Artist Mike Han's artwork

Last month, we wrote about Detroit’s rise and decline as an industrial giant and how it has remained a place where things are made.

Driving through the streets of the city today, you can’t help but feel the energy of the young artists and fabricators who view Detroit as a place of opportunity. One of these artists is Mike Han (artwork pictured above). Mike is hoping to develop his lifestyle brand with unique products stemming from global street culture and Detroit’s design heritage. He is emblematic of the many artists and creative thinkers who could use the Detroit Fab Lab to launch their businesses.

Fabrication equipment, mentorship and business development assistance are crucial to the development of Mike’s new business—not to mention scores of other startups. When we met recently, he stressed that artists like him are dedicated to the creative process and are not as versed in setting up a business. When I mentioned that the Detroit Fab Lab would bring together fabrication equipment and business mentorship, I could see Mike’s eyes light up.

In September, Brooklyn-based Third Ward announced plans to open a branch of their successful creative workspace in Philadelphia. This new branch will include fabrication equipment, a digital media lab, a commissary, textile fabrication and gallery space. We were excited to learn about this model and how it could influence the Detroit Fab Lab.

One ingredient that sets apart the proposed Detroit Fab Lab from others, however, is its direct connection to the TechTown business incubator and accelerator, which is already supporting entrepreneurs launching businesses. In the next month, we plan to visit the original Third Ward as well as other models in both New York City and Philadelphia to learn more about their models and discuss the role of business incubators as they relate to fab labs and creative workshops.

For entrepreneurial artists like Mike Han, it may mean the difference between developing a product and launching a successful business

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Vol 1, No. 12: DEC 12, 2011

FAB Lab

Detroit, MI