That Special Spark: Makerspaces

Port City Makerspace.

What is a Makerspace?

A space that is open for people to learn and create in, typically through membership or classes, while having access to equipment, tools, knowledge, and resources to make with. These spaces allow artists, inventors, and entrepreneurs to dream up big ideas and have a shared space to execute them in, without having to own a large array of tools and equipment themselves. Think a large workshop that is infused with collaboration and creativity. It is not only the physical that is of value though; having other members’ skill sets and knowledge to assist you in achieving your goals is monumental. 

Kerry, doing some metal grinding in the Metal Shop at Port City Makerspace.

That special spark

No two makerspaces are alike. Each will have their own special blend of tools and equipment, and each will have a unique community of makers. You’re welcome to be as independent or collaborative as you like when in space, but in either case, you’re coming for the overall environment, which includes the other folks just as much as the equipment. 

There is something special about creating near others. It sparks something within you. It’s motivating as hell. As an artist in an artist collective myself, I can attest to that. My studio neighbors eight other studios, and seeing my peers create nearby fuels me, without ever making it a competition. I can’t tell you how many times one of us in the studio has asked another artist for an opinion on a work in progress, help hanging a piece of art, or asked to borrow a hammer. You become a family, under one roof, with a united goal of making.  

Youngsters welding in the Intro to Welding for Teens class at Port City Makerspace.

Types of making – Try one, try them all!

Some discipline that can be found within various makerspaces (but not limited to):

  • Woodworking
  • Metalworking
  • Automotive
  • High-tech
  • Rapid Prototyping
  • Jewelry Making
  • Sewing and Textiles
  • Electronics
  • Machining

Brendan manufacturing some machine parts in the Machine Shop at Port City Makerspace.

Let’s keep our fingers attached

I’d like to mention, these spaces work well because they are well-organized and have codes of conduct the members abide to. You typically can’t run in on your first day and start using the table saw. Classes and requirements exist so the more serious equipment that could result in injury are not used willy-nilly. The members need to maintain the areas by cleaning up after using the space and be respectful of others. Pretty common sense stuff here. We all want to keep our fingers attached, right?

This is a demo provided by Smooth On at Port City Makerspace. Smooth On makes mold-making rubbers and this demo was showing what can be accomplished with different compounds and mold-making techniques.

These gems are sprinkled all over NH

The resources and fees all vary from space to space. Here are some makerspaces in New Hampshire that I encourage you to check out:

Steve Pamboukes, President of the Board of Director at the Port City Makerspace, outside of 3S Artspace, Portsmouth, NH.

Makerspace Spotlight

I recently had a fantastic conversation with Steve Pamboukes, the President of the Board of Director at the Port City Makerspace. He was interviewed by myself and Sarah Wrightsman for an episode of the Creative Guts podcast. You can listen to his episode on all major podcast platforms when it drops in early 2020. Steve approached us for a chat because he really wanted to let folks know about the awesomeness that is happening at the Port City Makerspace. This was my first in depth introduction into makerspaces, and I can tell you, Sarah and I were both itching to take a class or two there after talking with him.

When discussing the primary type of creating, Steve explained, “I’d say probably the majority [of what we see at the makerspace] is the function-based maker type. I don’t get far into the definitions of ‘what is an artist?’ or ‘what is a maker?’ But maybe the first reaction when we think about or talk about makers is more the trade skills. Our focused disciplines at the makerspace are woodworking, metal working, electronics repair, and automotive and bicycle repair. So pretty hard skills with functional production, but we’re also not exclusive to those by any means. That just means if you come to the space and want to do metal working, then we’re well equipped to accommodate you. But we have people that do screen printing, some stone working, some ceramics, so we don’t exclude any type of creativity or any type of making that’s going to happen there.”

He also mentioned you don’t need to be a member to sign up for a class. “We’ve got so many [classes], and we’re always working on developing new classes. We have the core classes we’ve offered since day one like Intro to Welding, Intro to Woodshop, Intro to 3D Printing. We’ve got some new ones like wire wrap jewelry class and then a cold forging jewelry class, plus other new classes as well. But we want to make sure we always offer the core classes every month, because this is also how we do our safety authorization. By taking Intro to Welding, you’re now authorized to use that equipment.”

A collaboration between Port City Makerspace and SEAREI with a class on how solar power works.

So get making!

If you want to make something, but have hit roadblocks to achieving it, the answer very well come be becoming a member in a makerspace. When you’re on your own, you may not have:

  • All the tools they need for a project
  • A large enough space in their home or work to execute their idea
  • The knowledge to make their idea happen

Makerspaces give you those resources to do it. So see – now you have no excuse to not be creative. Go make your thing!  

Jeff, working on a costume prop at Port City Makerspace.

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