West Side News

Idea Foundry aims to help dreams come true

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It emerged from a hobby, a place where Alex Bandar and friends would share metal and woodworking equipment for their various projects.

Six years and three locations later, the Columbus Idea Foundry is a respected enclave for amateur and working artisans, many of whom are trying to turn their ideas into a business.

Recently, the Idea Foundry relocated to a 66,000-square-foot building at 421 W. State St. in Franklinton.

Called a "makerspace," the foundry gives craftsmen a space to learn, work, collaborate and network.

Even Bandar is surprised at its success.

"I call myself the accidental entrepreneur," said Bandar, who has his doctorate in material science and engineering.

A computational metallurgist for nine years, his initial goal was to make functioning products, blending science and artistry, in his spare time.

It turns out there were a lot of people just like him.

So he ended up renting out a portion of his first working 2,400-square-foot studio, located at Fifth and Leonard avenues on the East Side.

Word spread, and he named his company the Columbus Idea Foundry in 2009. A year later, he moved into a 24,000-square-foot space at 1158 Corrugated Way on the Near North Side.

But demand didn't stop.

With 25 studio members, the foundry has no vacancies. It has an additional 165 dues-paying members, who have access to computers, woodworking equipment, laser engraving machines and 3-D printing.

It's where the Fallen Feather Project got its start.

Graham Webb III, project leader and founder of Fallen Feather, said individual Ohio artists have carved a wooden feather for each of the 279 Ohio soldiers who have been killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

The feathers, connected to 50-caliber gun shells at the bottom, are placed in several rows. In August, the work goes on permanent exhibit at the Ohio Military Museum in Massillon.

Webb said the foundry was an ideal setting to launch the project, given the space he needed and access to equipment.

"It would have been much more difficult to do this elsewhere," he said.

Devon Palmer, owner of Devon Palmer Woodturning, makes wooden bowls, hollow vessels and other objects at the foundry, where he also is a teacher.

He said the foundry has an impressive collection of artisans -- blacksmiths, welders and metalworkers, to name a few -- who provide tremendous networking opportunities for the whole group.

"Given that, it's also kind of a support circle," he said.

The second story is still under development.

Ryan McManus, owner of ContentVia, a technology marketing firm, is the only second-floor tenant for now.

He envisions a time when it becomes the "branding floor" -- where professionals can help artisans launch companies.

"What we're going to be able to do is help people take their ideas and commercialize them, turning them into businesses, allowing them to do what they're passionate about every single day," McManus said.

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