Do you remember assembling your kids' PowerWheels Cars? If you're like some of us, you see the plastic cars and think about how fun and ridiculous sounding it would be to race around with other adults.
You're in luck: there is a racing series dedicated to adults building kid sized cars and racing them around. It's called the Power Racing Series. http://www.powerracingseries.org/
As one of our first fun projects with our members, Roswell Firelabs will be constructing one (or more) Power Racing Series cars. We hope to eventually compete with other PRS enthusiasts and makerspaces in the area!
All PRS cars have a maximum budget of $500, so we are fundraising amongst our members and anyone else who is interested in the project to make this fun activity a reality! You can donate by clicking the Power Racing Series donation button on the right side of this page.
If you are interested in participating in the car build, keep an eye on the calendar for our next event! https://roswellfirelabs.org/events
Written by: Christa Gould, Roswell Firelabs, Communications Team
Rod Whigham is a commercial and comic book artist. His illustrations include work on 'G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero' 'Psi-Force', 'Kickers Inc', 'Conan', ‘Men in Black’ and ‘The Punisher’ for Marvel Comics.
Then for DC Comics he continued with illustration for 'Doc Savage', ‘Star Trek', 'The Shadow', 'Justice League International' and 'The Flash'.
Whigham has lived in Roswell with his wife Laura for 4 years. He has lived for the last 44 years in Georgia. His father was in the Air Force, so as a boy Rod also lived in New Mexico, Germany, Italy, Kansas.
How did you develop an interest in drawing?
Rod remembers the exact moment when the spark was ignited. In the 2nd grade, while in Clovis, New Mexico, there was a 30-minute syndicated TV show called “Learn How to Draw with Jon Gnagy”. He avidly watched the program weekly, following along as Gnagy drew in heavy pencil and explained the process as he worked.
Whigham’s most vivid memory is of a drawing showing two boys walking in the snow pulling a sled with a rope. There was a house in the distance, and Gnagy’s explained how to add light, shadow, and contrast to create the illusion of a hill with depth using simple lines in footprints and sled tracks.
Whigham was hooked!
In high school, Rod’s art teacher noticed the interest that several students had in comic book illustration. He pulled them together with the printing classes to produce a comic for the school. It was a mutual learning experience for both sets of students and went on to be produced for three years. It helped Rod understand a greater scope of the process – like what happened to line weight and detail when the image was reduced in size.
This solidified Whigham’s goals - He knew that producing comics was what he wanted to pursue as a career. Rod was considered an art “rock star” at his high school. “The problem is, when you get into the real world, you’re in the mix with ALL the art “rock stars” from across the country. It’s very competitive in what is a very limited job market.”
How did you get started as a graphic novel artist?
Whigham’s talent was noticed by Marvel Comics, then later DC Comics in the 1980’s.
In comic books’ best of times, the production schedule was on a monthly cycle: The team was to produce 22 pages. Writers produced a script, (like a TV show) with dialog that made it easier for the artists to visualize the story and produce the graphics, the dialog was turned over and Whigham and team would produce the panels.
Marvel introduced an alternate production style -- developed by the famous Stan Lee. The Marvel approach was to write a synopsis (e.g., SpiderMan is in high school. He gets sick and loses his job. Then the bad guy shows up.) This reversed approach was popular with artists because they could visualize the story and break it down into panels. Then the dialog came afterward, based on the graphics.
The production of comic books today has evolved, especially regarding the coloring process and printing quality. But the team-work nature of mainstream comics remains mostly the same.
Facing growing competition from video games, internal struggles and over expansion, the comic book industry experienced a collapse in the 1990’s. To continue working as an artist, Whigham produced commercial art, comps and layouts for advertising. He has always been a film fan and worked towards producing storyboards and concept art for movies and has story boarded several films. He currently he produces the art for a nationally distributed comic strip, Tribune Media’s ‘Gil Thorp’.
Where do you get inspiration for your works?
“It’s the telling of the story and, of course, the artists I loved reading comics as a kid. Artists like Gil Kane, Russ Heath and Jim Steranko. In the early years, characters like DC’s BlackHawks were favorites. Science fiction and historical books also had a strong appeal.”
He loves the stories about real people, characters who are not all-powerful or indestructible. “I think real heroes are people who get knocked down and get back up to fight against the odds. Flying super-beings lost their interest to me early on.”
During the days of “full production”, Whigham was producing 370 pages of art annually. That’s over 4000 pages to date!
What is your favorite subject matter?
“I never try to imitate the popular trend. I draw what I like.”
A recent creation is a series of paintings called “Zombie Romance”. The works were featured at the Rabbit Hole Gallery in Atlanta.
Rod’s style is considered “silver age” or realistic.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to begin their artistic journey?
“Get serious training - do whatever it takes to get formal instruction. I’m self-taught and have accomplished much, but I could have gone further in a shorter time if I had done an apprenticeship. You can improve your craft with diligence, but you limit yourself. You need someone to work with who will push you beyond your limits.”
“Also, a young artist’s connections in the graphic novel industry and self motivation are very important.” One bright moment for Whigham was that he taught in a “Young Audiences” program in elementary and middle schools. He showed kids a formula for how to draw a human face. Specifically, he taught them to draw Wolverine!
Alexis Noel is the Shop Manager and in the core leadership group for Roswell Firelabs. She keeps track of inventory acquired, provides shop training, and looks for donations for materials desired by members. Some of the equipment that has been donated needs to be cleaned and refurbished. Some of the equipment, woodworking equipment for instance, needs to be assessed to determine that it is usable. Alexis, the daughter of Chiropractors, is from Chapel Hill, North Carolina. She came to Atlanta to attend Georgia Tech, where she studied mechanical engineering, then went on to earn her PhD.
How did you get into this unique role with Roswell Firelabs?
“During my years of working on my degree at Georgia Tech, they started a maker space. That was the first time I heard of it. “
Alexis says, “The maker space, which we called the ‘Invention studio’, began in one tiny room with a waterjet machine – it has the ability to cut just about anything: metals, plastics, ceramics. I was fascinated with it! It was students teaching students. This grew to 140 students in 6 rooms – completely run by students.” From that experience, Alexis learned how to grow and develop a maker space.
“I was in charge of fixing and maintaining our legion of 3D printers, as well as teaching new students how to use equipment such as laser cutters, sewing machines, and woodworking equipment. I loved the learning/teaching environment.”
During this involvement with the Invention Studio, Alexis was able to dabble in different areas of building and engineering. From that, she built – from scratch – an acoustic guitar. In another project, she used her welding and blacksmith know-how to craft garden gates.
How did you first become interested in mechanical engineering?
As a kid, Alexis says she was always into crafts. She made many things from popsicle sticks.
“One year for Christmas, all I wanted was a box of springs.”
In her high school physics class, the students made “mousetrap” cars. She attributes that project to her pursuit of a degree in mechanical engineering.
Alexis currently works in bio-mechanics for GTRI (Georgia Tech Research Institute) and resides in Roswell.
What interests you about Roswell Fire Labs?
These days, Alexis is passionate about teaching. In her role at RFL, she wants to interact with the local schools. Specifically, she envisions an after-school program to get youth involved at RFL.
To help Alexis and the other members of Roswell Fire Labs achieve their goals, there is still a focus on making the community aware of the benefits to the community and to identify donations needed. Alexis says that the space needs cleaning supplies; basic hand tools like wrenches, screwdrivers and clamps; woodshop tools like bandsaws and circular saws; sewing machines and tools like scissors, seam rippers, and measuring tapes; soldering irons for electronics work; consumables like paint, printer paper. Of course, monetary donations are also welcome. Click here to donate via the website, or email email@example.com to donate equipment or supplies.
Flight Creations is the name under which Roswell Firelabs member Luke Greene creates his beautiful hand-carved birds. Luke is a native of Atlanta. He grew up in the Sandy Springs area, and then attended North Georgia College, Georgia State Univ. and Woodrow Wilson College of Law.. Luke owns an executive recruiting firm, and has lived in Roswell since 2010. Luke uses basswood and carves with knives. Power tools are sometimes used. The steps of the process are carve, burn (pyrography), then paint. In the last 6 years, Luke estimates he’s finished 80+ birds. Many of his birds are crafted into wine stoppers and can be purchased at the Wine Store on Holcomb Bridge Road.
How did you get started with carving birds?
As a kid, Luke always loved knives. Cub Scouts can earn the Whittling Chip card that teaches them knife skills and safety and earns them the right to carry a pocketknife. As a Boy Scout, Luke learned to make knives. Also, part of the paraphernalia of a Boy Scout is a knife kit. “I had the knives, and I wanted to use them!” As an adult, Luke taught scouts at his home. He says it was great fun because it brought back fond memories.
Where do you get inspiration for your works?
His approach is to learn what the client wants. Then he studies the bird in terms of its configuration and feather patterns. So there is a learning curve with each new type of bird. Luke is also a member of the Audubon Society.
Is there one piece you consider your finest? “
There are two that are particularly meaningful to me. The first is one I did for my niece and nephew that live in John’s Creek. Their house burned down. Thankfully, no one was hurt. They rebuilt their home on the same lot and asked me if I would carve a Phoenix.” The mythological Phoenix bird is a symbol of rebirth and renewal. Luke completed the Phoenix and then made it into a mold which he then cast in bronze. The other piece that Luke holds dear was done for his high school / college / fraternity friend who introduce Luke to his current wife. As a thank you, he carved a Great Blue Heron with Sandpiper mounted on bleached driftwood.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to begin their artistic journey? “
Do what I DIDN’T do. Get instruction so you don’t have to figure out the basics.
What interests you about Roswell Fire Labs?
Luke learned about RFL through connection with his neighborhood. It was during a demonstration at the Chattahoochee Nature Center. Luke hopes to teach carving skills at RFL. “Teaching allows you to verbalize and explain ‘why’.” Teaching is a significant interest of Luke’s. Luke says, “Come take my class and let me show you the basic cuts. Then you can carve anything.” He has a class at Woodcraft on Holcomb Bridge Rd in October.
Yes – the rumors are true! Roswell is finally getting its own makerspace. We’ve been working hard all year to bring this exciting new venue to East Roswell, and the support we’ve gotten so far is amazing! We’ve received a lot of questions since we started, though – who is Roswell FireLabs? What is a makerspace, and what do you do there?
Last year, Roswell opened a new fire station, and the old station at 1601 Holcomb Bridge was up for rezoning. This proposal was met with opposition from several community members, however, which resulted in a public input meeting in June 2017. Our now-executive director, David, was amongst the attendees, and made an alternative proposal to turn the fire station into a community makerspace, which sparked several conversations, meetings, and eventually a official proposal to City Council in December 2017.
Between June and December, David worked to form a committee of local volunteers (now our leadership team) to help us build this organization, and in January 2018, the Council and Mayor approved our proposal. Since then, Mayor Lori Henry and the Roswell City Council (as well as MANY local community members) have been very generous in helping us secure the space, providing contractors to renovate the building and the grounds before we open later this year.
A Makerspace is a collaborative, educational work space for making, learning, exploring and sharing. These spaces provide a variety of maker equipment for adults and kids alike to build their passion projects, as well as critical 21st century skills in the fields of science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM). So far we have collaborated with several schools, businesses and community programs in the Roswell area, and we are excited to continue this trend after we open.
A makerspace is simply for anyone who likes creating things. Our space aims to provide a collaborative environment focused on networking through the creative arts, enriching the lives of Roswell (and neighboring) residents with community classes and a membership-driven studio with equipment (3D printers, woodshop, sewing machines, etc) that might be inaccessible elsewhere.
We get this question a lot! Honestly, we’ve been giving the contractors the time they need to get the space just right before we move in. Several changes have been made to the space, including ripping out the old kitchen, completely renovating the old bathroom, replacing the floors, cleaning up the roof, knocking out a few walls, and lots more. (You can see our latest team walkthrough video from June 2018 via Facebook here, or watch it below.) All work has been graciously provided by City Council, so as soon as they have completed the work, we will be able to move in. While we can’t guarantee an opening date at this point, we can say it will be before the end of 2018.
We have also heard renovations may be done very, very soon. Once they are complete, our leadership team will do another walk through to assess how much work needs to be completed, and will attempt to schedule some community work days to get our space clean and shiny before the end of the year (paint walls, clean floors, move furniture and equipment, etc). Keep an eye out for more updates on this in September/October.
We are still purchasing and collecting equipment donations, but so far we can confirm a few things:
We intend to include several other materials for other activities, such as screenprinting, metalworking, etc., and we are rapidly adding more. If you have equipment, money or tools to donate, please contact us. More information can be found on our Donations page.
Join our community meetings! Our next event will be at Lucky’s Burgers and Brew on Saturday, August 18th from 10am-12pm on the pavilion. You can learn more about this event here, and follow us on social media to learn about our future community meetups.
by Christa Gould, Roswell FireLabs, Communications Team.
TRISH JOHNSTON, an artist in bookmaking, painting, and other related mediums, started out making simple hand-drawn and painted greeting cards.
Trish grew up in northwest England and attended the University of Durham. After moving to the United States to study for a Masters in Geography at Indiana University she met another student, Tom Johnston. In June 2018, Trish and Tom celebrate 50 years together! The couple moved to the Atlanta area in 1970 for Tom to pursue his PhD. Tom and Trish found their home in Roswell four years ago.
How did you develop an interest in paper and bookmaking?
Trish recalled that as a child whenever they went anywhere, her Mom gave her paper and pencil to keep her hands occupied. That’s her earliest connection with art. Later in high school her teacher was dismayed to learn that she didn’t plan to pursue a degree in art. And then moving on to the time where she had her geography degree in hand, she says “I couldn’t live on geography either.” So, she learned graphics and editing/writing on the computer and had a career in nonprofit promotion and fund raising.
Her creative self was put on the shelf for about 20 years for work and motherhood. At age 40 she started again, making greeting cards. Next, she expanded by using bought and handmade rubber stamps. She learned that she could also alter and enhance the images with computer graphics programs. “There was lots of experimentation, and there still is,” Trish says.
Along Trish’s creative journey, she met book artists. “They were very imaginative. They made everything .. the cover, the paper, even the thread that sewed it together.” Trish especially loves the works of Brian Dettmer, a book artist living in Atlanta. “He is noted for his alteration of preexisting media—such as old books, maps, record albums, and cassette tapes—to create new, transformed works of visual fine art.”
Trish says, “the standard method of making a book involves case binding.” A case bound book is constructed using a hard outside “case” in contrast to the internal papers. “I like stretching that model – blurring the lines to create something more imaginative. It’s a book .. it’s art .. it’s both!”
Trish has also produced frameable art. She uses acrylics and water-soluble colored pencils. Monoprinting (Gelliplate©) is another medium Trish explores. She applies colors to the plate and then uses various tools to create an image or texture to her work. She also enjoys collage.
Where do you get inspiration for your work?
“I am largely self-taught, although I did learn how to make books with two week-long intensive classes at the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown NC.” (www.folkschool.org) Trish especially browses online for ideas on technique. She specifically mentioned a YouTube channel by Jane Davies in Vermont. She says, “I’m not stuck on one style. And even if I don’t like the art produced by a particular artist, I still learn something.”
Trish laments that there is no book arts group in the Atlanta area.
“I am spoiled for choice. But I particularly love heritage and memory. Near where I grew up in the UK, here are miles of beautiful stone walls in the countryside. There’s a piece I produced based on a particular stone wall in Yorkshire, made with stones retrieved from a monastery destroyed by Henry VIII, and some of the stones retain the original religious carvings”
Says Trish, “But I like to mix it up. For a recent art show called Joys of the Seasons, I produced a painting of two English robins with a green watering can. I like wildlife and scenery– plowed fields in spring, or blossoming plants, birds and butterflies. My latest work, in water-soluble colored pencils, is of the dormant Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii at sunrise.”
“Make time every day to put pencil or paintbrush on paper. Think visually and creatively. You’ll find it has a very positive effect on your well-being.”
What interests you about Roswell Fire Labs.
“I already have a studio at home and access to space at Roswell Fine Arts Alliance on Fouts Road. Now, I would like to teach. I am scheduled to do a 1-day class on the art of making a Japanese-style sketch book, and I would like more opportunities to share my creative passions.”
Trish says she’s “thrilled beyond belief” that the city of Roswell is allowing the makerspace. “Too often things are torn down and thrown out. Repurposing the building and bringing people together for art and innovation makes good things happen and nurtures the creative community in Roswell.”
Roswell FireLabs1601 Holcomb Bridge RdRoswell, GA 30076
Roswell FireLabs is managed by Atlanta Maker Alliance, Inc., a local 501(c)3 non-profit organization. All donations should be made out to Atlanta Maker Alliance.