Idea Fab Labs reopens membership to the public – Chico Enterprise-Record
There is no need to wait to do so.
The Idea Fab Lab held its grand reopening on Saturday after two and a half years of being closed to public memberships.
Director and co-founder Erin Banwell said they had to halt memberships during the pandemic in order to pivot their business model to stay afloat.
“We are reopening to members,” Banwell said. “We had people contacting us during the pandemic trying to join us and we just had a waiting list.”
The Idea Fab Lab is an art gallery and creative space in Chico that opened its doors 10 years ago. The space offers high-tech and traditional tools, from chisels and saws to CNC routers and 3D printers, which can be used with the purchase of a subscription.
When the pandemic started, the company began losing members and eventually stopped accepting new applications. Banwell said the number of members dropped from 160 to just 10 and they had to change their business model to stay afloat.
“We had to pivot during the pandemic,” Banwell said. “The vast majority of people quit, and so what I did was rent out some of the spaces as private studios and office space.”
To use their space and tools more efficiently, Banwell said they initially pivoted to making face shields at the start of the pandemic.
“We’ve made over a hundred thousand face shields and we’ve gotten a bunch of different grants,” Banwell said. “As part of a partnership with Chico State, we provided face shields to the health department of five upstate counties; Butte, Nevada, Glenn, Shasta, Trinity County.
Banwell said the company also sells augmented reality sandboxes to national visitor centers, universities and even NASA’s Kennedy Center Museum. One of their sandboxes was featured during Saturday’s opening.
Now, after surviving the effects of COVID mandates, the Idea Fab Lab will begin accepting new members for access to their tools, including a laser cutter and engraver; a 3D printer and a 3D scanner; a CNC router; a jewelry area; serigraphy and carpentry.
Visitor Lauren Meichtry attended the opening and signed up to become a member after being on the fence for a few years. Meichtry studied the design and said she wanted access to the tools she had at Chico State.
“I’ve been here before and kind of pitched the idea, but I didn’t take enough time to really commit to it,” Meichtry said. “I’m also in an apartment so there really isn’t a lot of space to work in.”
The Idea Fab Lab is located at 603 Orange Street and membership and course information is available at https://chico.ideafablabs.com/.