for us. So I put out a call for volunteers on the blog I’d been keeping and people showed up to help. Every. Single. Weekend. And again, I was floored because no one had to be there. They just showed up. And most of them kept coming back. For a year and a half while we put up walls and plumbing and electrical and cleaned and swept and built things and rebuilt other things. For a year and a half. While we all waited for giant walls and a new electrical service, they came back, fed only on pizza, beer and the prospect of this place that we were building together.
So by June 28th, 2013, within a week of PECO finally connecting the new service, we opened with a great party and 50 (!) Charter Members. Our Charter Members are members who had signed up before we opened, some even before we had a location. Volunteers turned into monitors and we kept the shop going for memberships and classes and events. And like any business, we’ve had ups and downs, or “growing pains” as I’ve heard it referred to as, over the last almost 3 years that we’ve been open. I have certainly wanted to quit multiple times, but pushed through (ahem, stubborn) and kept going thanks to the kind words and support from everyone around me. And our membership continued and while people have come and go, a core group of people remained that feels like a weird little PSG family. Our classes continued to grow and we’ve taught hundreds of people how to weld, forge and more. Our gallery has consistently shown sculptors who are focused on creating beautiful, meaningful work throughout almost 50 exhibitions over the last 4 years. We have participated in tons of events with organizations like the Barnes Foundation, Fresh Artists, Art Star, Indy Hall, Ignite Philly, Philly Fixers Guild, Philly Give & Get, Here’s My Chance, CFEVA, PVLA, NKCDC and so many more.  So many amazing accomplishments… And I love you all for supporting this space and being a part of it in whichever way you have been able.  You all made it possible in some way, through monitoring, volunteering, lending or donating tools, time and money, being a member, teaching classes, taking classes, telling friends to take classes, buying a t-shirt, sharing information, providing grants, fiscal sponsorships, official business advice, unofficial business advice, words of kindness, encouragement, opportunities, showing artwork here, buying artwork here, building something out of nothing over and over again… Every little bit helped this place be what it was, so thank you from the bottom of my heart. We did damn well for a scrappy bunch of artists.
Unfortunately, the era of PSG is coming to an end as our building has been sold. I fought for it and  looked into relocating, but in the end, the reality of moving into a newer, more expensive space or starting from scratch in another old warehouse was not feasible. After taking a good long look at what I’ve done and what I want to do, I’ve decided to take some time to focus on myself, to make art, and spend more time with my daughter, who doesn’t know what life is like without this place. So, while on some level it kills me to do so, I have made the choice that I believe to be best for my little family.
Moving forward, we will end membership access as of April 30th. We will run classes scheduled for the month of May. We will sell off equipment and materials throughout May and early June, unless someone fancies themselves an entrepreneur and wants to buy the Sculpture Gym to open it up somewhere else, which would make a lot of people very happy to see it continue.  I’m also in the process of researching suitable studio options and/or makerspaces for our remaining members. If you have or know of a space I can tell them about, please let me know via email. I am here to talk if anyone would like to. So far the support from those who I’ve told about this has been overwhelming.
We will celebrate together at the opening reception of process: CASTING IV on Friday, May 6th from 6-9pm and I would love for all of you to join us.
Thank you again for the support you have shown throughout. It truly means the world to me.
Darla

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Coldhearted V December 4 + 5: Apply now!

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We are currently looking for vendors for Coldhearted V! We’re looking for a wide variety of artists, collectives, craftspeople and small businesses that are creating high quality, affordable items, including (but certainly not limited to): art of all kinds, handmade goods like bags, jewelry, housewares, etc, food items (we love food), plant items such as terrariums or flower arrangements, fabulously curated vintage selections, clothes, local businesses promoting appropriate services (massages, acupuncture, tattoos, etc..) and more…  Unconventional is good. We like unconventional.

For more info or to apply go HERE

Love + Handmade

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Making something for your Valentine this year? Ever receive an awesome handmade gift? Nothing says I love you or that you care like a gift that someone took the time to make by hand. Have an awesome handmade gift that you’ve given or received? We’d love to see it! Share it with us! Post your image and tag it with #psghandmadefav and tag us @sculpturegym ! We’ll share our favorites on Valentine’s day!

Guest post by PSG Member/Monitor Seren Akcay

Philly Fixers Guild

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Have you guys heard about the Philly Fixers Guild yet? I met Ben and Holly when they approached me about a location for their first ‘Repair Fair’ and I have been big fans of what they are doing ever since!

About the Philly Fixers Guild (from phillyfixersguild.org)

The Philly Fixers Guild was started in early 2014 by Ben Davis and Holly Logan who both participate in the “Sustainable 19125/19134″ program in Philadelphia’s Fishtown neighborhood. Our guild is an independent collective of talented volunteers from differing technical backgrounds who are committed to the idea of “repair rather than replace.”

In many instances guild members will not just simply fix items for people, but should work with them to teach the troubleshooting and repair process. Ultimately, our community will benefit from less waste and improved economic conservation.

The Philly Fixers Guild is certainly not the first organization of its kind. Many other cities: Seattle, Boston, New York, San Francisco, to name a few, have had programs similar to this for some time. Philadelphia’s own Time4Time community time bank runs a periodic Repair Cafe in Chestnut Hill.  One concept that all these groups share is that the disposable “planned obsolescence” consumer culture we live with today isn’t always beneficial to the environment or people’s bank accounts.

We aim to support our community and city through periodic “Repair Fair” events where we can offer no-cost repair labor, knowledge, and education to all.

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Check out a Repair Fair or if you think of yourself as a fix-it type of person, sign up as a fixer!

Middle Fork by John Grade

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I saw this crazy piece by Sculptor John Grade on Colossal today and wanted to share it.

From Colossal:

Recently unveiled at the MadArt space in Seattle, Middle Fork is the lastest sculptural work by artist John Grade who worked with countless volunteers to realize this enormous scale mold of a 140-year-old tree.

The process began a year ago when Grade and a crew of assistants scaled a Western Hemlock tree in North Bend, Washington with help of a team of arborists. At nearly 90 feet in the air they created sectional plaster molds of the living tree which were carefully lowered and transported back to the MadArt space over a period of two weeks. Over the next 12 months, hundreds of volunteers (some who walked in right off the streets) helped to create a hollow sculpture of the tree using hundreds of thousands of small wood blocks. The final piece was carefully sanded down and is now suspended in the gallery. Watch the video below to see how it all came together.

Middle Fork is the first exhibition at the new MadArt space in Seattle and will be on view through April 25th before it goes on tour to galleries and art fairs around the U.S. In two years the pieces will be transported to the base of the living tree from which the mold was taken where they will decay and disintegrate back into the ground.

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Images by John Grade from HERE

Shop shifters

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If you come into to PSG this week you may notice that our jewelry studio seems to have disappeared…! Not to worry jewelers, we carved you out a beautiful new dedicated space that I think you will love! AND as a result, we were able to enlarge the wood shop space. Just in time too as the wood shop has been getting some heavy use lately!

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We moved the jewelry studio to a cleaner and quieter location in the back (rather than having it right between the wood and metal shops!) All 8 work bench stations are accessible and we’ll be making some improvements to the process stations as well, including a larger soldering area, a better casting set up and more! A big thanks to Gus for all his hard work on this and to Phil and Jeff for helping to move everything over!

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Maker Monday Specials

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Maker Monday specials! The 4 special offers below are available for purchase today only. 4 more great gifts for the artists or makers in your life!

I. $250 Gift Certificate for $200 (Savings of $50)

A $250 gift certificate for $200. Can be used towards membership, classes and more.

II. $125 Gift Certificate for $100 (Savings of $25)

A $125 gift certificate for $100. Can be used towards membership, classes and more.

III.  One on One with Day Pass and Safety Training $75 (Savings of $50)

Perfect gift bundle for the maker in your life. Includes a 1 hour One on One session, a Day Pass and a Safety Training Session.

IV. Double the Fun $200 (Savings of $50)

A 3 hour mini welding session for 2 where you will both learn the basics of MIG and TIG welding.

Your support of this local small business makes a big difference this holiday season! Any questions, please email Darla at philadelphiasculpturegym@gmail.com.

Small Business Saturday Specials!

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PSG Small Business Saturday Specials are here! The 4 special offers below are available for purchase today. Great gifts for the artists or makers in your life! All specials include a free Safety Training ($50 value)

THE SUPPORTER $50/month (Savings of $70)

Want to support PSG and get a few days in the space at the same time? Then the Supporter Membership is for you. Membership fees are $50/month and includes 2 days in the space per month, Tues – Sun.

THE COMMITMENT $600/6 months (Savings of $350)

Want to make things…a lot of things? Then the Commitment Membership is for you. 6 months of a Full Time Membership for $600 (Normally $900) Membership includes unlimited time in the space, Tues – Sun.

THE 5 DAY PASS $125 (Savings of $100)

Want some days to get in here and work on a project? Then the 5 Day Pass is for you. The 5 day passes can be used Tues – Sun, and are offered at a discount (Normally $175…a $50 savings)

THE 10 DAY PASS $225 (Savings of $175)

Want more days to get in here and work on a project? Then the 10 Day Pass is for you. The 10 day passes can be used Tues – Sun, and are offered at a discount (Normally $350…a $125 savings)

Thanks for supporting a local small business this holiday season! Any questions, please email Darla at philadelphiasculpturegym@gmail.com.

Forgetting Black Fridays

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Hope everyone had an wonderful Thanksgiving! I was happy to spend a restful day with family and it just reminded me of how lucky I am to have so many people that understand and support me in this world. And I feel lucky to also have so many people that I can do the same for when they need me. And then there’s today…Black Friday. I feel like as a maker/sculptor/artist I especially try to shop locally and support local artists. Last year Olivia got a handmade concrete planter that Seren Akcay made (with a jade plant in it), a film can banjo made by John Shoemaker, Christmas ornaments made by Laura Conklin, and some little things for her stocking. She was super excited and loved all of it AND it was meaningful to her (and me) that people she knows made those things. This is why I choose to not participate in Black Friday, but instead focus on Small Business Saturday and Maker Monday, because those are days I can stand behind. There are so many amazing creatives in Philadelphia that are making wonderful and beautiful things, that its easy to shop local. AND a week from today, we’ll have Coldhearted IV here at the Philadelphia Sculpture Gym, an art/handmade holiday sale featuring 20 vendors, which I’m super excited about! See the flyer below for more info. And definitely check back tomorrow for some Small Business Saturday specials! Thank you for supporting this small business. Buying a t-shirt or a gift certificate, or signing up for a class may not feel like a lot, but to us it definitely is, so thank you!

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Volunteer Night: Thursday, December 4th

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Want to help out at PSG, but don’t know how? Time is limited? Be a part of our volunteer crew! Sometimes when we need to prep for a big event, or are adding integral changes to the space, we could use your help! No experience is necessary, and if you’ve been here 100 times, or none at all, this is a great chance to come and be more involved with PSG!

We have an upcoming volunteer event on Thursday, December 4th from 6-10pm!
We will be doing sorting and organizing (a large donation of materials came in and we need to go through it all!), cleaning, hanging holiday lights, and possibly painting! Come in, meet some other members, and help us get the shop all squeaky clean for Coldhearted IV (happening on December 5th + 6th!

Even if you can only make it for a part of the time, but still want to help, let us know! We need all the help we can get! Can’t make it to this event, but still interested in co lunteering? Let us know, and we’ll keep you in the loop for our other events!

Email us at philadelphiasculpturegym@gmail.com to tell us you’ll be there!

The Insider’s Guide to New Classes: Forging Edition

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So you’ve been dying to hit stuff with hammers, wanting to learn new things, and as a added bonus, you’d like to end up with some items that would be awesome holiday gifts, huh? And now you’ve found the Philadelphia Sculpture Gym, where we have forges and hammers and anvils (oh my!) and some classes to teach you how to use these things. Now which of these classes to take to get the most bang for your buck…

Looking to make a small handmade gift quickly? Then our Forging I class would be a great fit. In this 2 hour class you will learn how to make a steel hook. It’s perfect for beginners and you walk out with something you can hang your hat on.

More interested in badass bling? Then the Bracelet Workshop is for you. In this 3 hour class you will learn how to make a steel bracelet. Nothing says love like making something for someone with a hammer and some fire. Great for beginners but also works for more experienced blacksmiths who want to get a little fancy.

Got beer? Then the Bottle Opener Workshop is what you’re looking for. In this 3 hour class you will make a steel bottle opener. We make sure to test them before class is over so you can be assured that it will work next time you need a cold one. This class works for beginners and more experienced blacksmiths.

Already know what you’re doing but not ready to forge it on your own? Then look no further than Forging II, a 6 hour intensive, where the basics are revisited but students are encouraged to kick it up a notch and make their own projects. An instructor will be there to help with questions and projects.

Instructor? You don’t need no stinking Instructor!  Just want some time and a place to mke stuff on your own? Well then come down for a Day Pass any Saturday from 11am-9pm where for $35 you can have access to the space for the day, and for $5/hour you can have access to the forge. Just make sure you’ve had a safety training first!

Don’t want any part of making, but know someone who would? That’s ok. We have gift certificates in any amount. Contact us at 215-901-1933 or by email at philadelphiasculpturegym@gmail.com to order one!