Randy Castillo is working at Trader Joe’s while he builds his own fabrication business with the resources at MAKE Santa Fe, a 2-year-old community labor space off Siler Road that is part of a global movement to foster entrepreneurship.
Castillo, 42, started Laser Loot about two years ago with his partner, a multimedia artist, and used the resources at MAKE Santa Fe to create some of his first commissions: the laser-cut triangular owl on the top and front face of the birchwood bar at Tecolote Cafe on St. Michael’s Drive, as well as the image of founder Bill Jennison and the maple plywood holders for the restaurant’s flights of cider and beer.
Born and raised in Albuquerque, Castillo lived in Wyoming and Georgia before returning home to New Mexico, where he discovered MAKE Santa Fe and spent a couple of years learning how to use the equipment.
With his partner, Castillo also has used the tools there to make laser-cut earrings in acrylic and painted woods. Indigo Baby in the DeVargas Center sells his tangrams, dissection puzzles of flat shapes that can be put together in different ways to form animals like cats and ducks, as well as dollhouses and the earrings. And he designed and built flight trays to showcase chocolate drinks for Kakawa Chocolate House on Rufina Circle.
MAKE Santa Fe is “really an incubator of sorts,” he said. “You can walk in with an idea, but no sense of how to make it into reality.”
MAKE Santa Fe was started in 2016 by a group that included Ginger Richardson, former vice president of education at the Santa Fe Institute; Zane Fischer, founder of Extraordinary Structures, a design-build manufacturing company; John Miller, professor at Carnegie Mellon University; and Juniper Lovato, outreach director for Complex Systems at the University of Vermont. It is one of thousands of makerspaces around the world.
Its first home in Santa Fe was at Meow Wolf, the interactive arts and entertainment group located in a former bowling alley on Rufina Circle. When both enterprises needed more space, MAKE Santa Fe moved to a 4,000-foot location on All Trades Road.
Members pay $65 a month for access to tools, resources and discounts on classes.
“We bring together a large community of different types of makers,” said Executive Director Molly Samsell during a recent tour of the facility. “You can come to class without knowing anything and we will teach you the basics. Staff and volunteers will help with problem-solving.”
She showed off the various work areas equipped with a wide array of the latest tools and machines, many costing thousands of dollars, as well as ventilation fans, dust collection units and safety equipment.
In addition to high-resolution 3D printers, computers, software and sewing machines, there is a CNC (computer numeric control) router than can cut, carve, machine and mill wood, plastics, foams, aluminum and composites. The Epilog Zing laser cutter has the capacity to etch and cut intricate patterns in paper and other materials. And the Dynatorch Super B plasma cutter can cut three-eighth-inch steel plates. There are also normal shop tools like a table saw, miter saw, band saw, drill press and gear for welding and blacksmithing.
To get makers started, MAKE offers regular classes in skills like 3D printing, laser cutting, hat blocking, welding, laser engraving and Fusion 360, a 3D modeling program that connects the design and development processes into a single tool. This month, MAKE is offering a multiday workshop on casting 3D prints using the luted crucible technique and another on making a wall-mounted coat rack. And recently, it completed a 12-week preapprentice program with YouthWorks, a nonprofit that creates opportunities for disconnected youths in Santa Fe.
The membership includes everyone from professors and abstract artists to graphic designers, web developers, a Los Alamos National Laboratory physicist, a fashion designer, a bricoleur (someone who creates using available materials) and a rock climber.
If you run into a problem, they, along with staff and teachers, can help you find the answer at events like the regular free clinic Dream Fridays.
For Castillo, the contacts he’s made have been critical to growing his business. Santa Fe, he said, “can be very segmented and tricky to navigate.” But at MAKE he met other makers who helped him with design and production. “You create alliances with people who have different skill sets,” he said. “It’s a real, genuine community.”
Its theme is “inclusivity,” according to Kent Riggs, the community manager, and the goals are to enable and empower entrepreneurs.
Recently, students from Santa Fe Indian School made a 3D model of one of the New Mexico watersheds they were studying.
And last summer, Santa Fe hosted a Nation of Makers conference for 400 people during which it assembled a 6-foot sculpture of Rosie the Riveter from 2,625 3D pieces printed at makerspaces all over the world from digital files. It will be exhibited next year at the New Mexico History Museum.
Another maker, Sarah Dallas, who was on the fabrication team for Meow Wolf’s House of Eternal Return, started her own business, Dallas Works LLC, about two years ago. Her clients include businesses looking for something unique. She designed and built the signage for Bosque Brewery’s rotating beer menu from cottonwood (the company logo is a cottonwood leaf) and steel using MAKE’s Boss laser cutter.
Dallas, who currently is working on a short-term contract at Meow Wolf, saw immediately the value of a makerspace in Santa Fe. “Running my own business, I saw MAKE as a great resource to have access to machines that are very expensive to acquire, let alone the workspace,” she said.
MAKE, she added, “allows me to take on bigger jobs without having to have employees. I can even write off my membership. This is amazing for someone like me, a young woman in Santa Fe trying to build my clientele. Instead of doing things by hand, I can rely on machines to elevate my product.”
Dallas, who is 33 and moved to New Mexico six years ago from Cleveland, graduated from the University of New Mexico and worked in nonprofit arts management. She said she’s gotten new clients through MAKE. “The community at MAKE is very enthusiastic about teaching lifelong, transferable skills. I value that,” she said. “And they work very hard to provide opportunities for their members.”
For Castillo, it’s been a “blessing” because, “So many people piggyback off each other.” And one day he might be able to quit his day job, but not before his business really takes off. “The thing about Santa Fe,” he said, “is that it has great opportunities but also a high cost of living.”
If you go
What: MAKE Santa Fe
When: Open noon to 8 p.m., Wednesday-Sunday
Where: 2879 All Trades Road, Santa Fe