What Is a Makespace?

In a makespace, the community can make art, make friends, make money, make connections, or make craft and traditional objects.

For that matter, a makespace can become a place to make anything positive that its members care to imagine. Even peace.

A makespace also makes space. For everyone.

Everyone.

A lot of talent gets wasted in this world. Many, many places have underemployed communities. But Watsonville could lead the way in refusing to accept the waste of its residents' abilities and talents.

Imagine All the People

  • A barista lacks access to a pottery wheel or kiln
  • A artichoke harvester was a master woodcarver before he had to emigrate
  • A smart kid who can't see a future for himself. Because right now, maybe he doesn't have one.

But hope does shine in some places.

*The OffCenter community arts project in Albuquerque offers an open studio, workshops and a store where emerging artists can showcase their work.

*Also in Albuquerque, ArtStreet serves many homeless individuals who discover the program through the clinic run by Healthcare for the Homeless. The studio also serves the wider community — anyone can participate — and helps its artists sell their art through local galleries and farmer's markets.

*The Open Door Studio in Columbus Ohio, another example of a studio in this model, primarily serves the disabled, but nothing requires this limitation. Perhaps its organizers felt that the narrower focus made the best use of limited resources.

What a Makerspace Is Not

This proposal draws from a number of related ideas, from which it also differs. Similar or related — but different — concepts might in, depending on the final implementation, include aspects that look a little like a:

What a Makerspace WILL NOT Be

  • Social Program
  • Government Program

We will spell out the logic behind each of these statements a little later, in case anyone is confused, or wants to help set up one of the possibilities in the first list.

Starvation Not Required

Although the art studios mentioned above specifically target the underserved and dispossessed, our space need not do so. We just don't want to exclude them based on language or assumptions about their skills.

We All Need Something

Most of us sometimes wish we could learn to paint or to make pottery. But we never find and sign up for a class or obtain the necessary materials. Perhaps lack of time poses a barrier to entry, or perhaps it's the cost of the supplies.

If materials were available in a casual and easily accessible environment, the number of artists in Watsonville might increase substantially. Practising artists or retired teachers might also offer to give classes or hold workshops either through a love of teaching or a desire to give back to the community.

The Elephant in the Room

If users of the space are poor and low-income, it will need to rely heavily on the community for donated materials. Such a group also might need to obtain a grant in order to rent a location. Strings will probably come with those grants, so a careful cost-benefit analysis may need to take into account whether some people will stay away rather than deal with anything that looks like government.

Perhaps a suggested donation? Or the group could blend the idea of an open art studio with the subscription-model co-working concept that has become prevalent in the internet industry (see discussion below) and offer both a public open space and small adjacent private workspaces as well.

Anyone disposed to dismiss "mere" arts and crafts should consider the viral popularity of the handcraft site Etsy, as well as trends in Silicon Valley.

Much more information here.

Imagine collaborating to buy and share tools.

Many examples of such spaces now exist. Sometimes called hackerspaces, they do represent a distinct subset of this category, focused on electronic or electrical projects and tend to draw people who like to invent gadgets and play with solenoids.

This type of space attracts people who attend Maker Faire, read DIY and edit Instructables tutorials. Think Popular Mechanics readers, often with an interest in robotics or rocketry.

For example Bitsmasher in Santa Cruz pooled member resources to buy a 3D printer, useful for producing prototypes.

While Mountain View's Hacker Dojo has many members interested in software development, it also have a dedicated electronics lab, electronics study groups, and projects that involve LED signs.

Similarly, San Francisco's Noisebridge has many electronic offerings and an open access policy not unlike ArtStreet's.

If electronics don't strike a spark with the population of Watsonville, perhaps the model could be applied to more traditional tools, such as hammers, planes, or wood chisels.

Both these types of collaborative group could potentially fund themselves through membership fees. Most already do now.

Security for the tools might require some consideration, depending on what the group owns.

Imagine a place where there is always an internet

Many of the co-working spaces in the Bay Area are geared to application developers and internet startups. Parisoma is an example. The previously-mentioned Hacker Dojo is another; in addition to their electronics lab they offer many classes and user group meetings for coders.

One of the banes of the solitary shoestring knowledge worker is the coffeeshop wi-fi that mysteriously goes out on a Sunday when the barista has no clue what to do and there is nobody she can call.

Watsonville's libraries do have a fast and solid internet connection, but they are not always open. As far as they go they are wonderful but you probably won't meet anyone there who knows about Twitter rate limits or who has any clue why your for loop keeps doing that. Not that the barista at Starbacks does either.

Imagine moving your startup off your kitchen table

Sheer underfunding prevents many businesses from operating effectively and increases the likelihood that they will become another first-year statistic. NextSpace in Santa Cruz offers one solution for a growing business, but many microbusinesses cannot afford even their least expensive rate and they definitely provide office, not workshop, space — not suitable for artisans who may bring with them noise, sawdust or clutter.

Further Reading