Your Community: Artist finds creative outlet and healing at MakerSpace

Eugenia Ortiz, an Overland Park artist, was at a crossroads in 2018. She was facing personal challenges. Professionally, she needed to expand into a new creative phase. So she posted a question on Facebook. Did anyone know where she could access a machine that would help her with her new ideas requiring artistic cutting and etchings she wanted to do in Plexiglass and other materials?

Someone responded that she should check out the Black & Veatch MakerSpace, which provides free use of laser cutters, 3D printers, a CNC router, electronics equipment and other devices, at Central Resource Library. Little did Ortiz know, but that answer has helped her profoundly, not only with her professional endeavors but even with emotional healing.

She first visited the MakerSpace in summer 2018 and was struck by how helpful staff facilitators Thomas Maillioux, Brian Oertel and Nick Ward-Bopp were. She didn’t know how to use the laser cutters, but they were accessible and willing to teach her. “They’re all very helpful,” Ortiz said. “They’re not there doing it for you. They are there teaching you, and then they let you take off. They really want you to become independent and know how to do this on your own.”

Ortiz, who has a home studio, envisioned using sacred geometry symbols and crystal grid carvings in her artwork but needed a precision tool to help with that. The laser cutters worked perfectly. “This opened up a whole new world of possibilities for me because sacred geometry symbols are so important. It’s a universal language,” she said. She’s been able to do engravings in acrylic and has also incorporated these geometrical designs into her jewelry and clothing creations. She has also learned to use the 3D printer and vinyl cutter, and plans to branch out to wood and leather. “I wouldn’t have been able to do that,” without the machines, she said. “They have helped me grow my career as an artist.”

Ortiz, whose website is eugeniaortizart.com, also creates commissioned murals and paintings for private homes and commercial and corporate clients. Large paintbrushes allow her to paint unique strokes useful for murals. She has found the laser cutter is ideal for fashioning her own custom-made paint brushes. Ortiz notes that laser cutters can cost as much as a car, and, in addition to the investment in such expensive equipment, proper ventilation systems are essential particularly when working with various materials. So the use of these MakerSpace devices, free of charge, has been invaluable.

Gradually, Ortiz realized that MakerSpace was not just helping her with her art. She enjoyed the camaraderie of the staff and other patrons of the facility. She felt welcomed and inspired. She started to feel better emotionally, and introduced other friends and artists to its resources. “This was a positive distraction, a positive path with opportunities for creative growth,” she said.

Ortiz usually visits twice per week for two-hour shifts. She’s excited to continue learning and exploring all that the facility has to offer. “I absolutely love the MakerSpace,” she says. “It’s been a refuge and a healing space to allow me to birth a new artistic version of myself. I am grateful to the professional staff and the Overland Park Central Resource Library for this opportunity to expand my artistic endeavors in a supportive and welcoming environment.”

If you haven’t visited the Black & Veatch MakerSpace, you’ll be impressed by all of the equipment and the near endless possibilities. While you’re there, it may spark a creative idea and you just might create your masterpiece. See more at jocolibrary.org/makerspace.

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