Idea Fab Labs, June 28 – July 26th 

By now you’ve certainly heard of Steampunk—it’s in the dictionary for pete’s sake. You’ve seen movies like The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Van Helsing, you’ve noticed little bits of re-imagined Victorian fashion and technology woven through television and comic books and half the costumes at Burning Man.

What you may not realize is that along the way you’ve probably seen the art of Tom Banwell.

tumblr_lkqw0hgocB1qzfsnio1_500Tom Banwell is a craftsman—an artist who walks between the fantastic and the practical. His leather masks, hats, and helmets typify the strange beauty of a dystopian future that never was: crow-beaked plague doctors, elephant and aardvark-faced mutants who are well prepared for gas attacks, masquerade balls full of woodland creatures and elemental super heroes.

His work has made its way into Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, So You Think You Can Dance, Smallville, Gossip Girl, One Tree Hill, The Cape, Vogue Paris, pretty much every book ever written about Steampunk art and costumes, and museum exhibits from Seoul, South Korea to Oxford, England. Somehow, through all that, he hasn’t had a solo exhibition in 30 years. Until now. And, it’s in Chico.

By now you’ve certainly heard of Idea Fab Labs—it’s been on our cover for pete’s sake. You’ve seen their incredible maker-oriented exhibits, and heard about their laser cutter, 3D printer, and their stunning, possibly-too-hip to be so far from the Bay LED ceiling—wait, what? You haven’t? You mean you don’t read this paper religiously and remember everything we’ve ever written? Well, to be fair, that cover story was just before I started here, and this paper sucked (kidding!).

OK, for those of you just joining us, Idea Fab Labs (or “the Fab Lab,” as we call it in the biz) is located at 603 Orange St. It’s “a member- driven creation zone,” a warehouse space with all kinds of tools and materials for making art happen. Aside from the aforementioned laser cutter and 3D printer, they have traditional fabrication tools and spaces for woodworking, electronics, jewelry making, and textiles. They hold classes and host exhibitions, and you (yes, YOU!) can become a member for a nominal monthly/quarterly fee that varies based on the services you want access to. Also, they have an LED ceiling that’s like a crazy upside down disco. (If you can upside down disco dance, I just made your day.)

tombanwell_6Coming up on Saturday (June 28th) from 3-6pm, there will be a reception for Tom Banwell’s first solo exhibit in 30 years (I know I just said that, but it’s sort of a big deal and we’ve established that you have a bad memory): Masked Machinations. It’s FREE, suitable for all ages, and open to whomever feels like dropping in and being amazed. I encourage you not to show up wearing your homemade alternate-reality-firemaster mask and helmet, you’ll just embarrass yourself.

Reception | Saturday, June 28th 3-6pm 

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Managing Editor for Synthesis Weekly. Amy likes to make clothes, plant flowers, and chase butterflies.