Education: Embarc at CIADC

This past Friday CIADC and Embarc Chicago joined forces to bring local students from Sullivan High School into the shops for a day of immersive education, access and community. The kids jumped right in and knocked out projects from three of our departments: Metalworking & Forging, Woodworking, and Casting & Molding.

In each department, the student’s eyes were wide but focused as they worked. In the Metal Shop, Olivia taught the students how to forge, hammer and twist a piece of bar stock into a handy key fob. Up in the Woodshop, Erik guided the students on the bandsaw to produce a small box. And in Casting & Molding, Micki and Julia had the students independently design their own scratch molds and then poured 1,200 degree hot aluminum get poured into them to create a cast of their design.  

Embarc’s goal is to drive student success with long-term social and cultural exposure. Through the transformative power of these journeys, Embarc awaken students to the possibilities of their potential by dissolving the borders of the city and in their minds. Inspired by Embarc’s important work, CIADC is excited to announce the gift of 30 full-tuition scholarships to local teens. CIADC is working with both Sullivan High School and the Chicago Math & Science Academy to identify scholarship recipients.

Spring Open House and Bronze Pour


Saturday, March 10, 2018 // 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM

Join us for our seasonal open house with tours through our four shop departments in Casting & Molding, Metalworking & Forging, Technology & Design, and Woodworking ~ CIADC.ORG

There will be a bronze pour in the casting department at approximately 1:30pm along with regular open studio work in progress in the other departments.

Also check out our extended exhibition of CIADC Instructors works with contributions by Andrew Barco, Olivia Juárez, John Kurman, Micki LeMeuix, Erik Newman, and Quentin Shaw.

Exhibitions: Call for Entries – Review

Review will be our year-end survey of new works created at CIADC during 2017.

We are seeking your exemplary objects from a year of making in metal, wood, casting, and design – wrap up the year and show us your best work! CIADC Members and Students interested in taking part in this exhibit should complete a “Call for Entry” exhibition form available at the front desk.

To participate, please complete a submission form by Monday, October 23

·      Works will be selected and coordinated by Monday, October 30

·      Drop-off will take place November 6 through November 12

·      The exhibit will open on Saturday, November 18


Education: Teen Summer Camps and Beyond

Chicago Industrial Arts & Design Center is working hard to provide education and access to the younger generation – spring marked our first term hosting teen-focused courses, and we've partnered with After School Matters and Embarc Chicago to share our expertise with students. This week marks another milestone for our youth education efforts – the first completed week of Teen Summer Camps.

Five students this week were introduced to the world of industrial arts in the CIADC Metal and Woodworking Departments. Monday through Friday, instructors brought students through the basic processes and tool applications that underpin all of the advanced work undertaken in fabricating and sculpting objects from metals and wood.

There are still open spots for interested youth in the morning and afternoon for the next two weeks in Casting, Metalworking, and Woodworking:

Week B: July 17 - 21
Camp 1B: 9am-12pm
Camp 2B: 12:30pm-3:30pm

Week C: July 24 - 28
Camp 1C: 9am-12pm
Camp 2C: 12:30pm-3:30pm

Sign your teens up today, and employ creativity and functional design for the rest of the season! We'll leave you with a few kind words from our Embarc Chicago visitors:

"It's exciting to meet folks who are equally as passionate about providing hand-on, engaging learning experiences for students. You all are such a strong team – talented, professional, enthusiastic . . . we hope to work with you again"

Education: Embarc Chicago at CIADC

Last week, Chicago Industrial Arts & Design Center was happy to welcome a group of 11th graders from Sullivan High School with Embarc Chicago for an experiential learning journey that encompassed our Casting, Metal, and Woodworking departments. Embarc is a three-year program that provides community-driven, experienced-based learning opportunities to low-income High School students to inspire and prepare them for college and career success.

CIADC instructors Micki LeMieux (Casting & Molding), Erik Newman (Woodworking), and Matthew Runfola (Metalworking) designed a 3-hour program, rotating students through each shop learning more about design, material, and process while creating components to assemble into a personal sculpture.

In the casting department, students created plaster casts of their fingers, using alginate molds.

In woodworking, they cut and sanded clear pine wooden base, using bandsaw and scroll saw.

And in the metalshop, students cut and folded a steel platform, using power shear, throatless shear, and magnetic sheet metal brake.

CIADC hands-on, experiential learning: learning shop skills directly applicable to creating objects, but also learning transferrable skill sets such as creativity, problem-solving, critical thinking, and empowerment. Our thanks to Ellen Muench of Embarc Chicago for choosing CIADC as a journey destination!

Teen programming (12-15): 5-week Summer classes, 1-week Summer Camps. Ages 16+ enrolled in adult programming with consent.

Fall Open House 2016

Saturday, October 15 from 4 to 6 PM Chicago Industrial Arts & Design Center will host our seasonal Open House, featuring live demonstrations in Casting & Molding, Metalworking, Technology, and Woodworking, guided tours of our historic building at 6433 North Ravenswood Avenue, and the exhibition reception for Demo.

This weekend is Open House Chicago, with hundreds of historical buildings open with free access for the public. Stop in at CIADC to celebrate fall with food, drinks, and friends – and then go explore the rest of the neighborhood!

Shop Conversations: Brian Blankstein

Nathan Abhalter Smith: How have you come to be working in metal? Have you been doing it for a long time, and has it been a long route to here?

Brian Blankstein: Well, the route to here is long and twisting.

NAS: Yeah, perfect.

Coffee Table (detail) by Brian Blankstein

Coffee Table (detail) by Brian Blankstein

BB: As a kid, I was the kid that was always playing with Legos and building stuff. Didn’t really figure out that I could build stuff as an adult until I was 25 or 26. I went to school – I did math and computers and stuff like that – I hated it and didn’t really realize why. I started building stuff with my hands, at that point mostly woodworking, and started taking woodworking classes, and I was really really into it, and I realized this is what I had been missing all this time. So I was at Chicago School of Woodworking sort of right after they opened. They didn’t have any classes then, so I quickly exhausted their catalogue. I was in the middle of a career change, and had three or four months off, so I did a kind of unofficial apprenticeship thing with them, so I like hung around and did chores and stuff for them and used free shop time. One of the things that I built when I was there was I built this table that had like an etched, inlaid glass top. So I was figuring out that I really liked working with a lot of different materials, mixing things together. A pretty obvious next step for me was, I want to learn how to do stuff with metal.

NAS: So that you could change the composition that much more. . . .

BB: Yeah. And metal and wood are beautiful together.

NAS: Yeah.

BB: And I was totally into steampunk at that point – so I was like, if I do stuff with brass and wood, that going to be amazing.

NAS: Yeah, yeah. (Laughing) Have you disavowed steampunk?

BB: No, I just . . . that was my entry point to a bigger world. And I still love that aesthetic, but I don’t know if the steampunk lifestyle is for me.

NAS: (Laughing) Sure.

Trivets by Brian Blankstein

Trivets by Brian Blankstein

BB: So at that point I’m like, how do I learn how to do stuff with metal? Because wood was fairly straightforward to me, but no one in my family makes stuff, I didn’t have a lot of friends who made stuff or anything like that, so I didn’t have a good sense of what was involved in the metal world. I know there are people who weld stuff together and make crazy sculptures and stuff, but I don’t know what the hobbyist entry point is. . . . So I started looking at welding programs and stuff like that at community colleges, but it was all very geared toward you’re going to be a certified welder welding girders together, and like fixing submarines and stuff like that. And I was like, that sounds like I could get some technical knowledge, but it wouldn’t be very fun.

NAS: Yeah. Yeah, I assume there’s rigor, and weld this weld over and over and over to X, Y, Z. . . .

BB: Yeah – don’t smile. Well, I don’t remember how, but I eventually found the Evanston Arts Center. And I looked up the departments and I went to a class and Matt [Runfola] taught me how to weld, and it was awesome, there was so much stuff here. And I’ve kind of been, on and off due to availability of time, I’ve been pretty enamored of metalwork for the past . . . five-ish years or so? So I still do a little bit of woodworking, but most of what I’m doing is in metal. And the transition from only working in wood to metal was really weird because like, in woodworking, you’re always checking things to make sure they are perfect and they’re right. In woodworking, you’re working with organic materials, but it itself is not a very organic process. You have to plan everything in advance, and if you cut something too short, you’re done. There’s not really a good way to recover from that most of the time. And so, I’m in the metal shop for a few weeks, and I’ll buy some rod stock, and I’m like checking it for straightness – and everyone is looking at me like I’m crazy, and I realize – oh, if this isn’t straight, I can just bend it, no problem. And you’re working stuff and something falls off – okay, just stick it back on. I don’t like this this way, how about over here? And you can just improvise and you don’t have to plan ahead. You can do pieces where you’re planning everything ahead, but there are pieces where you could improvise. I made a table that was all this ropey viney leafing, and there was no real plan. I didn’t know anything except, it’s triangular, it’s going to be about this tall . . . go. It was a really freeing experience because I could just play, and not have to have everything planned, or check the plan.

NAS: Doing the table with inlaid glass – thorough plan, you have to follow everything, or it’s a total disaster. . . .

BB: There was a little bit of improvising, because I realized I wanted it to be something else, and I couldn’t do it, so I was like okay, I’m going to do this thing . . . but, yeah, you had to plan that in advance. So I really liked the freedom of metal, and I love the feel of it, and the weight of it is nice, and I did a lot of things with some metal and some wood combined, and that was a lot of fun. I was mostly doing welding early on, and at some point I discovered forging. And I was like, I love all this other stuff, but this really speaks to me. And I don’t know what about it. . . . It’s very physical. And you can really feel the metal as it moves. I don’t know, I really enjoyed it, and the process of how you get things from point A to point B, I think made a lot more sense to me. It’s not like it’s a complete replacement for any of this other stuff – I still weld things together, but forging is just fun.

NAS: The physical aspects seem particularly pronounced. Is it changing your thought process about the thing you’re doing because you have to be so physical with it?

BB: I don’t know that it changes my thought process so much as, my thought process didn’t work quite as well in other media.

NAS: Yeah, yeah. Okay.

BB: Not that any of them were completely alien or anything, I’m pretty good at figuring that kind of thing out, but this just felt very natural. And after years of doing things where I’m sitting at a desk all day, to be up and swinging a hammer for hours and hours, it’s exhausting and it’s great.

NAS: Nice. Do you have a desk job now?

BB: I have no job now. For the last five years of so, I was a mechanical engineer in product development. We were doing a lot of prototyping and making little test pieces, and stuff like that, and that part I loved, I loved: okay, we need to cobble a thing together. It can look like anything you want, but it really has to feel like this . . . we want to test this thing out. That was really cool. But then there was a lot of sitting at a desk doing CAD, or filling out forms, and things like that, and I was like, this part’s not for me. As that went up and the prototyping went down, I was like, eh. Okay, I’m done.

NAS: Was there a particular project or thing you were making when you started working with the forge where that’s when it clicked, or was it even just the fundamentals, the entry point which sort of immediately made it obvious that this was the thing for you?

BB: I know I talked to Matt [when CIADC opened], and I know that at that point I was already specifically interested in forging. I did a little of it back at Evanston Art Center, but there was maybe a year or two where I wasn’t able to get up there, I was just too busy. I already had my mind on forging, and I don’t remember how I got to that point. Other than maybe it was just that I had done enough of it that it was like, I miss this. I want to weld, but I really want to forge. It might have been that I had the idea I wanted to learn how to forge a knife, to make really nice kitchen knives, or something like that.

NAS: Have you done that?

BB: I’m working toward it, I’ve made several knives just out of scrap metal, but to make a really good knife you need to use high carbon steel, because that allows you to harden it, a knife won’t hold an edge unless you harden it, so just like the tip will fold over. That involves some more complex processes; you have to do heat treating and tempering and stuff like that. So I’m learning a bit about that, how to make them sharp enough, but I’ve gone through the process of getting the rough shape out. It’s something I’d still like to do at some point, it’s sort of always in the background, when I have a spare moment and I’m not sure what else to do, I’ll go ahead and make another rough knife now.

Firepokers (detail) by Brian Blankstein

Firepokers (detail) by Brian Blankstein

NAS: You were saying the other day that you have hundreds of firepokers?

BB: I was imagining having hundreds of firepokers. I have more like a dozen.

NAS: Okay, well, speculative hundreds of firepokers – were they going to be straight up ornamental, or. . . ?

BB: So, I knew that I didn’t know a lot about forging. And it seemed like the best way to learn would be through repetition, and a firepoker seemed like a kind of thing that is fairly simple, straightforward, but allows for enough variety to experiment with different techniques. It’s a quick project, so it’s not like I’m spending weeks and weeks on it, I can get through one in a day or two. Probably a lot faster once I’ve done a few, a quick turnaround to generate a lot, which is helpful for learning.

NAS: So at a dozen, you were like, alright, I’ve gotten what I can get out of this?

BB: I’m going to go back to them at some point, but I have firepokers piling up in my apartment, I don’t have a big apartment, and I don’t have a fireplace.

NAS: (Laughter)

Firepokers on table by Brian Blankstein

Firepokers on table by Brian Blankstein

BB: So, I’ve given a couple of them away. A lot of the things I’ve made historically have been out of need. Like, I need a table. I’m going to go make one. Something to hang things on a wall, I’m going to make that. So, something else came up and I was like, oh, I should actually go do the things that are important, rather than more firepokers. But it was good, but making the firepokers I got to learn techniques, such as making handles that look and feel good, things with a good hold.

NAS: Are they like the handle that’s on that wrench [in the exhibit Country, Life & Economics, which was recently in the CIADC exhibit space]?

BB: That was something that I had made to put on a firepoker, but I never made the poker to go with it, and we needed a handle, so I was like okay, I’ll just stick a nice handle on this thing. You know, if I need to make another one, I’ll make another one.

NAS: Nice.

Twist Wrench by Brian Blankstein and Emily McCormick

Twist Wrench by Brian Blankstein and Emily McCormick

BB: And I have an idea for the Demo exhibit, but I don’t have time to do it. Here’s my idea – and if someone wants to use it, they can. I would make like a dozen different handles, and get a ball, and weld them all to the ball sticking out at different angles. If I had time, that’s what I would do for that. And if someone else has time to steal my idea, that would be fine.

NAS: It’s sort of like a mace head full of handles, or. . . .

BB: Or like a big jack.

NAS: Right.

BB: That’s what I would do for Demo. I might still do that sometime because I feel like it would be fun.

Education: Fall Enrollment is Open

This week, Fall enrollment opens for the term beginning September 12, 2016. Core classes will be offered in 6- and 12-week sections, there will be a smattering of single-session instruction modules, and we're pleased to announce two additions: CIADC will now be offering teen-focused courses on Monday and Wednesday afternoons, and we've added an open studio access time slot for 12:30-3:30 PM on Sunday afternoons.

Check out the courses department by department below, and get ready for an active, creative Fall!





And for all members who are not planning to enroll in core classes this term, please be sure to attend the free STUC sessions to maintain access to open studio time!

Free Safety and Tool Use Certification on Saturday, September 10

Technology Department STUC (ITDSTUC-01) – 10:00 AM with Matt Runfola

Woodworking Department STUC (WDWSTUC-01) – 10:30 AM with Laura Miracle

Metalworking Department STUC (FMFSTUC-01) – 11:30 AM with Matt Runfola

Casting Department STUC (CSTSTUC-01) – 12:30 PM with Dominic Sansone


Call for Entries: Demo

Hands-on, first-person knowledge is fundamental to the spirit of our community at Chicago Industrial Arts & Design Center. The next exhibit project highlights the hands-on culture of CIADC, and we are encouraging all members to be a part of this project!

Demo will present creations designed to be touched, moved, manipulated, examined, and activated by CIADC visitors. We are seeking kinetic works and interactive pieces, with attention to tactile surfaces and construction methods that encourage participation from visitors. As with all exhibits at CIADC, we are seeking works that incorporate metal, wood, casting, and technological processes.

CIADC Members interested in taking part in this exhibit should send a description of your demo project with images or sketches to or speak to Nathan Smith, Sandra Stone, or Danielle Euer at the front desk!

To participate, please be in touch by Saturday, September 3


  • Works will be selected by Thursday, September 8
  • Drop-off will take place September 12 to September 17
  • Join us for the opening reception Saturday, October 15 from 4-6 PM
  • Demo will be on display from September 24 through December 17

Education: 5-Week Summer Classes and Instruction Modules

Summer term at Chicago Industrial Arts & Design Center is in full swing, but there's still time to join a series of great 5-week core classes or single-session instruction modules. The second half of the term begins the week of July 25 through July 30 – sign up today and keep up with the latest in the CIADC workshops – CIADC is offering a 10% discount to all new students: use code SUMMER10 at checkout!

5-Week Core Classes


Intro to Sand Cast Metal (CST120-05)
Wednesday 9 AM - 12 PM with Quentin Shaw beginning July 27;
Saturday 9 AM - 12 PM with Dominic Sansone beginning July 30

Intro to Composite Fabrication (CST150-05) 

Monday 7-10 PM with Mark Carroll beginning August 1

Fabricated Metalworking & Forging

Intro to Metal Fabrication (FMF110-05)
Saturday 9 AM to 12 PM with Quentin Shaw beginning July 30

Integrated Technology & Design

Intro to Rhino: 3D CAD Modeling For Design (ITD110-05)
Saturday 9 AM - 12 PM with Nathan Aldredge beginning August 6

Intro to Electronics and Microcontrollers For The Built Object (ITD120-05)
Wednesday 7-10 PM with Alan Baker beginning July 27


Intro to Woodworking (WDW110-05)
Wednesday 7-10 PM with Erik Newman beginning July 27;
Saturday 9 AM - 12 PM with Laura Miracle beginning July 30

Instruction Modules


Flexible Mold Making (CST520-01)
Tuesday, July 26 with Dominic Sansone 7 PM

Cold Casting (CST530-01)
Tuesday, August 9 with Dominic Sansone 7 PM

Fabricated Metalworking & Forging

TIG Welding: Steel, Stainless Steel, and Bronze (FMF530-01)
Tuesday, July 26 with Matt Runfola 7 PM

TIG Welding: Aluminum (FMF540-01)
Tuesday, August 2 with Matt Runfola 7 PM