Triple Cities Makerspace has been established on the premises at State Street in Binghamton for over a year now. A number of people have devoted an enormous amount of time, effort, materials, and money towards fixing up the building and grounds, and outfitting the facilities with everything it would need to allow people to work on lots of different kinds of projects, from woodworking and welding to electronics and sewing. One important part of this process which has sometimes been overlooked is the furnishing and decorating of the premises; as the success of the Makerspace depends on its forming a dedicated community of enthusiastic creative people, it is important to have the building feel like a safe, comfortable, and welcoming place to be. To that end, Makers have made a concerted effort to paint parts of the Makerspace in warm and vibrant colors, and to donate artistic works or decorations to its rooms.
One of the most prominent artistic projects at the Makerspace to date is the large mural in the main room featuring two robots on a background of several dozen floppy disks. This artistic piece was the brainchild of Leslie-Morgan Frederick, a long-time contributor to and past board member of Triple Cities Makerspace. She was originally asked to create the mural by Drew Lacock, one of the founding members of the Makerspace, as a showpiece highlighting the artistic talent and potential of the TCMS community; he suggested a fan art painting of “Rock’em Sock’em” robots, which Leslie-Morgan extended to the idea of “makerbots”. The intent of this project was to highlight the idea of having a diverse set of people from all walks of life and with different levels of creative experience meet at the Makerspace to work on various projects and to share ideas, knowledge, and creative techniques with one another. As such, Leslie-Morgan’s idea was to have the mural feature two robots reaching out towards one another, not with fists, but with tools to make things – together. The floppy disks were used as a base for the mural to add the idea of the use of technology in making, both old and new.
With the basic idea of the mural conceived, work on it had to wait until the main room’s walls were drywalled and painted, which was done in the final months of 2015 and beginning months of 2016. At that point, the floppy disks were selected by color from a large cache of disks that had been donated to the Makerspace, and were then installed using liquid cement on a wall in the main room chosen for its proximity to the Makerspace’s main entrance and visibility throughout the room. As the rectangular mural base comprised some ~200 disks, arranged from black into progressively lighter and brighter shades of primary colors, this work took a couple of evenings and a lot of work on the part of Leslie-Morgan and a dedicated group of Makers to complete.
She then enlisted the help of her friend and fellow artist Amanda Truin, whose work can be seen on the 2016 Makersgiving potluck dinner invitations. The two artists collected paintbrushes, paints, and a stepladder from the Makerspace’s existing supplies, and set aside a Saturday just after the New Year to create the mural. After a quick discussion with Amanda regarding the intended purpose of the work, Leslie-Morgan quickly sketched out a basic draft of the mural with a pen on a piece of scrap paper, and they set to work together.
The resulting mural took shape as a completely collaborative and organic effort of Leslie and Amanda, whose artistic training and close friendship made the process of working on the project together very easy and fun. They were able to freely communicate various ideas and inspirations for the piece as a whole or in part on the fly, and to criticize and praise each other’s contributions respectfully. They each painted one of the robots after Amanda drew an outline of the entire project, with Leslie-Morgan’s robot (on the left of the piece) having a more illustrative style while Amanda’s robot (on the right of the piece) took on more of a cartoonish, 3-D appearance. Their different artistic styles ended up merging very well throughout the daylong marathon of painting, which was broken up by munching on crepes prepared by fellow Maker Ethan Bexley and the occasional dancing to background music! Room was also made for instantaneous or future additions to the project, such as the golden cube between the robots which is suggestive of a “Mario box”.
The completed mural is a highlight of the Makerspace facilities which makes the building feel much more homelike and comfortable, and is frequently commented favorably on by visitors to the Space. Hopefully it will serve as inspiration for many future artistic creations and collaborations by the local Makerspace membership, and will long serve to commemorate the spirit of communal Making!