Moving Your Makerspace

Moving Your Makerspace

Jigsaw Renaissance is a learning and making community based out of Seattle, WA. It was founded in 2009 out of a Transhumanist Discussion Group.

Tiny Victory! Jigsaw 3.1 is complete. Its third location in 2.5 years of existence, each one better than the last. Jigsaw started out in the upper floor of a Quonset Hut Burner workshop in a super-shady part of Seattle beneath an in-process off-ramp. The next move was into a storefront on First Hill – high foot traffic and higher rents. On one side was a convenience shop with .99 beer, on the other was a money-advancement place.

Jigsaw’s new home is Inscape, the rennovated Immigrant Detention Center of Seattle, now full of artist lofts and robots. Jigsaw was in a temporary space for several months while they removed the questionable chemicals and did a custom build-out for the permanent home. And here it is – all sealed concrete floors and freshly painted walls. There is a huge classroom, a seperate space for the loud and dirty activities, and a shared workspace. There are still some improvements to make, but it’s ours and it’s home. You can come check it out February 11th for our house warming if you find yourself in Sunny Seattle.

Moving your Hacker/Maker Space is a Big Undertaking

Here are some things you should think about:

Do you need to move?
We sometimes think changing location will solve some issues which are actually cultural. Too much clutter? While the fresh start of changing location is a nice time to purge, why not just throw a party to do the same thing? Way less hassle. Good reasons to move are finding a better location, with more reasonable cost. It takes a fair amount of money to move – you have a gap between regaining your deposits and placing ones on new rent. The paperwork involved with swapping locations on electric, internet, insurance, and the like, is also a fair amount of overhead. Do you really want/need to move?

Choosing where to move

  • Landlord. The landlord is sometimes the most important component of this. Do they understand what you are up to, or are they at least amicably ignorant? Either is fine, but having someone you are beholden to who doesn’t understand means a lot of hassle later.
  • Location and zoning. Consider how much you want to get away with (Explosions? Fire? Or a MakerBot and some movie nights?) and what sorts of transportation access you want. Close to a public transit line? Easy walking distance? Accessible parking? It’s a rare find for something that is easy to get to and allows Things On Fire. While amazing, don’t stall out or put yourself under too much stress waiting for something that won’t come. A holding pattern can be more exhausting than moving ahead on something that isn’t quite perfect so you can get going.
  • Affording rent – how many members do you have? How much can they throw in a month? How many new members per month do you think you can gain? Don’t care! Go with what you’ve got, move in six months if you fill up. Don’t count your eggs before they’re laid, as they told me back in the midwest.

The moving process

  • Purge. No really. This is the best time to throw everything out. Yes, we know it might be useful at some point. Some tips: if it’s not slated for a specific project, toss it. Is the object of high value? Calculate your cost/sqft of space, including utilities. Is it worth the space it takes up?
  • Layout. Have an idea of where things go – this will help you with your purging process.
  • Insurance. Just like your landlord, find an insurance agent who “gets it” or at least gives you a confused smile. Talk to them about why you do what you do. Use terms like “community workshop” and “clubhouse for geeks.” Words like “hacker,” “fire,” “high voltage” might set them running. And yes, you do need insurance.
  • Permits. At the very least you need an occupancy permit. Is this covered by the building itself (check your lease)? Is it your responsibility? I’ve found calling up the fire marshall (or local Burning Man friend) to walk you through and let you know what you might need before inspection is powerful, and it makes a good impression for when they come by.
  • Throw a party. The more the merrier, and the easier the process! Have pizza! Music! Hold dolly races!

What have your experiences been? Add them in the comments!

Thanks to Michael Park, Jigsaw blogger extraordinaire, for the lovely images.

4 thoughts on “Moving Your Makerspace

  1. Bruce Brunk says:

    absolutely blown away.  i’m either schizoaffective or you just gave me 2 jigsaw pieces with those two photos.  great work guys, i’ll be sure to pass it on!  purge is GOOD. lol not bulemics, but stay away from those piles of clutter and start making more of these EXCELLIENT BLOG POSTS. 

  2. Emily Smith says:

    Looks like a great space! Congrats! :)

    At our hackerspace here in Vancouver (Canada), there have been a few moves, and  there’s been a lot of back and forth about what to do. Our space is only accessible from an alley in east van (not for the faint of heart), which can add some “colour” for some, but scares others away (especially families). 

    Pros: It’s central, fairly accessible, cheap, there’s extra space if we need it, and our landlord’s great. 
    Cons: Not really child-friendly, it’s a heritage building (no open flame rule), roaches, alleyway critters, and we often have really great nights, but you really have to warn people before they come out. It doesn’t have a front-facing entrance, so that means we have to send people a video of how to get there. Here’s the latest: This can affect our attendance rates, but I find it interesting to hear about the “journey” or “wow I finally got here!” – so it adds some interest too :)

    Although, one especially interesting and strangely fortunate circumstance that I’ve noticed at our space, is that you can’t really do that much actual work there. Well, sometimes people do, but the lighting’s poor, and the ventilation’s really non-existent. Personally, I don’t go there to get work done, but interact with others, share ideas, and come up with ideas for nights. So as a result of the lack of adequate work space, it’s turned in to more of an idea – sharing – focussed space than a sit down – and get work done-space (as far as I can see).

    I know there have been some spaces in the past that focussed more on allocating clean/proper workspace and acquiring fancy equipment – and have found that people just going there and leave, and I’ve heard complaints about the lack of “culture” or any sort of interaction for that matter. I think my idea of an ideal scenario would have both private workspaces (with proper ventilation, and safe working conditions), and a communal table / non-perfect space for open nights, etc, and a focus on sharing/teaching/facilitating, etc. I think the ability to write on the walls and not treat the walls as super precious is also an important element in some areas :-)

    Great to see this post!!

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Willow Brugh has been an active participant in the hacker and makerspace community since 2008, giving her purpose towards distributed systems, engaged citizenship, and mutual aid. With heavy involvement in Maker Faire, Random Hacks of Kindness, and the SpaceApps Challenge, Willow’s main skill is “getting out of the way.” She loves seeing how ideals which thrive online, such as transparency and collaboration, manifest in these spaces and events. Willow has also been known to give candy to individuals from more traditional approaches to entice them towards these different models of engagement.

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