3 Reasons to Join Your Local Makerspace

Making something with your hands brings a special kind of satisfaction that is familiar to woodworkers (like me), and all kinds of craftspeople. Some may not know this feeling, as many DIY hobbies make it difficult for you to get started, requiring tools that can be expensive and take up a lot of space, or specific knowledge that you cannot learn from the Internet.

That’s what I love about space makers. These facilities are popping up all over the country and offer crafters the space, tools and equipment to participate in crafts such as woodworking, metalworking, ceramics, electronics, sewing and more. But most importantly, by signing up to one of these spaces, you join a community of like-minded people from whom you can learn and be inspired.

So no matter your needs or experience level, you should consider joining your local makerspace as well.

Some hobbies not only require tools, but also the freedom to make a mess without worrying about your furniture.

“I want a space where I can get dirty, and I can’t do that in my apartment,” says Omar Eddin, co-founder and CEO of MakePlus in Los Angeles, California.

Even as someone with a 150 square foot workshop in my basement, I can relate. My home space is tight and dusty and there’s almost no room to move around without stopping at a hose, cord, or pile of wood. I certainly can’t build large projects like a dining table or kitchen cabinets, and not only is it uncomfortable, but it can be terribly unsafe. That’s why I decided to join my local fabricator, Lowell Makes in Massachusetts, who offers 3,000 square feet for the wood shop alone—that’s more square footage than my entire house. While not all of them are that big, they are likely much larger than whatever workspace you have at home.

[Related: Get your scratched wooden cutting board looking bright and new]

Another benefit of the space that I didn’t consider when I first joined my local makerspace is the ability to work on more than one project at a time. In my shop, if the glue or finish on a project is drying, I generally can’t work on anything else because I won’t have any more available space. In the makerspace, I can put my cutting boards taped to the side to dry and handle a set of headphone jacks. The ability to distribute and work across projects is a huge time saver.

And then there are the tools. I’m not going to lie – I’ve spent a lot of money on tools and have just about everything a hobbyist woodworker needs. But a creative space offers tools that I can’t even dream of having at home, either because of the cost or the amount of space they take up. For example, with a price tag of over $4,000, the 25-inch leveler in my local makerspace literally won’t fit under the stairs in my basement, so I couldn’t have one even if I wanted to. ready to brag And if you don’t have any tools, makerspaces usually have absolutely everything a beginner needs to start creating and then some, so you can try out a new hobby before you start investing in anything other than materials.

Many people, myself included, first go to the room and tool makers spaces. But the longer I’ve been at Lowell Makes, the more I realize that the true value of a place like this is the community. For a budding maker, spaces are a great place to learn, regardless of their chosen craft.

“It brings a non-traditional learning environment,” says John Noto, co-founder and treasurer of Lowell Makes, noting that the most valuable learning occurs during one-on-one interactions among members, not through classrooms. “You can learn things in a hands-on type of way. You can work with people […] and a lot of people are happier with that.”

Some creative spaces may have staff – usually volunteers – available to answer some of your questions, but most of the time, everyone is everyone’s teacher. Don’t be afraid to ask around—experienced members can help you learn to use the tools safely, teach you proper techniques, and offer advice when you hit a snag.

Many spaces also offer formal education programs, with classes focused on all the different shops. Signing up for them can be a great idea if you’re just starting out or curious about a new craft you’ve discovered in the creative space.

“A lot of people go in with a tool in mind and then say, ‘Oh my God, I didn’t realize you had one.’ [these other shops],” says Rio Sabella, chairman of the membership committee at Lowell Makes.

Besides learning and improving, just working in an environment surrounded by other creators is worth the membership. Seeing what other people are doing and talking about their processes can be a source of inspiration and even collaboration.

Creative spaces help businesses thrive

Makerspaces can also be a great support system for more experienced makers trying to turn their hobbies into businesses. Steve De La Cruz, manager of business development and operations at MakePlus in Los Angeles, also runs his woodworking design shop, Main & 38, almost entirely out of the maker space. For Steve, joining MakePlus cut the barrier to entry for his business, saving him tens of thousands of dollars in start-up costs such as tools, insurance and utilities.

And saving money isn’t all that space makers can do for business owners—they can help you grow them, too. Sabella is another entrepreneur in the space, running two businesses out of Lowell Makes: Sabella Woodworking and Pipe Dream Arts. In addition to support and learning, the community is an important source of leads and referrals.

“Starting your own business or doing any of the DIY stuff is scary,” he tells Eddin. It can be comforting to have a community where others have gone through similar entrepreneurial experiences, he explains, and knowing you can find support and ask questions is one of the greatest values ​​of makerspaces.

What to look for in a creative space

If you’re interested in finding a local creative space to join, there are a few things to keep in mind.

First of all, make sure it has what you need, namely the tools and space your craft requires. But you should also consider other aspects like whether they offer on-site storage (so you don’t have to move projects and materials back and forth), classes and training, and 24/7 access if that’s something you’re interested in.

Finally, ask about their different membership levels and find what works for you. For example, at My Creative Space, basic membership levels provide basic access to all stores, while higher levels include storage space, shared offices, conference rooms, and even dedicated office space.

Once you know that a creative space has the right ingredients of what you need to be successful, the next thing you need to find out is whether the community and culture fit your personality. Noto says the best way to do this is to visit.

“Go to an open house […] get in there, walk around and get a taste for the space. It’s all about community. Talk to people,” he says.

Ask about equipment and logistics, but also ask community-focused questions like member collaboration, opportunities to share knowledge and skills, and community-building events.

[Related: Two ways to joint wood on your table saw—no jointer needed]

You may also be able to get some insight into makerspaces by attending local craft and craft fairs in your area. Makerspaces will often participate and have members ready to answer your questions. Other sellers may be members themselves and able to share their experiences. By talking to creators in your area, you can get a sense of how vibrant a community your local space has created.

Finally, don’t be afraid. Sabella says that as part of the Lowell Makes membership committee, he runs into a lot of people who think space makers are cool, but they’re not for them. However, he encourages everyone not to let that stop them if they are interested.

“Creative spaces can offer a thousand different things to a thousand different people,” he explains.
“You don’t even have to know what you want to do to get involved.”

So if you’re looking for a place to finally build that project you’ve been dreaming of, or want to take your DIY creativity to the next level, then it might be time to find a makerspace in your area . A community full of like-minded creators may be out there waiting for you.

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