Commissioning Maker Magic

Commissioning Maker Magic

Karla Ross

Nov 29th, 2018

When I joined the Idea Foundry as the Events Coordinator back in July, I knew I had found a community and not just an employer.  One of the things I’ve enjoyed most about being here is meeting so many unique and talented people. My admiration for artists, makers, and creatives has led to a healthy and growing collection of local art.  So it comes as no surprise when my new nest needed feathering, I would look to the skillful members of the Idea Foundry for assistance.

My current coffee table has seen better days.  While there are some repurposing plans in its future, a replacement which matched my design taste was not easily found (at least not within my budget).  My home decor is a mix of industrial and distressed farmhouse style. When I considered what textures or materials it was lacking...concrete suddenly came to mind.  I asked around and eventually, Chief Facilities Officer, Matt Hatcher referred me to workshop member Ryan Lydon for a custom build.

Ryan kindly listened to my vision.  Esthetically, I wanted a specific size and a round shape to add visual interest to my living room.  I also liked the look of a thicker edged tabletop. The table also needed to be lightweight so myself or my teenage daughter could easily move it.  From the beginning, Ryan pointed out the contradiction in “lightweight” and “concrete.” But, this is the Idea Foundry, and Innovation is synonymous with our Ryan was already turning over possibilities in his mind. The challenge was that concrete is 120 lbs per cubic foot. If my table were designed with traditional methods it would have surpassed 160 lbs. Ryan's solution to my unique request was to create a lightweight table using compound materials in conjunction with glass fiber reinforced concrete (GFRC). 

This was a brilliant idea but these composite materials are not traditionally used in furniture making and Ryan had lots of questions. There isn't a wealth of public resources on how to use this grade of production materials but Ryan racked his brain and ran a few tests anyways. While trying and failing to control the composite materials he met fellow Idea Foundry member Robert Fields. Bob is the Design/Development Director at GoodAero, where they design and build Aerodynamic devices for high-performance and competition vehicles. He has been spending time in the woodshop testing and tweaking airfoils for race cars. Many of the materials used in high-performance vehicles are the same or akin to Ryan's project materials. 

This was the serendipity that Ryan needed! Ryan shared his project struggles and Bob gave him tips on how to work with the composite materials. Armed with this advice, Ryan was able to set a goal weight for the table and break away from the constraints of traditional concrete. The carbon fiber and aircraft aluminum composite reduced the total table weight to 45 lbs!

After two months of design and fabrication, my lovely new coffee table was ready to take home. The result is a manageable heft that does not sacrifice beautiful design. It's pure Maker Magic! I love that the table isn’t “cookie cutter” and everytime someone admires it in my home there is this cool story to go with it.  I love touching the surface with the knowledge it was willed into existence by a collaboration of Idea Foundry minds. And I especially enjoy the realization my meager request may have just challenged and also encouraged a fellow maker on his journey.

Do you have a custom build project you’re ready to make a reality?  The Idea Foundry accepts commissions and shares projects request with our makers.  Inquiries may be directed to  To reach out to Ryan regarding his custom work, please email


Original content by Karla Ross, edited by Callie King.