Forging their own path: The Curious Forge makerspace adds fiber arts area, new manager | TheUnion.com

Forging their own path: The Curious Forge makerspace adds fiber arts area, new manager

Lorraine Jewett
Special to The Union

KNOW & GO

WHAT: Fiber Arts Open House

WHEN: 3 to 5 p.m. Feb. 2

WHERE: The Curious Forge, 13024 Bitney Springs Road, Nevada City

INFO: 530-446-2777 or TheCuriousForge.org

Western Nevada County’s unique and eclectic makerspace, The Curious Forge, is about to become even more diverse with the addition of a fiber arts area and a new instructor/manager.

“It’s a new area with great donated equipment,” said Fiber Arts Area Manager Leslie Whitcomb.

Whitcomb will start offering fiber arts classes at the forge within two months. She will also host a fiber arts open house from 3 to 5 p.m. on Feb. 2.

A makerspace is a place where people with similar interests gather to work on projects while sharing ideas, equipment and knowledge.

Since The Curious Forge opened in 2011, it has outgrown its space twice as membership and artistic opportunities increased and more equipment was added. It’s now housed in a 20,000-square foot facility on Bitney Springs Road in Nevada City, and boasts a wide variety of equipment.

The space is separated into various areas of interest, and the new fiber arts area joins disciplines such as metalworking, electronics, textiles, woodworking, ceramics, computer numerical control equipment, glass fusing, jewelry making and mixed media.

“It’s a way to put the power of being a maker in your hands,” said Whitcomb. “You’re not a consumer, you’re a creator.”

Whitcomb’s fiber arts classes will begin at the end of February. One series of two-hour classes held over four weeks will be geared toward beginners. The other series, called an “immersion class,” will target more experienced fiber artists. Each series will cost $125.

GETTING TO KNOW YOU

Until those classes launch, anyone can go to the forge and explore membership options or complete certification training on various equipment.

“I spend an hour with them and show them the equipment available,” Whitcomb said. “If the person is a rank beginner, I teach them how to get started. If it’s someone with experience, we offer access to more advanced equipment or perhaps I mentor them in planning a project.”

Equipment currently in the fiber arts area includes a variety of knitting needles, three spinning wheels, eight looms and dyeing equipment.

Whitcomb knows fibers, especially wool. She operated a sheep farm in Massachusetts for 20 years, networking with other sheep and alpaca producers and designing specialty yarns. She created and sold custom, hand-woven products for the home, such as table runners, rugs and pillow cases.

She and her family moved to Nevada County seven years ago. Recently retired from a job as a Child Development Specialist, the 60-year-old said she is eager to continue to use her teaching skills in a fresh, entrepreneurial and creative way.

“The forge is a great community resource and network,” said Whitcomb. “There are retired people, young moms, students. It’s a great way to interact and get to know each other. It’s fun, soothing, and relaxing. I love, love the fiber arts but I also love watching people come in and become part of an active, creative community.”

Forge member and volunteer Carla Mira looks forward to adding fiber arts to the painting, crafts and ceramic art she already enjoys.

“I think a lot of people are excited about the fiber arts area,” said Mira. “Knitting and fiber arts are something you need to learn hands-on, one-on-one with someone. Leslie is knowledgeable and a patient teacher. There is going to be a lot of interest, especially in this area where a lot of people like to wear natural fibers.”

The Curious Forge is open to its 146 members from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week. Memberships range from $75 to $125 per month. Non-members can take classes or attend workshops but don’t have unlimited access to the makerspace and its equipment.

CEO and co-founder Liam Ellerby said the new fiber arts area is a natural fit.

“We want to have as many opportunities for the community as possible,” said Ellerby. “The forte of a makerspace is the cross-pollination of different media, processes, disciplines and techniques. Artists explore the intersection of traditionally separate disciplines. For example, I am a metal artist. I took a weaving class, and now I weave metal in my art.”

For information about the new fiber arts area and classes, workshops, or membership, visit TheCuriousForge.org or call 530-446-2777.

Lorraine Jewett is a freelance writer who lives in Nevada County. She can be reached at LorraineJewettWrites@gmail.com.


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