After rotating through members’ houses and teaching classes in local libraries, the Fairfield County Makers’ Guild officially opened a makerspace Feb. 22 in Norwalk, Conn.
The Guild members renovated a long-unused space near batting cages, then pooled their own money to furnish the new home with all the essentials, including soldering irons, a drill press, mini lathe, milling machine, bench grinder, 3D printers, and even a 3D scanner.
“My ideal place would be like Artisan’s Asylum,” said Vladimir Mariano (one of the Guild’s six founders), who recounted his visit to the notable Boston makerspace. While searching for inspiration there, Vladimir saw something strange that piqued his curiosity. There were the usual workspaces where members built projects … and then there was one workspace that had nothing on it. Except a pad of paper.
“I thought it was a receptionist’s desk,” Vladimir said with a laugh. It turns out that the workspace belonged to an artisan who crafted not with tools, but words. The poet found the Asylum so inspiring, he had settled there for its creative vibrance. (Reminder: Writers are makers too!)
One of Vladimir’s visions for the Guild is to grow a creative community that drives art and technology. Fairfield county makers are already helping to make that a reality: Balam Soto, 2012 NY Maker Faire Editor’s Choice winner for his “Body Sound Suit,” hopes to teach at the makerspace. Two Guild founders, Ed Kalin and Brian Davis, met through the group and started their company, Jolly Roger Labs.
Makerspaces develop through different styles. While some groups build a fabrication studio before establishing a community, this risks funding a space without membership strength and knowledge.
The Fairfield County Makers’ Guild grew in a more organic fashion, establishing a solid foundation of Guild members first. With more than 120 members in their Meetup group, recognition from Norwalk’s mayor, and an excellent turnout for its grand opening, the team cleared some initial hurdles.
Still, the best is yet to come. Vladimir noted future milestones for the nonprofit start with economic self-sustainability, then extra funds to upgrade equipment and hire full-time staff.
“People kept coming [to the grand opening] until we finally closed at 2pm,” Vladimir said. “It reinforces my belief that this is a space that the community really wants.”
You can visit their site at makersguildfc.com