Remember that project you never worked on because you didn’t have a table saw?

Or that time you couldn’t help your buddy build a pirate ship for the PDX Adult Soap Box Derby because you didn’t know how to weld?

Or that time you broke five sewing machine needles before giving up because the vinyl banners you wanted to turn into messenger bags were too thick?

Or all those times you never laser cut any bird doodles into your Moleskine because, um, who even has a laser cutter?

Well, good news: ADX is here to stop giving you excuses.

ADX describes itself:

Equal parts workspace and incubator, our membership-based community unites multiple creative disciplines within a 10,000 square-foot facility that is accessible, collaborative & affordable. In other words, ADX is your new favorite resource.

“Like Disney World for Makers”

Eric Black and Kelley Roy combined forces to create ADX just over a year ago. They wanted to build a community space for local manufacturers from multiple disciplines with a range of expertise. When you hear about Portland DIY culture, it’s usually put-a-bird-on-it crafts fairs or Burning Man art cars. Those forms of craft are vital to Portland’s identity, but it leaves a huge hole. Black and Roy are trying to fill that hole. Jeremy Pelley of Official Mfg. Co (ADX’s brand designers and next-door neighbors) said it best: ADX elevates craft and making without being pretentious. Indeed, ADX offers classes in woodworking, welding and sewing. There are shopkeepers willing to answer questions and lend a hand. And there’s the infrastructure of a community of likeminded builders, welders, makers, thinkers and doers. It sure beats the isolation and confines of working alone in your garage. Plus, ADX boasts a plethora of tools: specialty saws, sanders, welders, drills, an Epilog laser engraver and, the belle of the ball, a SawStop—the super-safe saw that keeps all your fingers on your hand (you’ve seen the hot dog video, right?).

Creative Space

Much of the 10,000 square feet is workshop space, but there’s plenty of room available for design challenges, charrettes and other meetings and events if people need to spread out. There’s a gallery and a bar, too, conveniently amenable to larger social gatherings (Bitch recently held their 15th anniversary there). And then there’s office space. ADX has dubbed their leased office space the Gang of Ten. With two spots still open, the Gang of Ten is already a diverse group, comprised of graphic designers, architects, an interior designer, a UX designer/information architect, a marketing strategist and others—not a bad group for bouncing around ideas. The fertile creative environment has already drawn the likes of Kate Bingaman Burt, a PSU assistant professor, illustrator and zine enthusiast. A few years ago, she said, she had been living in Mississippi and occupied three studio spaces. In Portland, she’s only had a cramped, too-small corner at home. Moving into ADX grants Bingaman-Burt the community benefits of interaction and collaboration as well as the separation of home and work.

Manufacturing Renaissance

Roy makes the point that, for such a bicycle-happy town, Portland hardly has any bicycle manufactures. A space like ADX provides the sort of industrial fabrication tools that could spark a revolution. It may sound a little romantic, but it’s exactly the sort of narrative Portlanders love to live and tell. Already, ADX is also becoming a hotbed for custom fabrication requests. In that way, ADX acts as an introductory liaison for clients and craftspeople. Roy recounted a story about Zach Yarrington, whose Sing with Your Heroes sign still hangs between the ADX wood and and metal workshops. A year ago, Zach was a University of Oregon multimedia design student with no fabrication experience and wanted to learn how to make a sign. He spent nine months studying lettering, prototyping, tweaking and bartering before creating his homage to “old American signage” at ADX. Then there are folks who just needed a facility to keep them from making excuses. Bingaman-Burt told me about her husband,Clifton Burt, attempting to make wallets from book covers several years ago. The problem was that they didn’t own an industrial sewing machine that could survive the tough material. That project got put on hold indefinitely. Now, Burt has office space at ADX. ADX has an industrial sewing machine. He would be a jerk to not finish that project.

Come Out and Play

If there weren’t already enough reasons to check out ADX, here are a few more:

  • ADX just announced the innagural Fabrication Festival
  • Each Wednesday this summer, ADX hosts a Hump Day Happy Hour BBQ, which includes the occasional surprise exhibit or short-film screening.
  • There’s a 25% discount to AIGA members when they join ADX. There’s another promo running for creative industry folks including 3 unlimited memberships for $200/month; and for larger companies we have corporate memberships available that give all of their employees access to the space.

Do yourself a favor: check out Portland’s big, new, creative incubator and go make stuff.

By Michael Buchino
Published August 10, 2011
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