By Stephanie Kalina-Metzger
Students observe work being performed on a potter’s wheel. Photo: Provided.
We often hear the phrase “there are no limits to the imagination.” What we rarely hear discussed, which is much less romantic, are the limitations imposed upon creatives when they can’t afford the tools and training that they need to usher those dreams into reality. Now, nonprofit The Rivet is addressing this issue and has stepped in to fill a much-needed niche in the Happy Valley community.
The Rivet was created to be the place where someone could begin or perfect a hobby, add to their business infrastructure without investing in equipment or share the love of their craft with others. “When we invited the community in to talk about what The Rivet could be, we learned that there were unmet needs for tool access and creative environments to use and learn those tools,” said The Rivet manager Evan Rosengrant.
Rosengrant started as a volunteer with Discovery Space, helping maintain exhibits. He added that it took some time for the Discovery Space’s makerspace to go from concept to reality. “It took about three years and March of 2020 is when we first opened our doors,” Rosengrant said, admitting that the enthusiasm for the project was initially tempered by the onset of Covid-19 restrictions.
“We survived that setback and continue to grow,” said Rosengrant, who rose in the ranks from volunteering to manager and now oversees a staff of five and a team of dedicated volunteers.
“We are also grateful to the artists, makers and entrepreneurs that have made us a part of their professional and personal growth. It’s been nothing short of a rewarding experience."
Providing access to hard-to-obtain equipment
The Rivet is comprised of three main rooms. The first room was created as a wood and metal shop with table saws, planers, jointers and hand tools. The second room serves as a pottery studio with wheels, a kiln and a pug mill for recycling clay. A sign shop for large format printing is also located in this second room, along with a 24-inch vinyl cutter for decals, lettering and iron-on material. The third room is reserved for technology. “It’s for anything that shouldn’t get dusty,” said Rosengrant. The third room houses computers, 3-D printers, sewing machines, embroidery machines, an electronic workbench for soldering and reworking computer boards, a stereo microscope for working with small items and hand tools like precision screwdrivers.
“We also have 40-inch laser cutter, which is capable of etching wood, plastic, glass and more. This is a premium tool that exemplifies our goal of providing access to hard-to-obtain equipment,” said Rosengrant.
Along these lines, Rosengrant commented on 3-D printers, explaining that they once cost thousands, but are lately becoming more accessible. “Now we can buy good ones for $150,” he said.
Also available for use are resin printers which cure liquid photopolymers layer by layer into a solid object. “Individuals use them for precise, mechanical things, which need to be precisely shaped, like custom prosthetics, for instance,” Rosengrant said.
Students use their skills in the woodworking shop. Photo: Provided.
Inspiring others and opening doors
Classes at The Rivet include introduction to wheel pottery, knitting, woodworking, laser cutting, 3-D printing, working with fused glass, embroidery, photography and more. And those who are concerned about participants rushing in and using complex tools will be relieved to learn that The Rivet requires students take clearance classes before using the laser cutter, the embroidery machine, the pottery wheel and other more complex tools.
Rosengrant said that he has seen students acquire a skill and later have the confidence to tackle other projects which initially may not have been in their wheelhouse. He said that when he first became involved with The Rivet, the pottery wheel was new to him, but watching others inspired him to give it a try himself.
Annie Vidunas is a customer who has been able to pursue her ceramic passion thanks to The Rivet.
“I took ceramics in high school and loved it. Later I found it difficult to find an affordable ceramic studio until I learned about The Rivet,” said Vidunas, who pays a $25 monthly fee to use the studio and $10 a month to fire her pots. “An added plus is that everyone is so friendly and helpful,” she said. Vidunas is getting so good at her craft that she is branching out to sell some of her creations. “I work at Elixr Café in downtown State College and recently got permission to sell some of my work there,” she said.
The Rivet was created to be the place where someone could begin or perfect a hobby, add to their business infrastructure without investing in equipment or share the love of their craft with others.
Rosengrant said it has been fulfilling to work as manager at The Rivet. “We are also grateful to the artists, makers and entrepreneurs that have made us a part of their professional and personal growth. It’s been nothing short of a rewarding experience,” he said.