It’s not often that you find bicycle builders, sculptors, craft beer brewers, furniture makers and other artisans plying their skills under one roof.
The Foundry bills itself as an artisans’ incubator, learning community and oasis for do-it-yourselfers.
The building at 298 Northampton St. near Jefferson Avenue was once a laundry. The artisans who have set up shop there are raising money in hopes of buying the property.
Sarah Fonzi is a sculptor whose metalwork shop is in The Foundry. She talked with The Buffalo News’ Brian Meyer about efforts to expand the facility. Here is a summary of some issues in an interview that is part of the weekly “In Focus” series. Watch the full interview above.
Meyer: Tell us about how The Foundry began.
Fonzi: The Foundry really started out of necessity. There was a small group of people looking for a space to start their business. They decided to come together to work out of this building here. We started building out walls and inviting other crafts people and artists to join them.
Meyer: Talk about the variety of folks who are here.
Fonzi: A lot of people that are here right now are creating things that are built ... There are also people who are making natural body products, brewing beer, refinishing furniture, woodworkers, metalworkers. I’m a sculptor. We have coffee roasters. We soon will have a paper mill. We have an electronics group, Buffalo Lab. There’s a lot of diversity.
Meyer: A lot of those folks were doing it from their kitchen tables and their basements and their garages.
Fonzi: Yeah, a lot of people had to move out of their previous space because they were driving their family crazy, or they were getting glass dust all over their kitchen. I was working out of a space that I could have potentially burned down. We all needed to move out of our previous spaces and start our business in a more appropriate facility.
Meyer: The Foundry has a D.I.Y component – do it yourself. Tell us about some of the workshops and other hands-on type of things.
Fonzi: There are always classes and workshops available. We invite the community to come in and get your hands dirty and learn a new skill or trade. Rusted Grain (a wood shop) has lots of workshops on the weekends and in the evenings. They have an Adirondack chair workshop coming up. There’s also Azariah’s Innocence that’s doing a (soap and cosmetics) workshop. The beer brewer is going to be doing a workshop. There’s going to be a terrarium-building workshop.
Meyer: One Saturday a month, The Foundry is open to the public.
Fonzi: True. We have an open house (the second Saturday of each month) that has live music, food, dancing, vendors, people doing demonstrations of skills. We have glassblowers, woodworkers and people just hanging out, working on their trade and inviting people to come in and ask them questions.
Meyer: The artisans are paying some type of rent, but does that cover all the costs?
Fonzi: Right now, it is. We’re all kind of working together to make this place work. We were very successful in an Indiegogo campaign, which raised $30,000 (to help) purchase the building and start to build out the rest of the facility. Right now, we’re at about 50 percent occupancy, and we have about another 20,000 square feet of building that needs to be renovated so that more artists and businesses can move in. We have a waiting list. So people are ready and willing to be members of this place. We just need to keep pushing forward.