The Makerspace

The Road to Resilience

About eight years ago, Steve Graham handed me, and a few others, copies of the Transition Town Handbook in hopes that we might do something with it while he was off on a trip of many months.  For those that aren’t familiar, the Transition Town movement started in Great Britain to increase local resilience in the face of general destabilization due to climate change and resource depletion.  Some time later, at Cathy Fulton’s Food Summit, Margot Boyer announced that she wanted to start a discussion group based on the Transition Town Handbook.  In fact, we realized that transition-type initiatives were already springing up in our community, and Cathy’s Food Summit was one such event.  In the three or four years that Transition Vashon existed, I like to think that we helped move our community a little closer to sustainability.  You may remember the Ingenuity Tours that we helped organize here.  This column started as a project of Transition Vashon.
I think the Ingenuity Tour may come back sometime in the future when there are more people willing to work on it.  We all discovered that there are a lot of creative and resourceful people here and their projects can be a real source of inspiration.
VIGA and our community credit unions are local initiatives that took hold here due to the independent actions of islanders.  The Vashon Timebank was another that failed to take root.

Cathy Fulton went on to form the Food Security Group, which was all about growing and preserving our own food.  They, too, failed to take root, but they had assembled a library of food processing equipment that now is located in the Vashon Tool Library.
A few years ago, Steve Graham set out to establish that Tool Library.  He persisted, and it now appears to be a going concern with 700 members.  Last year, another transition idea, the Fixit Café, quickly took hold on Vashon.  Helped along by a King County program in the Solid Waste Division, the Tool Library, Zero Waste Vashon, a ready and willing group of fixers, and an enthusiastic clientele, the Fixit Café appears to be on its way to becoming a permanent fixture on the Island.

Now, a hard working group at the Tool Library has spent much of the past year developing a plan for a Makerspace, a community-owned workshop providing all members access to the knowledge, skills, space, tools, and materials they may need to meet both their personal and business goals.  It is supported as well by Vashon Be Prepared, Greentech, Vashon Center for the Arts, Drama Dock, and King County Library.  You’ll notice that these organizations cover a wide range of interests from the very practical to the purely aesthetic.

The Makerspace idea was preceded by an effort by Greentech to make use of a large collection of costly woodworking tools that they were gifted with.  A suitable location for the shop was never found.  Hopefully, the larger scope of the Makerspace may be a more successful model that will provide a space for the Greentech tool collection.
As of now, the planners for the Makerspace envision four areas of focus:  there will be a shop devoted to woodworking, one for technology, one for fiber arts, and one for educational use.  To insure safe and proper use of the equipment in each shop, users will need to be checked out on each piece of equipment.  Instruction will be available for all machines and tools.  It is hoped that we can inculcate a sense of shared ownership and shared responsibility for proper use and maintenance of all tools.  If we can avoid setting up an oppressive set of rules with fines, so much the better.  There will be a monthly or yearly fee for membership, which hasn’t as yet been determined.

When you think about it, this facility can be truly revolutionary.  We all have “aha!” moments.  We get ideas about things we would like to make that don’t exist, aren’t being made or are very expensive.  You might think, “If I only knew how to work with wood and had access to tools, I would make what I’ve got in mind a reality.”  That item could be anything from the purely practical to the purely aesthetic.  The Makerspace will provide you the knowledge, skills, and equipment to do that.

Until now, only a few people could access the means to realize their ideas.  With the Makerspace, we can all do this.  There could be an explosion of new art, new devices, and new products as we build our knowledge, skills, and maximize our creative potential.  I can see any number of new local businesses providing income and products for our own use or for export.  But the ultimate value need not have any monetary reward.  It may be the enjoyment and satisfaction of making things and the camaraderie of others doing the same. As a community project, it will require the investment of time and money by all of us.  By sharing the capital investment, we have access to much more than we could possibly have on our own.