A carpenter, a blacksmith, and a boat builder walk into a warehouse. In Portland. Sure, this might sound like the lead-in to a Portlandia sketch, but this place really exists!
Founded in 2011, ADX—a supercharged workshop for hands-on creatives—draws tinkerers of all ages, from kindergartners to folks in their 70s. For our June issue, we sat down with ADX founder Kelley Roy to talk about the collaborative art and design space, the DIY movement, and the craziest project ADX has ever seen.
Q: Why Portland?
A: Like Paris of the ’20s or New York of the ’50s, there’s something here that’s drawing a lot of creative people and creating a really interesting dynamic.
Q: What inspired you to found ADX?
A: In Portland, there were a lot of sharing spaces for photographers or motorcycle builders or architects or woodworkers, but there was nothing that mashed all those people together and put structure around it. I wanted to create a place where people from all different backgrounds could work under one roof. And I was trying to debunk the myth that I had been told as a young person: “You can’t make a living as an artist.”
Q: How would you describe ADX in a nutshell?
A: It’s like a fitness gym for design geeks. Instead of treadmills, we have tools; instead of personal trainers, we have craftspeople who can help you reach your goals. You want to make a table? We’re gonna help you do that.
Q: What would visitors see?
A: In the shop, these incredible 3-foot-diameter wooden spheres made out of scrap wood. There’s a boat school, so they could see both finished and in-process skiffs. And then our fab[rication] team is making beer tap handles for craft brewers like Pfriem Brewing, out of Hood River, and Buoy Beer, out of Astoria.
Q: What’s the craziest project you’ve seen so far?
A: There’s a local tech company, Urban Airship, and their logo is a dirigible. They wanted us to make a blimp to go on top of a pedal-powered pub crawler for SXSW. We made a 22-foot-long, wood-framed, aluminum-mesh-covered dirigible—it took up our entire warehouse. We had very specific instructions for how to attach it, because it had to stay on and not fall off and kill anybody.
Q: Why are we so fascinated by making things?
A: I think it’s a backlash to being in the virtual world so much. I just love that at ADX, people are coming together in a physical location, looking at one another eye to eye. It gives them a place to slow down and be a little more in this real world.
Q: You’re a tattoo collector—do you have any ADX-themed ink?
A: Our logo is a saw blade that says, “ADX—building a community of thinkers and makers.” For our first anniversary, I got the saw blade with ADX in it, and eight other staffers just got the saw blade. So there are nine people running around Portland with saw blades on various parts of their body.