IMG_4317It began in a small West Berkeley warehouse in 1999. The project, however, quickly outpaced the vision, and in 2003, founder and sculptor Michael Sturtz moved The Crucible, his “industrial arts educational experience,” to its present-day location in Oakland just off of the Nelson Mandela Parkway, near the West Oakland BART station.

Because the Clog is oh-so-famous and critically acclaimed and blah blah blah, Christy Hogan, a volunteer tour guide, gave us an exclusive tour of the breathtaking 56,000 sq. ft. space. (This may or may not have had to do with the free tours that they offer every Tues. and Thurs. at 6 p.m.)

“There’s no other place like this, where we have so many types of art, media, all in one place,” said Hogan, explaining the Crucible’s popularity and unfettered expansion. “It allows for the expression of creativity, and we also have the fire performance, which is also very attractive. That’s all part of it.”

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Their seventeen departments range from glass-blowing (the furnaces are affectionately referred to as “glory holes”) and TIG — tungsten inert gas — welding (here, the furnaces are “baby bear,” “mama bear,” “papa bear” and “R2D2″ — guess what that one looks like) to blacksmithing, bike-building and leather working.

IMG_4296Their classes teach people how to eat or breathe fire, how to build their own mandolin or ukulele, how to make glass cups and drinking tumblers or robots and neon signs and art bikes and utensils and jewelry and on and on and on. They offer youth programs, a volunteering system, where one accrues class discounts proportionate to the number of hours logged, and internship opportunities.

And, as “a nonprofit collaboration of arts, industry and community,” they host fire ballets, fire operas, open houses and art sales, like next Friday’s Burning-Man-themed Fireside Lounge, “Playa Bound,” from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. on Aug. 19. Admission is $10 for a night of fire performances, costume advising and art bike admiring, because you never get too much of that.

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Image source: Sophie Lee


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