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THE DIY MECCA: FRINGE

The meeting room at Fringe, in Union Square, is one of the most appealing spaces in the greater Boston area. Stunning geometric light fixtures hang from the ceiling. A fountain/terrarium, verdant with moss, burbles along in a corner. A giant, vibrant painting covers the wall.

All of these things were made by members of this two-and-a-half-year-old cooperative workspace. The lamps, called Tesselights, were handmade by interior designer Christine Price Hamilton. The terrarium was constructed by green roofing company Recover, the painting is a work by artist Brian Hart.

These entrepreneurs share Fringe with 14 other DIY businesses — among them custom-bicycle builders, architects, graphic designers, and a brewing company. From the outside, the warehouse just looks like a dilapidated brick building, but inside, each studio-mate — that's how the Fringers refer to one another — has tricked out his or her office with exquisite taste. Video-production artist Stebs, proprietor of Paper Fortress, built a production studio that looks like a set from Blow-Up. Aaron Panone, a mechanical engineer with Tangible Design, sectioned off his workspace with a gargantuan laser-cut metal door salvaged from a departing tenant. And Recover's walls are filled with sustainable plant structures.

No matter how artful their spaces, just don't call the Fringe folks artists. "A lot of people have called us an artist collective, but most of us are here as business owners and not fine artists," says director and co-founder Mike Dacey. Dacey and the other founders planned it that way.

"We try to have a one-stop shopping for creative services," Dacey says. Studio-mates are chosen, in part, based on what kind of work they do — they try not to have an overlap. And they help each other out. Dacey has made business cards for nearly everyone at Fringe, and the studio Stebs built serves as the in-house production space.

The collectivist spirit at Fringe is based, in part, on the fact that everyone who works there came from a personal referral. "It takes a long time for the right person to come in here," Dacey says, emphasizing how important it is that the studio-mates like and trust one another. "We don't have doors on anything."

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  Topics: Lifestyle Features , DIY, activism, FRINGE,  More more >
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