New FabLab Member Onye Ahanotu

Material scientist long island city queens NYDesigns

Onye Ahanotu has spent the past 13 years living around the U.S.A. (Los Angeles, Chicago, Ann Arbor, Boston and now New York City), exploring and learning from all that is around him. His artistic origins are rooted in drawing from childhood. Over the decades, Onye grew into painting before entering the world of photography. He is classically trained in the Sciences & Engineering, receiving a B.S. in Chemical Engineering and Material Science & Engineering from University of California Irvine while performing mechanistic organic chemistry research. After-which, Onye earned a M.S.E. in Material Science & Engineering from University of Michigan, with a focus on product development, emerging technologies, and fabrication techniques. He considers himself something of an analogous learner who’s knowledge and experience bridges many fields.

Desiree Frieson: Tell us about your background. 

Onye Ahanotu: I am a generally curious person who has had the opportunity to learn about the creative process and problem solving in many fields. I have a fair amount of experience in scientific research, modern fabrication methods and working to incorporate novel materials technologies into design. From understanding molecular interactions to now visual art, I work at the interface of fields, to develop enabling processes and technology platforms. Currently, my photography focuses on investigating the notion of ‘Essence’ as well as how advances in materials technologies impact Us & our environment. Within the FabLab at NYDesigns, I’m working on my latest series which seeks to incorporate fabrication equipment into the art making process, representing novel contemporary fabrication methods.

Desiree: What do you do? 

Onye: I am a visual artist and a materials scientist, working to combine the two fields.

Desiree: What did you study? 

Onye: At the University of California, Irvine I studied Chemical Engineering and Materials Science & Engineering, with more of a focus on chemical synthesis and process development. Followed by Material Science & Engineering from University of Michigan, where I explored electronic materials, technology development, and architecture.

Desiree: Where are you from?

Onye: I’m from Rohnert Park, CA

Desiree: Tell us how you got started in your field.

Onye: I have been drawing and painting, since I was young and the same goes for science and engineering. Professionally, I got my start working to de-risk and further develop materials technologies.

Desiree: Can you describe your techniques to us or something about it that’s innovative or different. 

Onye: I can’t quite share my techniques just yet, but hopefully soon! My interest is in having the method of fabrication to be reflective of the subject. The innovative part of my techniques stem from my experience in material science research; I like to think about hierarchies of scale and the fabrication process.

Desiree: What is your favorite fabrication tool at NYDesigns?

Onye: The tools that I use the most, would have to be the laser cutters. However, my favorite tool, that I would like to use more, is the CNC Router.

Desiree: Tell us how people can find your work. 

Onye: If you are interested in learning more about my work, my website ( is the best place; brief project descriptions and online store. You can also follow me on Instagram (@onyeahanotu) where I occasionally post updates.

Desiree: Tell us what you’re reading, listening to (podcast) or watching right now as it relates to design and art.

Onye: My consumption clusters around philosophy, science/engineering and art (sometimes directly related, often times not). Much of my readings are from the Nature & Science family journals, or Art history books. Working at the interface of disciplines, I’ve seen how there are so many interesting ideas that can cross fields, as well as time, to inspire something new. I also follow content agglomerators like “My Modern Met”, fall down plenty of Wikipedia rabbit holes, and watch woodworking tutorials on YouTube.

Meet New Residents Street Lab aka the Uni Project

Street Lab is a nonprofit that creates unique programs for public space across New York City—pop-up reading rooms, open-air drawing studios, and more. Our passion is bringing people together and transforming public space, and we focus on solutions that communities can’t easily implement themselves, sharing our solutions across the city. We choose pop-up locations based on requests from community groups, and we work in partnership with NYC Parks and NYC Dept. of Transportation, prioritizing underserved areas. We also send kits around the world so that other cities can do the same. In New York City, we are known primarily as the Uni Project

Desiree Frieson: Tell us how The Uni Project got started. When was your aha moment? (Tell us about the process of starting up.)

Sam Davol: In 2005, we moved our family to downtown Boston temporarily (it ended up being for six years), and we wanted to contribute to our new neighborhood, which was full of empty spaces after a major urban reconstruction project called the “Big Dig.” We started doing pop-up experiments, to draw people downtown and activate space. We saw a vacant lot across the street, and we created an outdoor movie festival called Films at the Gate in Chinatown, inviting people to bring take-out from local restaurants. We did other projects, like dance rehearsals in a empty storefront, and eventually created a nonprofit called Street Lab to do this kind of work.

Before returning to NYC, we did one final project in Boston called the Chinatown Storefront Library which was a community-run library in a vacant storefront, with 5000+ donated books and events that ran into the evening. ( Passersby could see library patrons on the inside of the storefront glass, displaying values that were important to us and other residents of Chinatown. The Storefront Library was our most popular project in Boston, but we noticed something interesting in our data: during good weather, our patron numbers dropped. It turned out that people were going to the park instead of our space. With that lesson in mind, on moving back to New York in 2011, we launched the Uni Project, which was a pop-up reading room designed to go where people already gather, including parks, plazas—anywhere, really. Last year, we completed our 500th deployment in NYC, and we now work city-wide, reaching all five boroughs with different programs for public space: READ, DRAW, BUILD, EXPLORE, and more. ( In 2018, we’re expanding the scope of our programs further, and we are re-introducing our original nonprofit name Street Lab to be an envelope for programs that range beyond learning and education.

Desiree: Who is on your team?

Sam: Leslie serves as Executive Director, focusing on program management and development, partnerships, administration, fundraising. Sam focuses on logistics, design, fabrication, and communications. Leah Kaplan is our full-time Program and Operations Manager. And we have a roster of 10 part-time staff who work in the field, including several LCC students. We also have 35 active volunteers and other pro bono contributors (architects, designers, educators, etc.)

Desiree: Who are your primary customers?

Sam: For our programming work, we are focused on creating a great experience for the New Yorkers who walk up and engage with our programs (all of which are free). If it doesn’t work for them, nothing else really matters. We also seek to please and address the needs of the 100+ community partners and city agencies that host us in each location. We deploy only where we are invited, so without them, we’re not going anywhere. Finally, there are funders and sponsors who make our work possible, and they get our attention as well.

The other part of our work involves fabricating programming “kits” for other organizations and cities so they can copy our model. Most of our customers have been libraries, and we’ve also built for park conservancies, museums, and the US State Department. Here’s a list: (

Desiree: Tell us about your fundraising strategy as a non-profit. What opportunities are on the horizon for The Uni Project?

Sam: We’ve worked hard to diversify our revenue sources, so that we are not solely dependent on charitable donations. We bring in a significant amount of earned revenue from program fees and sales of kits to other cities around the world. One area where we feel there is room to grow is corporate sponsorship.

Desiree: Tell us about your biggest accomplishment to date and why are you so proud of it.

Sam: One of our goals is to be a 100% climate neutral organization by the end of this year. Our partnership with NYC Department of Transportation now includes a truck sharing arrangement, so that most of our equipment rides on existing NYC DOT truck routes. This partnership lets us reach hundreds of new locations with programming while cutting our organization’s trucking by about 75%. We think there will be an increasing demand for services in NYC that are provided sustainably and use cooperation to reduce energy use. We want to show how that can be done in our work.

Desiree: How can people get involved with the Uni Project?

Sam: Stop by our studio or reach out in any other way! Volunteering with us on the street is a great way to explore the city and meet fellow New Yorkers. Offering pro bono design or professional help is another great way to make a contribution that can impact scores of neighborhoods across the city. We’d also love help finding funders and sponsors.


Introducing NYDesigns resident: bhold

Meet one of NYDesigns’ newer resident, bhold.


bhold designs smart, functional accessories that make your life easier. Their design and production processes rely on 3D printing technologies, which encourage faster and more responsive iterations. We (and women everywhere, as well as men who “tote”) love their bstrong utility hook, a nifty little thing that lets you have your own hook wherever you go, keeping your bag, coat, umbrella, or motorcycle helmet off the ground. This lightweight design will fit over almost any table or countertop, and its internal ribbing lets it hold 20 lbs with ease.


On May 10-11 and again on May 17-18bhold will be participating in WantedDesign through NYCxDESIGN week, New York City’s official citywide celebration of design with international designers exhibiting installations, pop-up stores, workshops, and more.

Beyond showcasing their designs and 3D printing process, they’ll be hosting the 3D studio space at The Factory Floor at Industry City, a workshop-oriented portion of WantedDesign. bhold has also been selected to be a part of American Design Club’s FIELD DAY show at the same venue.

The bhold team will be leading workshops in 3D modeling and techniques. If you’ve always wanted to get into designing your own 3D printed pieces, sign up for one of the workshops they’ll be teaching!


The NYDesigns team will be at Industry City as well from May 10-20 (noon-6pm everyday excepting Mondays and Wednesdays), sharing a booth with resident Surname.


Stop by to say hi to all of us!

Introducing NYDesigns resident: HUXHUX

HUXHUX is a young design studio dedicated to exceptional interior design, architecture and furniture.


Justin Huxol, founder, teaches Interior Design studios at Parsons The New School for Design. Justin received his M.Arch from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design. With extensive experience working with luxury retail brands and hospitality clients, HUXHUX designs fine furniture that is not necessarily interested simply in functionality. HUXHUX is interested in using their furniture as an unexpected means of engaging people with the spaces they inhabit. Light, form, materiality are always at play. HUXHUX has been a resident at NYDesigns since March 2014.


For WantedDesign 2014, HUXHUX is launching two new lines of furniture: The Shapeshifters and The Prisms. Both lines come from the same formal family of translational geometries and stacked construction. The Shapeshifters are clean, smooth, pure volumes that shift shapes from their tops to their bases. These birch pieces come in sets that reveal the full combinative possibilities of the three shapes. They can be configured as a group or stacked as totems. The Prisms speak the same formal language but break from the simplified perfection of the Shapeshifters. The acrylic Prisms conflate geometry and begin to engage a more crystalline glowing agenda. These pieces refract light and color from their internal voids, giving them a psychic presence in the spaces we inhabit.


Find out more about WantedDesign here and don’t forget to RSVP if you want to attend the opening night party on Friday, May 16th and say hey to Justin!


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