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The Curious Forge — A Reason for Being

Ikigai is the Japanese word for a concept that can best be expressed as “just what gives one his or her reason for being.” It could be a child or a hobby, but some would contend that it is, at its finest, the blending of an individual’s passion with the person’s skillset and vocation — more so, when this fulfills a larger purpose for the benefit of humanity.
This is the word that most aptly describes the impetus behind the local “makerspace” better known as The Curious Forge.
Step into The Curious Forge and you, at once, step into a fascinating world of creative ingenuity. Tools and raw working materials are seen in every direction, while the hands of creators breathe life into their musings. There are sewing machines, knitting machines, looms and tools for leather-working, all just waiting to be put to task.
Shelves upon shelves of multi-media materials and accessories beg to be incorporated into something new and exciting, while multiple 3-D printers lend themselves to those that have taken their artistic bent to the cutting edge of technology.
It is far more than an eclectic gathering of artists, tinkerers and weavers of dreams. It is its own living entity, formed of the members, students and volunteers that make up a multi-generational, inter-racial, gender-balanced, multi-faceted community. There are woodworkers and welders, as well as those that work with ceramics and pottery. Machinists, engineers and techno-geeks are known to frequent the facility. Glassblowers and jewelers that can be found hard at work bending and twisting gold and silver to form intricate masterpieces.
The vision for The Forge was conceived out of one man’s experience of Burning Man, a rather unorthodox festival held annually in the Black Rock Desert of Northwest Nevada. The festival has grown and evolved over the years, but it has always been a place where artists are encouraged to create on a grand scale uninhibitedly.
“Burning Man was the inspiration for creating large, complex projects,” says co-founder Liam Ellerby, “a makerspace was the vehicle to do that.”
Not long after Burning Man, Ellerby attended the Bay Area’s venue for creative ingenuity — San Mateo’s Maker-Faire 2011. Liam was sold. In fact, on his way home from the Faire, he called Curious Forge co-founder Kara Asilanis, exuberantly declaring, “We need a makerspace in Grass Valley!”
With a handful of artistic visionaries, the two worked together to make the makerspace a viable reality.
A makerspace, Liam explains, is similar to a health club — one pays a monthly fee to access the equipment and work with the trained experts who are available to demonstrate how to use the equipment to its fullest capacity.
For The Curious Forge, that equipment includes wood lathes, CNC plasma table, 3-D printers, routers, laser cutters, textiles, jewelry studio and several other areas, including a new glass-blowing studio.
Community experts are among the many volunteers that have spent years working with the machinery and enjoy having the opportunity to share their passion and knowledge with others. “Area specialists” are also on hand to give tours and tend to the specific areas of the facility.
In addition to the many benefits offered to its membership, The Forge provides workshops, demos and training programs that are available to the community. It is also currently working with Sierra College, as well as other local schools and homeschoolers, to provide internships and access to the facility and equipment to further enhance learning.
Beginning in 2019, The Curious Forge will be offering certification courses in metal- fabrication, digital fabrication and carpentry. The “compressed trade school” came out of the needs of local businesses for skilled workforce. The Curious Forge is hoping to work with the Nevada County Economic Resource Council in an effort to provide training and certification in those trades that are in need by qualified employees.
The Forge also supports local entrepreneurs by providing a cubicle, a conference room and manufacturing space for a monthly fee. The cost includes small business support, guidance in business practices and trade expertise. It is ideal for those business-minded individuals that are just getting started but are short on capital or space.
As a non-profit/LLC, The Forge has been involved with a majority of the charities in Nevada County. This year Forge members provided 75 wood-turned and 100 ceramics bowls for Hospitality House’s Empty Bowl, hosted Bitney Prepatory School and Center for the Arts Summer Camp. They have worked with several local schools and recently hosted a summer workshop with Nevada County Center for the Arts.
The Curious Forge has definitely grown and evolved since Liam first envisioned the concept of bringing a maker-space to Grass Valley. Yet, from Liam’s garage to the now 20,000-square -foot facility off of Bitney Springs, it is still a place where artists are encouraged to “collaborate and create on a grand scale uninhibitedly.”
When asked of the inspiration behind this institute of ingenuity, Ellerby merely begins with “ikigai.”
For more information, please visit thecuriousforge.org.  —  Destiny Bradt, Special to TWI

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