While it can be hard to imagine trying to open up a business during a pandemic, it’s not slowing Ali Norman down. As an adjunct instructor at the University of Tampa and founder of Labyrinth Studios, she has always envisioned running a makerspace in her hometown.
“Since I was 19 or so, I thought, 'why doesn’t Tampa have a place where people can make stuff and be together?' In New York, they have some similar shops where people can learn and be together without there being an institutional paywall,” Norman explains.
Serving many purposes, Labyrinth is an amalgamation of a fine art gallery, community printshop, and open studio space in Seminole Heights, where members can rent flat files, cubbies, and even litho stones to use. A variety of classes will be offered in subjects like intaglio, lithography, letterpress, relief, screen printing, ceramics, other craft-based processes, and even yoga.
All big ideas tend to come from small beginnings: Norman needed a place to keep all of her art equipment.
“I kept being given obscure printmaking equipment by people, and there aren’t a lot of people that do what I do in Florida. I’m a nerd about restoring old equipment, so my house was full of all this really awesome stuff and people kept asking me if they could use it,” Norman says. “Labyrinth naturally evolved. I thought it would be a 5-year plan, but then it became obvious that this was something that I needed to do now so I could share this with people.”
And luckily, COVID-19 hasn’t been a deterrent. In fact, it gave Norman some leeway to get things set up and not feel rushed for their opening, which was on Oct. 1.
“By the time I was ready to share it with the world, we had our Phase 3 opening. We’re still being very safe, but I think it’s the perfect time. People have been isolated for so long that they want to get out and be a part of the community,” Norman explains. “I am really excited, the opening was a huge success, people and even Mayor Jane Castor came. People are hungry for this type of thing.”
While Bleu Acier and Graphicstudio are local publishing houses, they aren’t necessarily open to the public for casual printmaking. Besides taking college classes or owning your own equipment, printmaking isn’t as locally accessible as other art forms.
“Labyrinth is a catchall for those that want to share their creativity with the community. I’m trying to fill the gap. That’s my main goal, to give emerging artists or just casually-interested creatives the chance to try out a new skill.”
To find out more about Labyrinth and see their upcoming classes in etching and Halloween broom-making, follow them on Instagram @labyrinth.tampa or on Facebook at Labyrinth Studios.