RVA Makers logo
Three years ago, blacksmith Kyle Lucia and mosaic artist Johannah Willsey, the husband-and-wife owners of Phoenix Handcraft, hosted an open house at their studio. The couple expected about 30 people to attend. Surprisingly, more than 100 people showed up.
The success of that event spurred the formation of RVA Makers, a networking and education group that has hosted more than 30 public meet-ups in local makers’ studios and counts more than 1,500 Facebook group members. On Nov. 27, the group launched an online fundraising campaign with the goal of raising $5,000 to become an official nonprofit organization. Contributions will allow RVAMakers to cover the liability, legal and operating costs of filing for official 501(c)(3) non-profit status. “When it was just a few of us, [Kyle and I] could handle the interest and manage our friends,” Willsey says. “Now it has taken on a life of its own. It’s too large for the two of us to handle.”
Prior to that fateful open house, Lucia and Willsey, along with their friends and colleagues, found it difficult to connect with other makers and the community. “We knew that if it was hard for makers to find and connect with other makers, it also had to be challenging for people who weren’t in our world,” Willsey says. After the event Lucia asked some maker friends if they wanted to host similar events and RVAMakers was born.
Today, RVA Makers is managed by a six member board and, by becoming a nonprofit organization, the group will have a formal structure and be able to provide liability coverage, all while staying true to their mission, “to organize and provide studio meet-ups and discussions for the purposes of fosters maker culture in Richmond, educating the community on the processes used by individual local makers, and provide exposure and access to local makers.”
Nonprofit status will also help the group to create a maker directory; build a website; develop a logo; and host educational programs and events on a larger scale.
The fundraising campaign ends on Saturday, Dec. 12. “What started off as a couple of friends hanging out together with a lot of hope and potential has turned into something that [people] are passionate about,” Willsey says. “The whole experience has been exciting and gratifying.”