Monday, July 19, 2010

From Here to There

This is most of a letter I wrote to accompany a letter of support from MIT, asking for assistance to attend the Fab Academy graduation in Amsterdam!

In the summer of 2009 I was very fortunately awarded the Fellowship of Craft by the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts. That September, while teaching at the Rhode Island Maker Faire at Slater Mills, I was invited to participate in the Fab Academy, the pilot year of a program in digital fabrication. I decided to invest my fellowship money in furthering my education, and I enrolled as one of half a dozen people in America who participated as students in this exciting and prestigious new program.

Though classes were held at AS220's new Fab Lab in Providence, the program was taught through the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Barcelona, via international video conferences. This communication technology connected us, not only to MIT and Barcelona, but also to the other Fab Academies in Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland; Pune, India; Capetown, South Africa; Amsterdam & Gronigen, Holland; Nairobi, Kenya; and Bermeo, Spain.

Nearly fifty Fab Labs, or digital fabrication laboratories, have been created in sixteen different countries around the world. A Fab Lab consists of a suite of tools for digital fabrication, including a laser cutter, vinyl cutter, CNC router, 3D scanner, 3D printer, and a variety of other tools. These resources enable people to make almost anything, and can help everyone to better meet the needs of their community via rapid prototyping and digital design solutions. At the Fab Lab in Jalalabad, Afghanistan lab users designed and fabricated their own long- range wireless antennas to bring internet reception to their community. These receivers were built from plywood and chicken wire.

In our Providence and Rhode Island communities, I see a need for employment. Using the skills that I have learned in the Fab Academy, I hope to create jobs by building a lasercutter and starting a laser- cut textile business. In this endeavor I will unite these new digital techniques with my extensive knowledge of traditional craft practices. I'm currently researching different types of home-built lasercutters, and writing a business plan.

This August, the first class of the Fab Academy will graduate in Amsterdam at the 6th annual FAB conference. I look hopefully forward to attending this event and to learning, teaching, and continuing to work in new ways in the future.

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