Light from a nearby window ricochets off of yellow orbs hidden in an orange glass vase. Specks of black and white divide up a similar glass piece in red, while three small mugs contrast the glass sheen with earthy matte brown finishes.
As the Made at the Forge auction continues, guests and members circle a handful of tables displaying an array of donated works as the Saturday sun begins to set. The vast majority of the items — whether crafted from clay, fabric, metal or wood — were created within the Forge’s warehouse-esque walls, utilizing tools and skills procured there.
For the past two years of its 5-year history, funds from the auction have supported the various areas of the organization. Executive Director Joe Rotondi explains that the money from each item goes towards tools and general maintenance for the specific space in which the piece was made.
Aside from funding the upkeep of the area, Rotondi believes the auction showcases one of the main benefits of the community space: the entrepreneurs who bolster their small businesses here.
“I think there’s a hands-on spirit here,” he says.
Fabric creations overwhelm one table, with ID lanyards sitting beside patchwork yoga mat carriers. The lavender top of a violet rectangular pillow reads, “Ain’t that some shit?” A dress form stands at the front corner of the table, displaying what designer Ann Tilley calls a “power vest.” The accessory serves as a bold fashion statement, with Tilley placing black velvety stripes overtop a block of a mint color on the front. She adds fringe to the shoulders, and a purple and red pattern peeks out from the sides. Tilley’s vest appears as an amalgamation of everything she does in the makerspace’s textile shop, from designing attention-grabbing concepts to completing seams with the shop’s sewing machines.
Two folded pairs of pants sit on display for her other auction item — a custom-made pair of jeans. Tilley mentions that creating her own clothes has become a habit over the past several years, believing the practice generates new ideas. She wanted to create custom-fit to not only raise money but to showcase why textile work remains relevant.
“I feel like sewing is so out of fashion now,” she says, “so I want to inspire people to come back to the sewing room.”
Tilley began experimenting with garments as a pre-teen, and upon finding the Forge a handful of years ago, used the opportunity to connect with others while completing freelance textile work. Shortly after joining the makerspace, Tilley took on the role of hosting the makerspace’s weekly mend-it nights. Now, as a volunteer mentor and one of the section heads for the Forge’s textile department, Tilley works to share her skills. She says that everyone should know a few stitches or be able to replace a button.
“It really does feel good to give back,” she says, “to teach people skills they can bring home.”
A perusing man asks how much a large, framed mirror costs, pointing out the corners where rings of small cuts of wood appear on the surface. The pale-grey standing desk perched beside him sells an hour into the event.
A small round box brings back memories for woodworker Phillip Fuentes. Fuentes carved out the shape of the container, reminiscing about teaching himself from a series of Richard Raffan VHS tapes and books decades ago.
Its onion-shaped dome intrigues passersby. Bands of lines round its circumference, appearing at once both hand-carved and nearly identical in precision. A man places his hand carefully on its top, avoiding the peak and turns it, the box releasing an eeking noise as it opens.
Fuentes estimates he joined the Forge three years ago, utilizing the space to continue his entrepreneurial woodworking. Now serving as a volunteer mentor and heading up the wood shop, Fuentes sustains his practice while building anything he can from wood, be it kayaks or bows and arrows.
Even with the large lasers and technology-based methods of engraving and carving found in the Forge, Fuentes prefers the basics, utilizing more traditional approaches and tools.
“I just wanted to do something that was really classic,” he says. “I’m still kind of stuck on older skills.”
Find out more about the Forge online here.