by Kirby Lindsay, posted 8 May 2013
When the edgy and youthful evo relocated from its digs in West Fremont, at 122 NW 36th St (to Stone Way,) who could imagine a new, edgier start-up business would fill the vacancy…providing space for innovative designers of visionary products.
Makerhaus provides “one-thousand square feet of prototyping and education space,” explained Ellie Kemery, co-founder and Strategy Maker. A public tour (offered daily at 1p & 7p) gives an even clearer understanding of this workshop where dreamers, inventors and designers can create products, solutions and art that may revolutionize the world, or simply make a corner of it a little bit better. Or both.
A Place For ‘Professional Creatives’
Officially opened in late February 2013, the business plan behind Makerhaus is progressive but not original. Kemery, and her husband Mike, came up with the idea, “because we personally needed it.” Both are industrial designers, by inclination, who formerly worked in the corporate world yet still want access to materials and equipment for building prototypes of their, now, independent designs.
“We found it very difficult to prototype nationally,” Kemery explained. They tried out what she called, ‘hacker spaces,’ most commonly used for do-it-yourself electronics, but found that even the organized and clean ones could only provide cobbled-together and/or amateurish equipment. “We need equipment of high-caliber,” for what they wanted to build, she said.
The Kemerys also encountered others seeking the same access. “On weekends and evenings, they explore their own ideas,” Kemery observed of people she described as ‘professional creatives.’
So, the Kemerys dreamt of a place where they and others could access, and share the cost of, expensive equipment – 3D printers, laser cutter, a metal shop, wood shop, computers with design software, etc. “Designers tend to fail forward,” Kemery observed, and with access to materials and equipment they can innovate, fail, learn, and try again, and again, until they find something amazing.
At the same time, the ‘makers movement’ caught on world-wide, with growing communities of people sharing their love of tinkering. As Kemery explained, some call it, ‘the next industrial revolution,’ with technology making it possible for people to innovate from their laptop or Ipod. And around the country workshops have sprung up allowing ‘makers’ to share resources and materials.
The 3rd Ward, out of Brooklyn, New York and soon expanding into Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, offers something similar to what the Kemerys envisioned. Ellie and Mike went to Brooklyn and the management of 3rd Ward, which is now celebrating 7-years in business, mentored them – making the opening of Makerhaus stronger than it might have been.
A Place To Build And A Place To Learn
With a focus on design, Makerhaus provides its members clean, organized and well-appointed spaces in which to share, learn and build. And while different membership levels have different degrees of access to the equipment, all members receive a significant discount on classes.
The classes run a wide gamut, from straightforward textiles, digital media, woodworking and metal working classes (including introductory classes that instruct on use of the Makerhaus equipment,) to ones on a variety of professional opportunities: Build A Company In Six Weeks. Design a Rock-n-Roll Poster. Learn to protect your ideas with an Intellectual Property & Patents Seminar.
The teachers come with impressive backgrounds – a textile class taught by a former Tommy Bahama designer, a professional development class taught by a member of the University of Washington entrepreneur’s program faculty, etc. “Teachers are falling out of the sky,” Kemery reported, “you’d be surprised at how many people have a depth of knowledge,” and a willingness to share what they know. “These are people you would never get to learn from,” she observed, teaching small classes – due to space constraints as well as intention – so students can get specific help on direct applications.
Makerhaus also hosts ‘Make Good Society’ events. Every week, on Wednesdays, they host activities intended to build community and share with the general public. These events include movie screenings, discussions, featured speakers, live music, and jam sessions.
Support For Success
“We hope that this becomes a launch pad,” Kemery acknowledged, with members creating products or solutions that, “become wildly successful. The whole point of the space is to make the inaccessible accessible.” Today, Makerhaus provides workshop space to both a high-end bicycle builder and a guitar manufacturer, plus a professional designer uses the shared office space. Yet, Kemery acknowledges that as they become established – and successful – they will be forced to find space elsewhere, and she’s okay with that.
“We come from that world,” Kemery stated, “so we understand where our members are coming from.” Makerhaus also has staff with their own making/creating experience, able to assist members in realizing their projects, and “to see a product come to fruition.”
Also, while new, the Makerhaus workshop/school/lab/library/office/display area already has equipment installed, but Kemery plans to add more as members give feedback on what they need.
Perhaps most importantly, Makerhaus has partnered with Material ConneXion and Inventables. These partnerships will provide members with information and access to materials that, until now, only huge corporate buyers could access. Companies like Makerhaus, through these partnerships, can help members buy small lots of materials they need – and provide feedback to suppliers about what independent designers/creators want, and potential, never-before-considered applications of the materials they purchase.
As it expands and grows, Makerhaus also welcomes kids. They’ve offered a class in laser cutting that allows the students to see the wooden puzzle pieces created for a dinosaur model they assemble and take home. “We’re talking with schools about enhancing their programs,” Kemery reported, as many schools have to scale back or cut out metal shop, wood shop, and other handcraft/art programs. “We’re all about empowering,” she explained, “and about wanting to grow their skill set.”
The potential for creating among Makerhaus members is unlimited, as is the potential applications for the company itself. To see, in person, what Makerhaus offers (including the incredible selection in the Materials Library,) attend a free, no obligation tour – held at 1p & 7p every day of the week.
Also, consider attending one of the public events and/or classes. Registration for most classes is open to non-members, so consider stopping by to see the potential of the maker movement, and join the next industrial revolution!
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©2013 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.