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Meet The Maker – Judith Kenigson

Hailing from Toronto, Canada, Judith Kenigson is a very special member of the Make Nashville community. As the mother of Make Nashville’s founder, Matt Kenigson, it is rightfully so that without Judith, our beloved non-profit wouldn’t be here today. Sitting as President on Make Nashville’s board of directors, Judith carries on her late son’s legacy. A potter since the ‘90s and the Ceramic Shop Captain since Make Nashville’s inception, Judith conjures a community within ceramics (and throughout the makerspace) and generously shares her passion for and knowledge of the craft with all interested makers. 

Learning herself from Master Potter Lena Lucas, Judith explains that she was drawn to the art because, “I love the tactile part of it, I love having my hands in mud; it brings out something playful in you and at the same time you can be very creative. Also, clay is very forgiving so you can make one thing with it and then you can squish that and make something else. You can just keep playing and inventing with it until you make something that sort of captures your spirit.” 

That, Judith explains, is one side of the making pottery and, as for the other side, she explains that it is also very useful. From kitchenware and pots to decor, Judith has made countless pieces that serve a purpose in her everyday life as well as for those who have been gifted with (or purchased) her pieces over the years. 

Interested in seeing her incredible talent for yourself? Take a look at a selection of her pieces on display in Make Nashville’s meeting room. The pots you’ll see were thrown on the wheen and fired using a 16th century method called Raku. During the Raku process, pottery is fired in a scorching kiln that reaches up to 1,830 °F. This is a unique form of firing for the fact that it is incredibly meticulous and yet the extraordinary results of the finish are up to the laws of nature and how a combination of elements painted or placed onto the clay will react together in the kiln. 

As with anything that brings you joy, it is only natural to want more of that thing. For Judith, that quickly became ceramics. Having a hobby you’re passionate about “…gives you a reason to get up in the morning,” Judith reveals. “If you’re thinking about something you’d like to do, you’re just going to jump out of bed and think ‘I really want to try that!’”

On the same not of inspiration, Judith continues, “Pottery keeps my mind thinking things like, ‘I wonder what would happen if I did this,’ ‘I wonder what would happen if I tried that,’ ‘what if I fired it at a different temperature,’ ‘I wonder if I can make Raku waterproof,’ ‘how can I figure that out?’” What may seem overwhelming to some is the fuel for what Judith refers to as a “tantalizing adventure.”  

Knowing that time is not only being well-enjoyed but is also standing still when she is at the wheel, Judith concludes, “If I would stop working so damn hard and take more time to have fun, I would be a lot more present in my life.” With that, we’ll say that it’s a great thing when we see Judith in her studio. It is in those moments we know that her heart and soul are full. 

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Meet the Maker – Ben Ringel

When Ben Ringel, lead guitarist in rock band Boy Orbison, had to put his touring life on hold due to the Corona Virus pandemic, he wasted no time in pursuing a new creative venture as Make Nashville’s newest welder. 

“I’ve been smoking barbecue my whole life and have been a professional cook for about 10 years,” the musician explains.”I was ready to get a really nice smoker but they are all wildly expensive, generally starting around $2,500 or more and I figured I could spend a little less than half of that [in addition to] learning a trade, if I built it on my own.”

A newcomer to the world of welding, the Louisiana native states that he learned the trade through “YouTube University.” “I severely underestimated, like most people do, just how difficult blue collared trades are to learn,” he admits. But once the basics were established and Ringel gained the confidence to wrap his hands around the welding gun, he took his barbecue smoker plans to Make Nashville’s welding workshop and got to work.

Going big, Ringel purchased a propane tank in Alabama, which would soon be transformed into a Texas-style smoke chamber. “This is type of smoker is called an offset smoker. It’s very traditional in Texas,” Ringel explains. “In this style, either propane tanks or oilfield pipes are the perfect size and shape ergonomically and it’s a cheap way to get your cooking chamber. I got this [tank] for about $123 whereas buying a new steel pipe this size would be $500 to $600. It’s also always nice to be able to recycle or reuse something.” 

A workshop romance, it took no time for sparks to fly (literally!) as the welder sliced into the tank’s belly with angle grinders and plasma cutters in order to create hinged chamber doors and various other cuts to enable optimal performance of the smoker’s smokestack and log-burning firebox. 

A steel beast, Ringel laughs about it’s size. “My wife is nervous! I’m still figuring out where it will go. It wasn’t until I got [the tank] mounted that I realized it was much bigger than I thought it would be.” Weighing in at about 1,200lbs with the capacity to smoke 10 pork butts, eight briskets or 12 racks of ribs at max, this smoker is no joke. But, that’s not to say that Ringel hasn’t enjoyed his time making it. “A really fun part of this project has been the critical thinking,” Ringel expresses. “An interesting part has been figuring out how to problem solve and the cool part about this shop is that for every major hurdle, there is always someone around to bounce ideas off and that’s been quite helpful. It’s pretty awesome to have a place like this where you pay a pretty reasonable monthly due and you get to create.”

Nearing the end of his project, it took the new welder just under three months to bring his smoker from conception to completion. And for his first smoke? A bunch of turkey legs for a covid-style renaissance fair with friends. As for the future, Ringel is cooking up ideas for BBQ pop-ups and perhaps one day, an even bigger smoker. As for now, we can only imagine that he is mostly looking forward to a well-earned smoky feast. 

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Make Masks Make PPE

Thank You

Fabric Mask Update:

Thanks to volunteers and supporters like you, we have completed our second full week of mask making for first responders and health care professionals!!! The past few days we have really honed in on our sterilization and organization efforts; allowing us to confidently distribute masks to people in need.

In the last week we have given masks to Nashville’s Magistrate offices, Sumner County nursing homes, various nurses at St. Thomas and Vanderbilt, as well as EMTs and are collaborating with Vanderbilt and Ft. Houston to meet their even more of our community’s needs. We are compiling a detailed list of where the masks and faceshields are going and who all is working on them; stay tuned for more or check our new website.

A big, special thank you to Jenna and Jennifer among our other volunteers for keeping this stuff going and in order.

Thanks to Hands on Nashville for getting us so many awesome volunteers and thank you to Pennington Distillery Co. for providing us with a fresh supply of hand sanitizer!

Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

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Our New Location’s Map

Make Nashville’s makerspace is located at 620 Davidson St, Nashville, TN 37213. Our facility sits upon the north bank of the Cumberland River, across the street from Beaman Automotive. We are centrally located down the street from the pedestrian walking bridge, Nissan Stadium, and Shelby Bottoms Park.

https://goo.gl/maps/u5JixQDadHdEJHU18