Early in October, team Bubbler went on a field trip to visit our long time friends at the Bodgery in their brand new, 14,000 sqft space in the old Oscar Mayer campus. For the Bubbler as a connector and incubator of community connections, the Bodgery is one of our gold stars. We're amazed and awed at what they have accomplished over the last few years, and the love is mutual.
"The library is the part of our history we are most proud of." John Eich, president and founder told us on our visit, prompting a lot of heart warming "awwwwws" from our team. "We started 5 years ago with 2 of us as the Mad City Makers social club and the library is what allowed that to happen. It was the birthplace for our vision."
John and co-founder Karen Corbeill ran a series of workshops and meet ups at the Pinney & Sequoya libraries, and then in the Bubbler after Central library's grand opening. "It allowed us to gain members, and gain momentum." John reflects, "but when we started needing a place to solder and wanted to put power saws in the parking lot, it was obvious we needed to start looking for our own place." They pulled in two other co-founders and started looking at buildings.
In the past 5 years, the Bodgery has slowly outgrown two other locations. Going from 2 to 4, 20 to 50 members. But their newest space has seen their membership skyrocket. After their grand opening on September 21st, 2019, membership was a 220 and climbing.
It's no surprise. With ample room for all of their equipment, including a wood shop, machine shop, welding bay, as well as access to a large cnc laser cutter, industrial sewing machine, and so much more, we were all tempted to join up. Room to expand also means expanding their educational opportunities. "Send us your teaching artists!" John exclaimed, "we want this to be a place where teaching happens all the time."
Incubating New Collaborations
Perhaps the most exciting perk of the additional roominess is the addition of rentable studio space for independent artists and collaboratives.
Affordable studio space in Madison is hard to come by, and team Bubbler was excited to point some of several of our artist community to the Bodgery for a new home. We ran into our friends from Chroma Press in their new corner, hard at work on the latest run of the Underbelly zine. We'll host Chroma temporarily at the Bubbler for a residency next spring, but it was awesome to see them in a permanent space as their business continues to grow.
A Very Bubbler Partnership
But we weren't done finding familiar faces. Around just a few corners we dropped in on the shared studio of Emily Balsley, Brian Kehoe, & Ray Mawst. Brian has been a part of the Bubbler family for years as a long time volunteer and serving as one of our first gallery interns when the Bubbler first opened. Ray connected with us through the Madison Mural Alley project, reaching out to be involved and painting the beautiful signs branding the space, and Emily was our 2019 September & October Artist-in-Residence.
All currently working in the world of murals and public art, this amazing crew connected at a memorable Bubbler happy hour in December of 2018, and the magic of the partnership began.
Coined the "Madison Mahlers" by notable sign painter Mike Meyers at one of his retreats they attended together, this group has been teaming up to support each other in large scale public art pieces across the city - "Mahler" being a nerdy reference to a Mahl stick, a tool used by sign painters to steady a hand.
Brian and Emily were both looking for a new studio space to support their growing independent work, and teaming up with Ray allowed them to secure a larger space and also build their collaborative partnership.
"When I moved to Madison, the Bubbler was how I connected to the art community." Brian told us, "It's one of the longest relationships and friendships I have had since I came here." We're so excited that these friendships have built into a partnership - and that they let us come hang out with them in their space. We mostly all fit in the selfie!