November 23, 2016

Local Business Spotlight: Crafty, creative and exciting things are coming out of the WorcShop

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Sean M. Haley/For Worcester Sun

Randal Gardner, WorcShop co-founder and co-owner of Eternity Iron Works.

This article was originally published in the Oct. 2, 2016 edition of the Sun.

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Learning, discovery and success shouldn’t be out of reach for anyone. When it comes to closing that distance, the WorcShop is here to help.

WorcShop, which opened its doors in April, can be thought of as, first and foremost, a greenhouse for creativity.

“Inspiration, innovation, empowerment are our chief tenets,” said Randal Gardner, co-owner of Eternity Ironworks and one of the WorcShop’s founding members.

The possibilities at WorcShop could be enlightening.

Jessica White / courtesy WorcShop

The possibilities at WorcShop could be enlightening.

For a monthly fee the shop, at 243 Stafford St., offers a variety of different offices, work bays, classrooms and (perhaps most impressive) a wide selection of heavy tools from lathes to tensile testing machines. This means if an experienced crafter needs a place to set up shop or a newcomer wants to try their hand, the hard part has been taken care of.

“When people want to start out (with a new hobby), they ask themselves, ‘How hard can it be?’ ” said Alex Phillips, WorcShop member and leatherworker. “And if you have all the pieces, the answer is, ‘Not very.’ ”

“You get to try things without the hassle of startup costs,” executive director Angela Pasceri said.

Along with providing a space for crafters and neophytes alike to hone their skills, WorcShop is a makerspace that is also a business incubator, providing a proverbial Eden for startups to grow within.

Work bays at the WorcShop, 243 Stafford St.

Jessica White / courtesy WorcShop

Work bays at the WorcShop, 243 Stafford St.

“We consider ourselves a business incubator and accelerator,” Gardner said. “The WorcShop provides general business coordination and services to these startups; everything from bookkeeping and accounting to marketing and business development.”

This infrastructure, the cornerstone of WorcShop, enables small-business hopefuls to realize their potential by paving through the complex and uncertain road that lies ahead. “Regardless of the product or service, all businesses need the same things,” Gardner said, likening a business’s needs to nutrition, the operations tasks being interchangeable staples. “Everything at the bottom of the pyramid is the same.”

With this blend of creativity, passion and business savvy, members can gain a solid foothold while monetizing their skills, marketing themselves accordingly, and growing their business.

Randal Gardner, WorcShop co-founder and co-owner of Eternity Iron Works.

Sean M. Haley / For Worcester Sun

Randal Gardner, WorcShop co-founder and co-owner of Eternity Iron Works.

“A lot of our work is B2B [business-to-business],” Gardner said. From research and development prototypes, limited-run manufacturing for test marketing, or other bespoke products, the WorcShop is the go-to for fanning the flames of an idea.

Though one would think the modern economic landscape limits such work, Gardner says it creates opportunities rather than competition.

“We’re not competing with any pre-existing businesses,” Gardner said. “Everyone can come here and use our stuff.” If anything, this creates more resources, the ability to develop more business, and bring in more work for everyone involved.

Eternity Ironworks, founded by Gardner and Joshua Swalec, has its own unique take on this work model. The pair take repurposed metal and turn it into high-quality, functioning equipment for consumer and industrial purposes. They are currently working on steel casement windows to replace those in historical buildings, such as Portland Street’s Printers Building, and are waiting for approval from the Massachusetts Historical Commission.

And, just for fun, they’re also working on a genie lamp that shoots fire.

A giant genie lamp needs a giant flame ... of course.

Jessica White / courtesy WorcShop

A giant genie lamp needs a giant flame … of course.

When such labors of love are finished, members are encouraged to show their work in the WorcShop’s foyer, which houses locking display cases.

“They can show off their work here and sell it with no commission,” Pasceri said. “It’s free with membership. We just want them to get their stuff out there.”

Among the other businesses at WorcShop are a recording studio that did voiceover work for the movie “American Hustle,” a massage therapy office run by a Ph.D. chemist, and a photo studio that sells hand-bound albums.

Meanwhile, on the education side, the WorcShop hosts a variety of classes and events to share these skills and benefit the local community.

“Any member can contact us to run a class,” Pasceri said. Members select a topic they’d like to teach and date range, and how many students they’d like to accommodate. Tuition is shared 50-50 with the WorcShop itself.

Angela Pasceri, WorcShop executive director, shows of some mural work outside the shop.

Sean M. Haley / For Worcester Sun

Angela Pasceri, WorcShop executive director, shows of some mural work outside the shop.

Pasceri, who runs “everything from web design and program management to social media” for the WorcShop, also teaches figure drawing. Pasceri learned this skill in the most surprising of ways, as a figure model for other artists.

“I would listen to the instructor while I was posing,” she said. “I got to benefit from watching great artists grow.”

Nowadays, along with honing her craft, she presides over the WorcShop’s coordination and executive tasks, all while encouraging each visitor to explore what the WorcShop has to offer.

As for the future the WorcShop, well, they have plans. On Oct. 22, it will be the site of Boston Decompression: Davinci’s Pawnshop. “It’s a post-Burning Man gallery featuring all artists from the Northeast,” Gardner said. “We estimate about 600 people will attend.”

The crew has designs on a shop overhaul too. The WorcShop founders want to build out more studios and expand its usable space from 18,000 to 30,000 square feet. This includes adding to their 3D printing lab, fixing up appliances in the building, and conducting general renovations.

They also hope to take in more members, businesses and students. While members can develop any curriculum they want, WorcShop is specifically looking for someone to teach foundry and pottery courses, as well as glassworks — “someone with experience with kilns and ceramics,” Pasceri said.

And so, the WorcShop is enjoying the happiest of reasons to change. As more and more people come to share and grow under its roof, the greenhouse will have to grow, too.

worcshop_mural

Be on the lookout for an upcoming crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo’s Generosity.com, as the WorcShop is seeking additional funding for various machines and for expanding its education program. Donations will help maintain the shop, as well as with other services such as subsidized memberships.

For those who may have more time than money, WorcShop would like to offer membership for work on a case-by-case basis. “Basically helping keep the [place] clean and front desk staffed,” Gardner said.

Memberships range from $50 to $120 a month with varying access plans. Full-time members can rent space within the shop for an additional fee. For a full range of these plans and other tenants, visit the WorcShop’s website.

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