By Kara Larson, Make it Minnesota

Tree On A Hill Workshop provides contract cutting, artist services, commissioned works and original pieces, as well as CNC training and consulting. Growing up as the son of a shop teacher and a home economics teacher sparked Greg Flanagan’s curiosity for building and making things by hand. Tree On A Hill Workshop, Flanagan’s custom design and fabrication shop, specializes in woodworking and digital fabrication. Located in beautiful Northeast Minneapolis, Tree On A Hill Workshop provides contract cutting, artist services, commissioned work, original pieces, and design/build partnerships. Our goal is to bring unique ideas to reality using the latest technology and time tested techniques.

Talk about the beginnings of Tree on a Hill Workshop. What inspired you to begin this endeavor?
After a successful career in IT I was presented with a chance pursue my dream of opening a makerspace. While that endeavor lasted just one year, it was the launch into a new career I needed. I met some amazing people at the makerspace who were extremely generous with their knowledge. I started Tree On A Hill Workshop so I could be my own boss and continue to experiment with the crossover between traditional craft and digital fabrication.

Have you always been creative? What steps or choices led you to this creative endeavor?
I’ve always been into making things. My Dad taught high school woodshop and my Mom taught home economics. I always had my own workbench in dad’s shop and was encouraged to build things. After college, I got really into woodworking as a hobby and did lots of home improvements for myself. That’s when the tools began to take over the garage.

In terms of living and making in Minnesota, do you feel connected to this place?
I’ve lived in Minneapolis for nearly half of my life and the city gets smaller every week. There is a fantastic community of creative and inventive people here. I met a ton of them while working at the makerspace and those connections continue to be among the most fruitful in terms of learning new skills and getting involved in interesting projects. I am involved with the maker communities at Leonardo’s Basement, The University of Minnesota, Nordeast Makers, and was most recently asked to help with a gigantic kickstarter success, http://www.sisyphus-industries.com/.

What do you enjoy about teaching others to make?
Some of the most rewarding work I do is in the name of sharing knowledge and experience. All of the technical skill in the world is worth nothing without creative ideas. I think that the beginner’s mind is often where the most creative ideas come from. Before you know too much about what can’t be done, you have the most interesting ideas. I love to cultivate the beginner’s mind.

What is your mission with TOAH?
Combining handwork and the digital fabrication capabilities of CNC machinery to help other creative makers achieve their goals. TOAH also scratches an itch to continually challenge myself and learn new things.

What do you see for the future of your business?
I want to continue helping artists create inventive works and push the boundaries of digital fabrication. I would love to make more quality furniture and eventually move into a larger shop.

What do you find fulfilling in woodworking and digital fabrication?
Building anything by hand is very satisfying for me. Wood is beautiful and organic. Digital fabrication allows a degree of precision and efficiency that lets me quickly prototype and make changes to a design. Moving from idea to a good first try quickly means I can refine my designs quickly. The repeat-ability of CNC machinery also means that I can make multiple copies with less effort after a design is solid.

Have you participated in MSP Mini Maker Faire before? What will you be sharing there on June 3rd?
I was able to attend the flagship Maker Faire in San Mateo, CA in 2012 and I was hooked. I have been involved with the Minneapolis/Saint Paul Maker Faire each year it has been held. Leonardo’s Basement is such an amazing organization. This year I’ll be showing off a ShopBot CNC router with my friend George Vondriska. We’ll be demonstrating and discussing the capabilities of digital fabrication and showing off some of our work.

What is unique about a CNC router?
There is nothing all that unique about the machine itself. It is a spinning cutting bit with some motors driving it over a table. It works a lot like an etch a sketch. It doesn’t replace experimentation and experience. It doesn’t build furniture for you. What it does do is let you think about designing and making things in new ways. It reliably makes precise cuts that you would spend days doing manually. It also allows for designs to be shared on sites like https://www.opendesk.cc/or http://atfab.co/ where anyone can download a file to cut on a CNC router anywhere. And, it’s fun to play with robots.

Originally posted on Make it Minnesota (http://makeitmn.com/greg-flanagan/) and reposted with permission.

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