Makerspace Communities: The DIY Maker Revolution

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Imagining a thing and bringing it to life are two very different scenarios.

Many of us who’ve joined the DIY world are limited a great deal by the lives we have.

I come from a long line of carpenters. Deep down inside me, a woodworker is waiting to break free.

Ambitions versus urban realities

Whatever the inner-carpenter wants from me, reality intercedes.

I live in a 700-square-foot apartment on a writer’s income, and there’s carpeting. Even if I could afford all the power tools my secret inner-woodworker dreams I’ll have one day, a snowball has a better chance in hell than the likelihood I’ll ever fire up a power saw on top of my damage-deposit renter’s carpets.

Surely, I’m not alone in this paradoxical life. Oh, how I would love to make my own coffee table.

What else holds us back in the new urban world most of us live in? Many of us don’t have cars for getting all our supplies, and not all our friends think going to the building supplies shop is an exciting weekend foray.

Equipment, space, and other practicalities get in the way of most of us discovering our artisan selves.

But change is afoot. Communities are forming.

DIYers are doin’ it for themselves

Back in the ‘90s, some German tech-industry folks created spaces called “Hackerspaces” where digital-minded folks could go and enjoy communal use of  all kinds of computer and digital-arts gear.

Around 2006, “Makerspaces” began too. Now popping up around the world, but not centrally run and often not well-advertised or known, Makerspaces are worth looking for if not having tools or space has ever limited your DIY dreams.

Some Makerspaces have sewing equipment, woodworking, and other useful tools. Here in my city, the Makerspace has a blacksmith’s forge, a metalworking shop, a woodworking shop, CNC cutters, and more.

A Maker-Whosit-Whatchamicallit, now?

The premise of a Makerspace is that it’s a community of creative-minded people looking to share equipment. Once created, Makerspace membership can be acquired so you can go there to bring your imaginings to life while using community-owned tools and tapping into that community for guidance and help, to grow your skills.

They all have different overhead costs and the umbrella of interests varies depending who put the space together and where the collective wants it to go. I can access my local Makerspace for $50 a month for opening-hours access every day. There are also single-day and multi-day passes, and even keyholder 24/7 access if the community votes in favor of it.

Internationally, there are Makerspace-organized “Makerfaires” wherever the communities exist, in which the Makers can then demonstrate their creations and even sell them to others.

It’s early in the Makerspace evolution, and more cities don’t have one than those that do, but that’s the thing about grassroots organizations — all you need is a groundswell, a little fertility, some planted seeds, and things can sprout up where you least expect it.

We’re descended from makers, not buyers. We have the DNA for this.

And then what?

What would you do if access to tools weren’t an issue? What if you could join a community not limited to just one artistic expertise, where it was about creation, not limitations?

What if you could be surrounded by people with a passion to create and the skills to make it happen? How much could you grow? Could you become an artisan, rather than just a hobby DIYer?

Later this year, I’ll join the community and bring you along for the ride as I hope to finally make some of furniture I’ve wished to try my hand at.

I dream of a future where I make my own coffee table, create shelving, and learn to make frames for my own photographs. I have no greater motivation than the pride of creating a thing with my own hands. That’s what feels so great when you do these things.

I don’t care if I never learn to be a perfect woodworking artisan, and I don’t care if things have flaws. But those are reasons I wouldn’t invest thousands to learn woodworking tomorrow.

Still, I have a distant dream of having a home I’ve designed and furniture throughout I’ve built for myself.

That sort of dream shouldn’t be unrealistic for any of us. We’re descended from makers, not buyers. We have the DNA for this.

The privilege of membership, the gift of community

What inspires you? Everything? Other people’s ingenuity? Community? What’s holding you back? Just money and space?

It would cost tens of thousands of dollars to have the kind of tools I can access at Victoria’s Makerspace, never mind the costs of insuring them at home, or the expensive rent I’d have to pay monthly to have a home with garage space to do it in.

That’s a lifestyle I don’t want, but I’m tired of being limited by it. For a few hundred bucks a year, I can commune with people who will make me better, have access to tools I don’t yet know how to use , and practice in a safe, organized environment filled with support.

Makerspaces are non-profit communities that want you to stop turning to stores for solutions, while helping you regain the self-sustaining habits the average person once had before mass production made it easy to buy what we wanted.

If you’re held back by not having access to a wide range of tools, it’s time to look for a Makerspace, and if you can’t find one, it might be time to find like minds in the community and think about making your own space, like any do-it-yourselfer would.

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Steffani Cameron

Steffani Cameron is a Victoria BC-based writer on a variety of topics. Here on the BuildDirect blog, she specializes in writing about smaller, urban spaces. How do you make the most of your smaller space? How do you decorate it to suit you? And how do you wage the war against clutter and win? This is Steff’s specialty.