If You Let Them Make It . . . They Will Come

Diana Coluntino and COOL Executive Director Susan Halter

Diana Coluntino and COOL Executive Director Susan Halter

Prepare for the New Industrial Revolution. The first shot was fired Tuesday night in a Merrimack Street basement . . .

Diana Coluntino (you may remember her as the creative fashion genius from the Revolving Museum) held a “soft premiere” for her newest venture – New Vestures, a “maker space” for “fashion hacks, designers and those who want to make cool stuff.”

In the last few months, Coluntino has transformed the basement of 144 Merrimack St. into rooms filled with industrial sewing machines, computers, reams of fabric, books covering all aspects of design, and a hardware store-size tool collection.

Diana 384Diana 382Diana 388Diana 391The space will offer memberships at several levels (resident, monthly, weekly, daily) to those looking for a space to create clothing, belts, do leather work, make jewelry, etc. and also offer classes in sewing, pattern drafting, illustration, millinery, jewelry making, weaving, knitting, piñata making (YES!), artbotics/Arduino Lilypad, 3D CAD modeling and Adobe Photoshop/Illustrator.

The vision is not only to provide a space for people to work on their craft, but to create a community where artisans can learn together and share their expertise with each other. Some may even use it as a platform from which to launch their own businesses.

Diana 418“This is an incubator more than anything in a real way,” said Massachusetts Creative Economy Industry Director Helena Fruscio, adding a maker-space of this caliber is an important economic development and business growth tool. “I can’t think of a better community to open up a fashion maker space and bring it to its full potential. I can’t wait to buy clothes here and see what is happening.”

Stacie Hargis, Director of the Merrimack Valley Small Business Center, said she knew when she first met Diana years ago this type of venture was in her future.

Stacie Hargis applauds Diana Coluntino

Stacie Hargis applauds Diana Coluntino

“You had this vision in your eyes that successful entrepreneurs have,” she said. “Thank you for your vision because without people like you the city of Lowell cannot continue to grow.”

But, it is not just about launching businesses or satisfying someone’s creative hobby, it is also about education.

Sarah Kuhn, a UMass Lowell Psychology professor, said where the American education system has failed is by separating those who work with their hands from those who are more traditionally book-smart.

“We stigmatize the working with cars, or the making, and we shouldn’t, and we shouldn’t send the smart kids to sit in the sensory deprivation chamber,” Kuhn said. “This is really about being a whole person, discovering your identity but also discovering math and science and engineering in a very authentic and very personal and important way.”

Diana 375Diana 386Coluntino is a life-long “maker,” spending her childhood sewing or making puppets with her mom and building bunk beds with her dad, a creative hands-on DIY approach she passed-on to her own children and something she strongly believes is much more important to learning than just memorizing facts and figures. She is encouraged to see more project-based learning being discussed in education.

“Finally it is our time,” she said. “Finally.”

Diana 425She is still working to set up an advisory board and conduct fundraising to raise about $9,000 to obtain more cutting tables, software, dress forms, and lockers for the space.

“When someone starts a new venture, we have to realize it is not just one person, it is the whole community that needs to get behind them to make it successful,” said Cultural Organization of Lowell (COOL) Executive Director Susan Halter. “I think that will happen. Diana has fantastic energy and great ideas and I can’t wait to be buying my clothes here.”

Diana 434For more information about New Vestures, check out an “like” their Facebook page at:https://www.facebook.com/pages/New-Vestures-a-fashion-makerspace/479995568703467

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