meet the makers: Keivona Griffin

Here we are on this beautiful day, sitting outside the Maker Space—you just graduated from high school, how long have you been working here?

I started in 10th grade. My boyfriend was already working with Mr. Eddy and I  liked what they were doing and I was able to get an interview and started soon after in wood. I’ve worked in most of the areas here—just not in bikes. By the time I started I knew a number of people and enjoyed working with friends.

How did you get to be such a confident builder? Did you always know you wanted to build things with your hands?

I was always good with my hands, and at first I thought I wanted to be an engineer. As I learned more I learned about what an engineer does I also learned from uncle who is a construction worker (he built the elevators in the GM building) and my mom who is a security guard on construction projects like Ford Field.

I was also working here that summer in the garden. We were designing and building raised planter beds and I really liked being involved in the whole process with the materials –wood, earth then the plants and I thought more about building. It was great to learn from Gavin Buckley who was leading the garden at the time and also Alex Porter who had been a student here and went off to college near Philadelphia and was back that summer. And Laneisha Johnson another student here who was great in the garden too—we had a great group that summer.

So from engineer to carpenter?

Well I did have the idea to study HVAC and I was pretty good at figuring who things work, but when I started working with Walt (Swanson) on construction here, I knew I didn’t just want to work with wires. That’s when I really got into carpentry.

What’s on the near horizon for you? You were part of this crew that built this pretty impressive garden house/tiny shed…

Well in a few weeks I take my exam for a program called the Detroit Carpenters Apprentice Program. It’s a 4 year program, so sort of like college, but instead of classes most of the time, classes meet for a few days every couple of weeks, and in between you work with a real licensed builder on a real job and get paid, so you are learning, getting experience and earning a salary. And I’ll keep working here.

How do you feel about this structure here?

It’s pretty great to know you can do something like this. I learned so much through building the dog houses by the time we got to the shed even though it was bigger it was easier. For instance, since the dog house is so small, the dimensions are tighter and there is really no tolerance for something being even an 1/8 of an inch off—the shed is a little more forgiving, and you also have more room to move around.

Also I learned that having the dog house is like a model—it’s a great way to learn about what to do and for me a better way to visualize than drawings. So I learned building terms—like soffit—what they are, how they work, where they go with the dog house so by the time we get to the larger scale it makes sense.

Side question about the dog houses—they are really cool…do you have a dog? What do they think of the houses?

We have 2 dogs—but they really just want to sleep on the couch. I know Snoopy seemed to like his house—inside, sleeping on the roof.

What’s one of your visions as a builder? Do you want to design and build your own house?

I will build a beautiful house. Ideally in Alaska. I really like the cold, and I think a dark wood house would like awesome against the snow up there.