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The Catch to HATCH

Updated: Jan 18, 2022

Not far from downtown Stockton, in what some might call a rough part of the city, a team of emerging makers at the nonprofit center HATCH Workshop has regenerated craftsmanship and creativity on a big scale in the Central Valley – amid the Covid-19 crisis. To an old-timer, the team’s ability to spin on a dime and adapt to the new ominous reality seems both daring and magical.

“Makers” is the term for people in the crafts renaissance that has swept much of the nation. They take inspiration from potters, wood-workers, metal-workers and others committed to mastering the art of making things to sell, gift, barter, display or utilize as they choose. It’s no coincidence that Stockton is serving as a magnet for many of the best and brightest crafts people who fled the pricier Bay Area cities in droves starting in the late 90s as the boom geared up. Stockton’s location puts it at the epicenter of an avalanche of creativity emanating from cities along the Interstate 5/Highway 99 corridor.

These makers are movers and shakers well positioned to respond to the Covid-19 onslaught. Young, energetic, and galvanized by the challenges ahead, they see their fortunes and futures endangered, and rather than shrug and wait for bailouts from a beleaguered government, they have marshaled creative forces and are working passionately to literally build livelihoods. They function cohesively at the well-lit, wide-open, industrial-sized center in a new kind of collective atmosphere. People use saws, drills, engravers, kilns, and other implements to fabricate whatever they fancy,

HATCH initiates both on-site and off-site events drawing on the enthusiasm of young interns working with and learning from established artists and craftspeople. At HATCH there’s a constant give-and-take of skills and wisdom.

“What we’re building at HATCH is a sandbox for the community to discover and explore their skills,” says Elazar Abraham, the visionary, inspiring executive director, “and for the artists and activists who want to create the change Stockton deserves. We make for the love of making, and we’re in Stockton for the love of Stockton. We believe in a craft culture that speaks for itself.”

The multi-faceted structure of HATCH – with creative people from several disciplines all working together – is enabling makers to survive and thrive in a perilous environment. HATCH’s craftspeople have built a place where members can come to use tools to make things – whatever the makers envision, from furniture to wood carvings to welded art and pottery. Non-members take advantage of events and exhibitions. There’s both an educational and entrepreneurial spirit at HATCH. It’s easy for newcomers to find a niche at the center, and everyone seems committed to not just salvaging the way life had been before Covid-19 (or to help only themselves), but to weld, hammer, and fire up anything and everything that will improve the lives of a whole lot of people –folks struggling to maintain community spirit and enterprise. The contributions made through HATCH add value to the local economy. In making useful and artistic things with all the tools and equipment they have at their disposal – for woodworking, metal working, ceramics, laser cutting and engraving, 3-D printing and more – makers make an impact that all but dispels the morbid threat of Covid-19.

HATCH offers a practical way for hard-working people to put their skills to use to build the post-Covid-19 economy. It won’t be the same as the old economy, because it will be more cooperative, more infused with personal creativity, less dependent on the old way of doing things. HATCH helps build community, affords the tools and training for creative enterprises, and adds value to the local economy.

To find out if HATCH Workshop is on a sustainable path as a nonprofit organization, recently I asked my old friend Bob Barzan – founder and former executive director of the Modesto Art Museum and for several years the Grants and Contracts Analyst for California State University Stanislaus – to evaluate HATCH Workshop’s vision and financial strategy. Barzan perused the organization’s paperwork, 2020 Annual Report, and web content, interviewed Abraham via Zoom, and returned a glowing report on HATCH. His feedback came infused with a personal enthusiasm for the project. As a visionary who has put Modesto arts and architecture on the map, Barzan knows a good creative idea when he sees it. Abraham, who has the kind of Biblical passion for HATCH that one might expect from a person with his appellation, is living by the skin of his teeth, working nearly 24/7 to make HATCH come alive, and the effort is showing marked results. Just ask any of the many masked attendees at the recent Vegan Soulfests held in HATCH Workshop’s sizeable outdoor area, with artists and food vendors galore enticing a dazzling cross-section of Stockton residents to partake in shopping, eating and socializing in a safe, festive atmosphere. They’ll tell you: HATCH is the place to make dreams come true in the time of Covid-19! -- Mark Mardon

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