Designing a Collaborative

by Peter D on August 26, 2016

We opened our doors 4 years ago this summer.  It’s been fits and starts.  It’s been bootstrapped and scrappy.  But it’s been phenomenal.  We’re proud of the businesses that have moved OUT and into their own spaces.  We’re proud of the amazing projects created by noobie woodworkers, whether retirees, young professionals or community members.  We’re proud of the collaborations with community institutions such as schools, churches, veterans groups, and job training programs.  We know the model is working.  It’s just not working big enough.

Soulcraft Woodshop, from its inception, was never intended to just remain a community-access woodshop and/or incubator of furniture design companies.  The woodshop has been our pilot project.  We’ve long envisioned a “maker space” (though this is a limiting term, which we’ll discuss at length in the future) that enabled access to numerous media, levels of community access, robust class curricula, and dynamic partnerships with institutions throughout the city.

We are beginning to take the next concrete steps toward that end.  There are a mind-blowing number of variables.  It is a design challenge of the first order.

But we aren’t doing it alone.

Over a year ago, we began discussions with several like-minded organizations to begin crafting a “Creative Collaborative” here in Cleveland.  It would, on one hand, be simply a co-location of businesses with cross-over missions.  But there is nothing “mere” about this co-location.

Our proximity would enable coordinated projects of larger scale – larger than any one of our shops could handle on their own. It would enable a shared customer base and cross-marketing. It would enable mutual programming for our individual businesses. The possibilities that could emerge from the co-location, from the co-location alone, are beyond present measure.That said, our intention was deliberate in that our intention was that the Collaborative would be more than the sum of its parts.  We intended to created shared spaces for co-working, for creating, for fabricating and for community engagement.

Partner, Emily Appelbaum of Ingenuity, shows off a gorgeous part of the building.


The partners in this are incredible.  Ingenuity Cleveland – known for its technology and art festival and other yearly events, will be creating a year-round foot-print for artists and other entrepreneurs to do ambitious projects otherwise unavailable.  As part of that effort, they have instituted IngenuityLabs, an incubation program for entrepreneurs and artists.  Skidmark Garage, a community-access motorcycle garage, also has national TV show airing in November.  Rust Belt Riders, an innovative food-waste management organization, is in a funded pilot phase, poised to expand and light a sustainability fire under Cleveland and the region.  ReBuilder’s Exchange, an architectural salvage and retail operation, will fill a huge hole in the present market for designers, home-owners and contractors.  Architecture Office is a new architecture firm, comprised of two brilliant-if-quirky architects, committed not only to the highest standards of their industry, but also to the community aspect inherent in design and community-building.  BELT Magazine is a “new” (actually old, but rare in contemporary terms) form of journalism, reporting in long-form and well-researched, on all things “rust belt.” Design Lab Early College High School is integrating a “making curriculum” with academic curricula and will partner in programming in the space.  This list of partners grows by the week.

We’ve found a building.  It is MASSIVE and not without obstacles. Here’s a nice sneak-peak at the building and the Collaborative.

And so we begin, in concrete terms.  We begin running conduit.  We continue drafting plans for the model.  We continue to research.  We continue to reach out to the community.

We aim to document on this blog, in broad terms, the process of creating this new space.  It is a design challenge of the highest order.  Follow us along on this variable-intensive endeavor.

“We follow a path of discovery, strung like pearls on a thread of curiosity, lending richness to our work.” (Krenov)

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