SALT Makerspace Will Set Your Imagination Free
Michael Gianatassio and his team want to help makerspace members develop a particular set of skills...
When I first knocked on the door of SALT Makerspace, I didn’t know what to expect. I understood “makerspaces” to be places for skilled tinkerers—people more skilled than I—who actually make things. I pictured a sort of 24 hour gym for craftsmen, a place to share the costs of owning expensive machines. I didn’t realize the soul of a makerspace lies in the relationships between its “makers,” and in the ideas whizzing past the sounds of saws, or the hum of 3D printers.
Housed in Syracuse’s Delavan Center, the SALT Makerspace is the vision of founder, Michael Gianatassio, who almost ran me over as he burst through the door. He hadn’t heard me knock, but was taking his dog out the same moment I was trying to get in.
Gianatassio is a master of every machine that populates the 2,300 square foot space. He owes his workshop savvy to his formal training as a sculptor—first in Northern California, then at the MFA program at Syracuse University. He has a natural teacher’s way of explaining each tool and process, a style that makes even a klutz like me want to jump in and try every one of them. By the time he had finished showing me around the metal shop, wood shop, and “clean” space (with a laser cutter and 3D printer), my head was bursting with ideas of what I could make, had I the time and skill.
And skills are exactly what Gianatassio and his team want to help makerspace members develop. SALT Makerspace is currently offering workshops on on topics that range from welding to silicone molding to 3D printing. These workshops aren’t just a time to hone skills, but also a perfect opportunity to bounce ideas off of like-minded people.
Gianatassio says the interaction between SALT Makerspace members is what excites him most about the project. Gianatassio said he took the creative community for granted when he was in school. That university atmosphere, where ideas are constantly flung around and everyone seems to have time to collaborate on each other’s projects—even when they are pulling all-nighters—is something that drops off for many people when the enter the “real world.” The working world can be structured, lonely, and leave little time for dithering around with passion projects.
After Gianatassio finished his MFA and began to put together a workshop in his basement, he felt that sense of isolation creep up on him. Though he was working on what he loved, he was working by himself. He wanted to be surrounded by people he could teach and who could teach him in return,. He began to research makerspaces, and had the idea that if he could somehow pull together all the tools needed to “create,” the ones he used to get access to at the university, then he could build a community of “makers” in Syracuse.
Now, after more than two years of scraping together funds and working tirelessly, Gianatassio has (almost) singlehandedly transformed his piece of the Delavan Center into a tinkerers paradise.
And his plan has already shown signs of success. At the makerspace, I spoke to people working on projects from designing jewelry to urban farming. Steve Gulick, of Wildland Security (“homeland security gone wild”), is using the makerspace to create covers for electronic devices he makes. Those devices are designed to detect poachers before they kill, and aid authorities in their capture. They could help safeguard wildlife all over the world.
As I left the makerspace, I realized Giannattasio had been right. When I had asked him to define a makerspace, he had said that it wasn’t about the specific tools, but about building a place where people could refine their ideas into something real.
Tools are necessary, but the collaboration between members will be what makes or breaks SALT Makerspace. And Giannattasio seems well on his way to establishing a community that will keep the ideas brewing in the space for long to come.
“Do you ever want to go back to California?” I asked him.
“Nah,” he replied. “I miss the weather and my family. But here there is so much more potential.”
All photos courtesy of Michael Giannattasio