Every year, thousands of people come to Maker Faire to see amazing art, technology, and products that are designed and manufactured by the people presenting them. These makers wouldn’t be able to create their pieces without tools, however, and as we all know, good tools cost a lot of money.
Over the past few years, prices for very powerful tools have been coming down, and as a result, a lot of high-end manufacturing equipment is now accessible to groups of people who pool their money together. Across the nation, groups are forming to create hackerspaces and makerspaces, public facilities that grant members access to those kinds of tools, teach people how to use those tools, and sometimes offer project and studio space for rent. These spaces are helping a new generation of makers create amazing products that they never could have dreamed of before, and are helping launch a whole wave of maker-founded businesses like OpenROV, MakerBot, Square, Pebble Watch, and more.
These spaces often run into many of the same kinds of basic problems, no matter where or how they’re founded. How do you find potential members for a makerspace? How do you find the tools you need to fill out the space? How do you choose an appropriate location? How do you get insurance? How do you make sure your space meets building code and fire regulations, and doesn’t get shut down by your local government? These questions come up again and again, and not having good answers to them can often shut down fledgling spaces.
This past February, Artisan’s Asylum (the space I founded, which has become one of the largest makerspaces in the country) and MAKE teamed up to produce How to Make a Makerspace with sponsorship from Sparkfun Electronics, ShopBot, MassDevelopment, and Cognizant. The event was a 3-day conference of 180 people who were all looking to start spaces, who got to hear about best practices from 20 different panelists and experts in real estate, insurance, and local government. The conference gave a kick start to more than 60 spaces across the country, who are now setting up shop in cities far and wide.
We reached a lot of people at the event, but it became obvious that many, many more wanted to hear what we had to say. We’d like to keep offering this wealth of information and training to people across the country, and as a result, we’ll be offering a pared-down, 6-hour version of the conference at the Bay Area Maker Faire! We’ll be focusing on the must-know best practices around starting a space, finding a good location, insuring it, and making sure your members are using tools safely, to name a few. We’re making this event very hands-on; participants will work on business models for their spaces over the course of the event via a series of worksheets and exercises, and will have access to a group of mentors from makerspaces across the country to answer their questions.
If you’re serious about starting a makerspace and want some help doing so, please join us on Friday at How to Make a Makerspace @Maker Faire. Please also take a moment to fill out our participant survey here so we can tailor the event to suit your needs. We look forward to seeing you soon!