Friday, October 30

Finding Space to Forge In the Winter

Finding Space to Forge (Building a Blacksmithing Business Series)

The next step in the process of setting up Brown County Forge as a business involves the pressing concern of winter in Indiana. Now, it's not Minnesota, but Indiana winters have a numbing brutality all their own.

To avoid these uncomfortable conditions, I started looking for indoor industrial space in the area. Results will vary depending on your location, but I simply typed this into Google:

"light industrial artist space bloomington in"

At the top of the results was Cyclops Studios Artist Rentals on the south side of Bloomington. They appeared to offer multiple studio spaces in a single building. I went ahead and contacted them by email and through their Facebook page

While looking through their Facebook page I came across a post about their plans for the future. These included a large new space on the same property dedicated to metal and woodworking. I immediately commented on the post saying that I was interested. I got a response shortly after that saying they were in the process of making it happen. 

At this point, I was still in Oregon winding down the fire season and getting anxious about starting the business. After a couple of weeks visiting friends in the Northwest I packed up the car and started my trip east. I got back last Thursday (October 22) and called the folks at Cyclops Studios (now Artisan Alley) to set up a time to check out the space. 

I took a look at it on Saturday, saw that it was good, and it was good. I got a broader view of Artisan Alley's vision as well as Burl and Ingot Workshops (the metal and woodworking studios).

I have a few pieces of equipment to gather before moving in, but I should be there by the second week of November. One-on-one classes will start in January 2016.

Here's what renting the space looks like:

The metal shop is one large room broken up into private studio spaces by furniture, equipment, and tape on the floor. The other side is dedicated to a community tool share and workspace. So, a lot of people (potential students, word-of-mouthers) will be coming in and out. 

Since I'm renting a footprint in a larger building rather than an entire building my costs are reduced significantly. For a 12 x 12 space (which is plenty large enough for the forge, workbench, two anvils, and a student or two) I'll pay $0.95 per square foot. That's a monthly bill of about $137. It includes electricity, wifi, and trash removal, but excludes the natural gas I'll be using to run my forge. 

Comparing that with what I was paying in Seattle a few years ago, this is a good deal. At the Pratt Fine Arts Center, I was paying either $30/day for studio time or $210/month. Still very reasonable although, at the time, it was tricky with the cost of living in Seattle. It's quite a bit lower in Southern Indiana.

A question I wrestled with a bit:

How can you run a business called Brown County Forge outside of Brown County? 

It does seem a little odd at first to do the majority of the work outside the county, but the need for adequate heated space trumps the geography. The Forge will eventually be moved to its permanent home in Brown County, but for now it has to be where the facilities are. Thankfully that's not very far away in Bloomington. The additional positive is that I'll be sharing space with artists from the area as well as two other blacksmiths. The creativity will be unstoppable.

Next Steps:

Finding a decent metal workbench is near the top of the list as is moving all of my equipment into the space. After that I'll be working on the social aspect of the business as I finally start creating pieces. Expect lots of pictures, video, and posts on Brown County Forge's Facebook page. Let me know if you have questions in the comments!

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