Autistry Newsletter – April 23, 2013

| April 23, 2013

Ah, the best laid plans of mice, men …and Janet often go astray. I had planned to write a newsletter every week during the month of April but somehow didn’t get to it.

Danes 2April has been an amazing month so far. A group of program mangers from AspIT in Denmark visited Autistry. AspIT is a vocational program for ASD individuals focused on training IT professionals. They came to the Bay Area to visit Silicon Valley companies (specifically Google and Apple) and kept hearing people mention Autistry. We spent a great afternoon sharing ideas and teaching strategies. They were very interested in the wide range of projects our students produce and they loved the Studio. We have been invited to visit Denmark and we would love to put that trip on our calendar!

du-logo-252x159We also met with Stacy Frauwirth, Professor at Dominican University in the department of Occupational Therapy. Over the next year Stacy and a team of grad students will be working with Autistry to develop a battery of assessment instruments to log and track student development toward the goal of independence. This will involve the creation of assessment tools and the testing of these tools. At the end of the process Autistry will have a sophisticated set of assessment tools, a revamped intake process, and the ability to collect important data. This will be very, very important for us going forward as we develop our training program and apply for larger grants.

Several of our Autistry students and families were interviewed by LabZero to gather information on the creation of a new app specifically designed for ASD individuals. The LabZero software engineers spent two days at Autistry asking detailed questions about how our students use technology, what types of reminders or prompts would they find helpful, what difficulties do they have organizing their days, etc. We will continue to meet with the design team as the app is being developed. From all accounts the team learned a lot about the ASD mind!

Highlighting the Sunday Workshops:

Amelia and NathanielNathaniel’s dragons are getting more and more sophisticated. He is now scanning his drawings into the computer and adding color and texture in the Paint Shop program. He has learned to use the tablet and stylus which has given him a new range of expression in his drawings. Nathaniel continues to work on his Spore World diorama of mushroom forests, dragon nests and a river running through it.

George and the nail gunGeorge finished the jump ramp for his bike and is now hobbling around on a broken ankle! Do those two things go together – not necessarily. But he still gets around the Studio on a very cool 4-wheel scooter and is helping others with their projects. He helped Ashley with her chair and Noah with his parcour obstacle. We hope he is back on both feet soon.

DanielDaniel S., the man-of-many-projects is working on another chest armor piece – this time in hard plastic. This is based on his earlier design which he fashioned out of floor mats. This new model he is making out of a large plastic bucket. How’s that for recycling. Daniel has also finished a guitar, refinished a Nerf rifle, made various launching gadgets, and …I have lost track now!

Devon cutting out the coat patternDevon has taken on a wonderful sewing project – Captain Jack Harkness’ jacket (from Dr. Who). Under the expert guidance of Amelia, she is first making a mockup out of muslin that she will use to make size and shape adjustments. The muslin version will then become the pattern for the real thing. Her hard work and attention to detail will pay off!

004We are very happy to announce the completion of Marina’s Dr. Who Tardis. This has been a true labor of love. Marina used the band saw, the ShopBot, the router, the nail gun, all sorts of hand tools and paint brushes. In fact I think she used just about every tool in the shop. And the finished product looks great – let’s all go back in time.

Wolf emblem on Ben's shieldBen L. is just about finished with a shield to accompany the two swords he made earlier. The shield has a silhouette of a grey howling wolf on a black background – very dramatic. Ben has learned to sew as well as use the band saw and the hot knife. Oh, and the iron. All skills that will come in very handy one day.

Thursday, April 25th is the last day to purchase Stella & Dot jewelry through Suzi’s Trunk Show page to support Autistry Studios. Here is the link to use to start your shopping:


Janet and the Autistry Team

Autistry Newsletter – April 1, 2013

| April 1, 2013

Happy April Fools Day! As with any day at Autistry we are working hard, playing hard, and letting our inner-tricksters roam wild. It is one of our fundamental tenants that each of us creates our life given the materials available. And great lives, not just great projects are being created at Autistry!

Highlighting the Saturday Workshops:

Chris is getting closer and closer to finishing his helmet!After months of hard work, Chris is finishing up his Star Wars helmet. Chris has shown amazing tenacity, overcoming lots of production obstacles but sticking with it. Amelia is researching how to create a mold so that more helmets can be made using Chris’s as a prototype.

Connor E. wrote a comic book story about a family picnic. He staged the action using adorable mouse figures. This type of photo-novella is the perfect introduction to stop action film making. It also a good way to practice the art of storytelling – sequencing disparate events to create a narrative flow.

Connor is finished with his angelwing mirror !!! Now he's getting started on his new project - putting together a model BatBoat.
Connor B. finished his angel-winged mirror and is now hard at work on a model BatBoat. Connor used several different tools to create the wings – the bandsaw, the router, chisels, etc. And he learned new painting techniques – highlighting, dark wash, etc. And it all came together beautifully.
Peter and Allie
Peter is making a very difficult Crow T. Robot to accompany his Tom Servo. You may remember these characters from Mystery Science Theater 3000. Tom Servo was difficult to build but Crow is proving to be an even greater challenge. Allison and Peter have spent hours deciphering the instructions and creating their own designs to make this project work. Learning to overcome obstacles is all part of the process.

Andrew and Allison working on an Art Box.
Andrew is making a Box World Diorama of an historic bedroom – complete with carpet, bookcases, and a pillow case for the bed pillow! They used several tools including the bandsaw and the sewing machine (rather similar those two machines!) Andrew and Allison make a great working pair. He has great concentration and she has infinite patience.
Maya is working very independently creating plushies of characters from Homestuck. She has drawn her favorite characters and cut out fabric pieces ready to assemble. Homestuck is a web comic that combines different techniques to tell a story. Traditional drawings are augmented with animated gifs, Flash animation, and instant message logs. So cool!

Joshua is the train master!The trains are running for Josh! He finished detailing his Amtrak engine which included painstaking work carefully placing decals on the train. He also had to spray paint the engine first with a flat black, then with silver, and after the decals were attached he sprayed it again with a clear coat. Focus and attention to detail can come in handy when doing model work. When he was finished he set up the track to take it for a spin.

And, there is Lauren, ShopBot Queen. Lauren has certainly tamed this machine. She runs it independently, with just a little help from Dan. She has really taken ownership of the entire process of running the ShopBot from setting up the cutting bits to programming the cut files. Lauren has created several signs, a wooden box, and a cool set of gears. There is much more to come.
The Autistry staff also creates projects! Ashley, who claimed not to be creative when she arrived, has become quite a talented artist. This week she finished her Majora mask. Ashley works with several of the students and is happy to learn right along with them. This is a trait we cherish.

Sitting like a lady!We are so fortunate to have the very talented and creative Amelia as our Workshop Lead. She is multi-talented, at home on the ShopBot, the bandsaw, the sewing machine and in the kitchen! Ameila recently finished a ShopBot project that is worthy of auction at Sotherbys – a fold-up stool with an antique finish.

All our mentors are encouraged to create – to try, fail, and to try again. How we handle the stress and frustration of making something real serves as a model for our students. We are not flawless and we make mistakes. Those too are learning opportunities.

We’ll be highlighting different workshops throughout April and May so stay tuned for more cool project news. You can also follow us on Facebook and see fabulous photos on our Autistry Instagram page.

Ryan’s Guitar

| December 18, 2012

Ryan at work

Ryan is well on his way to finishing his second electric guitar After sanding the maple guitar body until it was as smooth as polished glass and absolutely blemish free, Ryan carefully taped off the parts of the guitar he did not want to paint. Then, using yellow Rit fabric dye mixed with water he painted the entire front. He added a stronger mixture of green dye to the edges creating a starburst pattern.

Next Ryan will seal it all under clear coats and add the neck, pickups, and strings.

This has been a true labor of love.

Ryan's green sunburst

April’s Stuart tank

| July 4, 2012

The M3 Stuart light tank was developed by the U.S. Army in the 1930’s. It had many mechanical features found on later U.S. Tanks, especially the M4 Sherman medium tank: aircraft style air-cooled rotary engine, VVS suspension. By World War II, although the Stuart was fast and reliable it was under-gunned and lightly armored. Unfortunately these were problems the later M4 Sherman also shared.

We started with Tamiya’s old but still good kit of a US M3

This was April’s first plastic model but the kit assembles easily and the fit is very good. Within a couple sessions April had completed construction and I helped with a basic coat of paint.

April and her tank

Picture 010

We applied a gloss coat and April added decals. She took considerable creative license with the markings.

Picture 001

Next April started weathering and this was her favorite part since she could use her good hand painting skills.

Picture 009

She is very happy with the results.

Weathered Stuart

Weathered Stuart

Weathered Stuart

April enjoyed her first tank project and has moved on to a Russian WWII T-34/76 which we will write about soon.

Autistry Hairdressing

| June 16, 2012

Anna before

We seem to have an outbreak of impromptu hairdressing happening at Autistry lately. First Anna had taken a start at a cool red coloring on her hair.

Anna during


Courtenay and all the other women in the workshop took off for the nearest drugstore and found the color Anna liked best.

Anna was thrilled with the result.

Anna after

We never quit when we are ahead, so when Theresa showed up with a new ‘do and partial purple color…


… we helped her with a more aggressive cut.

Sara, Courtenay, and Theresa looking up haircut ideas.


Out come the scissors…


Going for really short in the back:


Court at work!

Everyone happy with the result.


Quick video of the May open house and puppet show

| May 23, 2012

The May 20 Open House was a great success!

| May 23, 2012


We had our Spring end-of-semester open house last Sunday, May 20. Our last open house was in December of last year and we have grown quite a bit. We had over 100 friends and family.


many of the student projects were on display and there was a table devoted to instruments the students have made or are making. We’re currently making guitars (electric and acoustic), dulcimers and a theremin.





All for now! This is Abe’s latest project: a working Cogsworth clock.


Puppet Theater Workshop

| January 7, 2012

First batch of puppets

Fabulous first meeting of the new Autistry Puppet Workshop led by Courtenay Bell and Melissa Diaz-Infante! The students made stick puppets of themselves. Over the next couple of months they will make several types of puppets, build a puppet theater and stage, and write/perform/film several short puppet plays. Lots of fun!

Great article in the Petaluma Argus Courier about Julia and her projects

| November 5, 2011

Petaluman Julia Pozsgai, 22, has autism, but has excelled in the craft of woodworking. Among her many projects is this coffee table.

Finding her path through art

In Julia Pozsgai’s bedroom is a large purple chair. Though she made it herself out of heavy cardboard, its tall back, exaggerated zig-zag design on the back and feet, and royal purple hue make it look more like a whimsical throne than a large piece of cardboard. [see more]


Quick test videos

| August 25, 2010

Many of our students have wanted to work on stop-motion animation videos and we encourage these projects. If the student is completely new to film making we usually like to do a quick start-to-finish stop motion production so everyone gets a good feel for the flow from production, editing, render, to YouTube.

Here are three of these test videos.

Rinny’s with sound took about three hours to produce start to finish.

Owen’s took about an hour without sound.

Peter’s was a very few still taken with a DSLR.