Druid City Makerspace: a hub to flex creative muscles in Tuscaloosa
Druid City Makerspace in downtown Tuscaloosa is considered "a gym for hobbies." Owners Tiffany and Armen Amirkhanian are helping the community find an artistic passion, one art station at a time.
Getting into a new hobby can be overwhelming and expensive. But a new business in downtown Tuscaloosa is working to get community members of all ages more in touch with their artsy side. Alabama Public Radio took a tour of Druid City Makerspace. It’s a one-stop-shop designed to help flex creative muscles.
Tiffany Amirkhanian is one of the owners of the space. She’s what’s known in the art world as a creative. She can skillfully cut into stained glass, easily work a button press and she likes to crochet. Tiffany is looking to help others in the Tuscaloosa community find artistic outlets, and maybe even a passion, through Druid City Makerspace.
“The easiest way to describe us is that we are like a gym but for hobbies,” said Amirkhanian.
Walking into the Makerspace on 23rd Avenue, there’s a lot to take in. Amirkhanian took us through the different workstations visitors can choose from—with supplies, tools and space at the ready to help you make art as soon you walk in.
There’s no shortage of materials for all your creative needs. Tiffany Amirkhanian said patrons can learn to create stained glass works of art, but what else is there?
“We have 3D printers. We have a laser cutter and engraver. We have a pottery wheel and clay. We have a kiln so we can fire everything. We have sewing machines, and I just got an embroidery machine,” said Amirkhanian.
But wait. She says there’s more for patrons to explore.
“We even have a light kit that you can rent out. And we have paints and button presses. Silhouettes for vinyl cutting,” said Amirkhanian. “I don't know if I'm forgetting anything. We've been collecting things for about two years to fill this space.”
There’s also a loft area with couches, chairs and desks for quiet studying, knitting, crocheting or whatever else.
Tiffany and her husband Armen came up with the idea for Druid City Makerspace during the pandemic—hoping to help provide an artistic outlet for those who need it.
“I really like technical hobbies that involve a lot of tinkering. And when I was in grad school and undergrad, it was really hard in my apartment to do any hobby that required large equipment or was messy,” said Armen Amirkhanian.
He is also an owner of Druid City Makerspace, and he teaches at the College of Engineering at The University of Alabama.
“Now that I'm a faculty member, I know my students are in dorms, and the dorms definitely don't allow a lot for safety reasons,” said Armen Amirkhanian. “So, we wanted to have a space where people could come and explore those types of hobbies.”
Even on the subject of art, Amirkhanian’s engineering side comes out. He says he enjoys helping people learn the technical side of hobbies. And that can mean some cool gadgets.
“Well, I'll admit I'm pretty partial to our laser cutter. It's an 80W CO2 laser. It can go through about half inch plywood. So, it's really fun showing people how that works… how you can engrave things and actually cut through them,” said Amirkhanian.
He says it’s been a learning process with some mistakes, but that’s the fun part of experimenting.
“We have had some mishaps, but as part of the learning process. We are learning what you can't cut or engrave. But that's fine because we're all learning together rather than just someone doing the service for you. We didn't want to be a place where someone comes and just says, hey, make this for me. We wanted them to make it,” said Armen.
Amirkhanian’s wife, Tiffany, has the same sentiment: mess up, try a bunch of stuff and see what sticks.
“That's what a hobby is,” she explained. “It's something in your life you don't have to do perfectly all the time. So just try it and see if it works.”
Tiffany Amirkhanian said Druid City Makerspace is a place for anyone to explore and create. But she said she also hopes it can be a space for teaching and community interaction.
“The retired members that do the woodworking or sewing and stuff. They can kind of help teach those things,” said Amirkhanian. “And then we have the tech side where younger people are probably more likely to pick it up quicker and kind of teach that side as well. So, we really wanted to appeal to all parts of the Tuscaloosa community living in a college town and reaching out to everybody that's here.”
If you’re interested in becoming part of the Makerspace community but find it overwhelming with so many options, that’s ok! Tiffany Amirkhanian says there are ways to dip your toes in before taking the full plunge.
“We offer classes,” she said. “And that's a really great introduction because we did realize that the space is a little intimidating if you haven't done any of these things. And you have no idea what to even start with.”
Tiffany and Armen Amirkhanian are at the ready-- armed with art supplies and the know-how to help make creative ideas become a reality.
“Come on down. We'll give you a tour. We'll walk you through stuff. We want you to find something that you enjoy. And we want to create that community. We just want to be a place that you don't feel afraid to try new things,” said Tiffany.
A day pass at Druid City Makerspace is $20. Monthly memberships are $45. Family memberships are $75 per month. Students pay $80 a semester to use the space. And educators are asked to shell out $30 a month. Click here for more on membership prices.
Check out Druid City Makerspace on Facebook or follow along to see what's new at the space on Instagram.