This is a community announcement from Laurence Clarkberg, Ithaca Generator vice president. It was NOT written by The Ithaca Voice. 

ITHACA, N.Y. — Caution: with this letter I aim to make you weep for joy and then give money. Let’s see how I do.

I posted an album on facebook you can enjoy as you reminisce and read this:

I remember the moment of conception. It was the spring of 2012. My friend Claire Fox ran into me on the Commons, explained to me what a makerspace is, explained that she was working with a group of cool people to make one, and would I like to be a part of it? I was in the process of setting up a welding studio in my garage at that time and I thought, how much better to share my equipment and skills within a community of makers. So I said yes. And so began my five-year it-could-only-happen-in-Ithaca odyssey with the Ithaca Generator.

With the help of our award-winning Press Bay Alley daring landlord John Guttridge, about a dozen of us founders made the Generator.  And for a time we were happy to barely pay the rent in order to have a kind of clubhouse downtown for us to hang out in and make cool stuff amongst ourselves. And after the excitement of creation wore off most of the original founders wandered off to do other things. We went through a lull. Of the original members, only Buddha and myself, unlikely partners, kept the flame. I haven’t told Buddha this, but I am so grateful for him, his steadfastness being a great foil to my mercurial nature.

Then this happened.

Laurence Clarkberg, Ithaca Generator vice president

Last year we elected an energetic young president, Elliot Wells, who saw our little makerspace in the context of a broader social movement, and who sees a career in forwarding that movement; we acquired a talented young staff organizer, Sarah Regenspan, ready to bring the Generator to the next level, who sees her role as a possible paid position; and we have young entrepreneurs lining up at the lasercutter, some of whom make a fair living with that tool and others who only need a bit of investment capital to reach that level.

And more good news. Starting this October, I am trying an entrepreneurial experiment with fellow maker and crack craftsperson Caleb Harrington. He is converting my bike shop into a tiny crafts store for the holiday season. A good percentage of his products will be made yards away in the Generator by young entrepreneurs. Now a product can go from idea to means-of-production to store shelf to consumer within a single day. Let’s see Rev do that!

Once again the Generator has performed an end run of innovation around another organization in town (here I am teasing our sibling incubator Rev and their Generator founders Xanthe Matychack and Ken Rother) that has the same mission as us but is much better dressed and much better funded.

And lastly there are plans afoot for Ithaca Generator to expand into a new space next door, near where McNeil’s Music was, in the spring. We plan to run a separate capital campaign for that endeavor, and this fundraising effort now underway is a sort of primer for that. The thinking is that if we can show how easily we can raise $12,000 this week, we can show we are capable of raising hundreds of thousands of dollars this spring for our expansion.

This past year the Generator has become a hotbed of young activism. A group of rogue Cornell architecture students, who want to actually build things rather than just talk about building things, led by the dynamic Yoonseo Cha, donated a mobile tool shed to the Generator. Then Grassroots activists took that tool shed and made it into the Leslie Puryear Community Stage, now poised to do good around Ithaca, and set to debut in its Press Bay Alley location at our October 6th fundraising event. The full story is here:

We have new undeveloped space in our current location, new energy, and new equipment. We need your help to bring this promising situation to fruition this fall.

Our landlord John Guttridge has generously donated a potter’s wheel and kiln and space to build a simple pottery studio. We need to raise $6,000 to add lights, outlets, shelves, and a sink. And two of our members, Jason Youngers and Buddha Buck, are hatching a plan to build a mini-machine shop in that same back area, with a milling machine and metal lathe, for less than $4,000. And lastly we plan to make all of our tools available to all of our members all of the time for as little as $40 a month. To do this we need card reader access for our front door, which, again with the help of our benevolent landlord John Guttridge, yes this is the third time he appears in this letter he is that good, you all should aspire to be like him, we can do the card reader access for less than $2,000. Your pocket change can enable us to make these changes!

The Generator is an Ithacan phenomenon. Our trusty TIG welder has produced a 12-foot Ithaca Festival parade float celebrating ecstatic dance; the beginnings of a bicycle that has legs instead of wheels conceived of by my savvy 15-year-old intern Sam Scott (also a former Ithaca Voice photographer); and a 9-inch lobster made out of spoons by a 10-year-old welding student. Our friendly lasercutter has produced stencils for the acclaimed mural projects in Ithaca, and copyright-questionable schwag sold at a notorious Ithaca festival we invented that brought Ithaca’s businesses millions of dollars of revenue for two years running (here I mean Wizarding Weekend of course). The Generator is truly a gem of Ithaca’s community.

Now it’s time for those of who have benefitted from the Generator, all you makers, all you homeschoolers, all you activists, all you bikers, all you businesses, all you entrepreneurs, to give something back. Do so now at the following web address:

Come chat! Ithaca Generator’s annual Annual Generator Meeting is this Thursday 9/28 at 7pm. Members are strongly encouraged to come, and all friends of the Generator are welcome. Please come and chat with me more about the Generator’s bright future. Plus, pizza and beer!

And come watch me dance in my tights for 12 hours on October 6th for our dance marathon fundraising event. I’m doing it for fun, of course, but I’m also doing it for the Generator, and for you. I need your support. Event details here:

Please forward this letter to your friends.

-Laurence Clarkberg, Ithaca Generator vice president