When Linda Celestian passes through the tinted doors of NextFab and walks into the inviting common room, she’s home.
“My father was a woodworker and my mother was a seamstress. I was either watching him on all his machines or I was on the sewing machine. All the time.”
As such, she’s not intimidated by the sound of a table saw. And now, after months of coming to the Creative District’s makerspace, the laser cutter and the 3D printers don’t scare her either.
Linda is an artist based out of Arden. She is one of the 20-plus artists chosen to participate in the Innovation Workshops, the tuition-free program run by Creative District Wilmington and NextFab.
“I heard about the Innovation Workshops through working with the Creative District and the mural program,” said Linda. “I love it. When I come [to NextFab] I feel like I’m part of a diverse mix of creatives.”
Linda began her artistic career as a fashion designer. From fashion, she moved on to explore other art media in an effort to better express herself creatively. After trying her hand at acting, Linda began to work with paint and design sculptures.
“I remember someone telling me, ‘Oh that’s going to take you a while to get really good, working in three dimensions.’ But that’s where I started. Working on models, working in 3D that’s what you do in fashion design.”
Her work lead her to the Delaware Center for Contemporary Art where she had a studio for five years.
“That is where I started making these big silk sculptures that I suspended in the studio,” she said. “Again, with my background, I just loved working with fibers.”
Now Linda works out of her home studio which means that most of the time, she has to build all of her pieces by hand, which can be limiting.
“Like when I work with stencils for example,” she said. “I used to have to sit down and carve these by hand, which is not the part I like. I rather use my time to develop what to create with them.
Enter NextFab. Through her time there, she said she has been able to enhance her artistic scope and that gives her the ability to play around with ideas she never had the time to do before.
“With the tools here I can take the small scale work I’ve been doing and make it much bigger which lets me propose public art projects or even just play around with ideas I’ve always had. I can use acetate, which is much less expensive and I play around with transparency, cutouts. Having this technology and having a way to do it quickly, gets me to new places much faster.”
If you wanted to find Linda at NextFab, you should probably just head straight to the Universal Laser Cutter. This programmable machine uses a strong laser beam to cut or etch into a variety of different materials.
“I can cut the time I used to take to make pieces almost in half now,” said Linda. “I see my art changing, I am branching out and I feel free to experiment when before I didn’t want to.”
The concept of a makerspace, or 3D printing, or laser cutting can be alien to people. Almost like a foray into the world of science fiction. NextFab, however, is built around the idea that anyone can go inside and find a foothold.
“With all the technology here, you will without a doubt be confused at first,” said Linda. “But they cater to all kinds of experience levels here.”
Linda explains that most of her colleagues have trouble wrapping their minds around how NextFab could benefit them.
“Showing them tangible examples I think is what will get them to make that leap to join NextFab,” Linda said. “If they can see actually examples of how artists are benefiting, they will probably understand more about what this place means. That will take time of course but I think it is happening.”
“I just think about after my first laser cutter class,” she said. “I went online and started looking through different projects that other folks had done from around the country. I was so inspired at seeing what could be done on things like the laser cutter and 3D printer. And there isn’t just one way to use it. There are so many different crazy imaginative ways to take advantage of what they have here.”
Art is changing in some ways, says Linda. Artists need to be open to change with the times.
“But not everyone can afford to go back to art school. At NextFab you can get trained on the same equipment at a fraction of the price and over half the time.”
NextFab’s location in the Creative District is perfect for artists like Linda. It becomes a beacon for local artists to come together and compare notes and work. It also gets them involved with a community that they might not have always been connected to.
“Thanks to the Creative District, I’ve been able to connect with a new community of artists that I never had an opportunity to work with before. There is a divide between the city and the suburbs but the Creative District has helped to shrink that divide. There is no difference between a fine artist or a street artist. We’re all just trying to create and express ourselves.”