Impromptu hopper making class

Yesterday, I taught a little hopper-making class. Slightly frustrating because the batter hadn’t fermented quite enough and wasn’t giving that characteristic lacy pattern, oh well — more practice needed, clearly.

It was a lot of fun, though also funny because two of the guests were radio journalists (Niala Boodhoo and Monica Eng), and Monica has actually written a children’s book with magician) and another was a foodie and furniture building artisan (Randall Kramer) interested in teaching at our makerspace, and another runs Bookwallah, a non-profit that sends picture books to orphanages in India, (Seena Jacob). Whew!

Between all that, there were gazillion things to talk about and also gazillion questions, so I couldn’t really run it like I would normally run a class. At one point, someone jokingly suggested that maybe they should raise their hands so I could get a word in edgewise, “Oh teacher? Teacher??” and they were joking but it actually might have helped! (I’m teasing — they were lovely.)

Afterwards, showed the guests my little writing shed. One of them saw a squirrel sitting on the gate and she stopped short and said, “It’s like walking into an English children’s book.” Yes, pretty much. 🙂

Random Ideas for the Makerspace

Random makerspace writing area thought — in addition to a Little Free Library wall, maybe ‘leave a notebook / pen, take a notebook / pen’ bins? Is that a weird concept?

I just feel like my house has filled up with random little notebooks and random pens, and it’d be nice to have a place to put them and maybe community members might find it convenient to grab one from there…


Other random idea — poetry booth at the Farmer’s Market. For $1, one of our poets will write you a poem on the spot, on the subject of your choice, that you get to take away with you. Good advertising for writing classes, also good for the soul.


Hm. For the makerspace grant proposals, I’d really love to include some artist sketches of what the space would look like. Wonder if it’s worth raising a little money in advance to pay an artist to do those.


Refinement of Little Free Art Supplies idea — bins inside the makerspace for main collection, on a wall with free crafting books as well. But outside near the sidewalk, a LFL-style house on a post, so that people can leave and take supplies without even coming inside. Makerspace staff can check the outside space in the morning, bringing in anything that seems like it would benefit from categorization (specialized tools, etc.) (And a sign that says, “If you want to donate something that won’t fit in the box, stop by during open hours or call / e-mail us at:”)

Building communal trust, creating an inviting environment that says ‘this place is for you.’

Brainstorming more interesting names for grouping tech

Brainstorming: our makerspace roughly divides into what have sometimes been called hard / soft techs, but I’d like to avoid that framing for a variety of reasons (gendered assumptions / hard = difficult / etc.). So I need better names — both general terms to refer to the grouping, and more interesting / imaginative names for them.

For example, the writing part of it, we’re tentatively calling the Writers’ Room / Universe Factory. We need similar names for the hard tech component and the soft tech (primarily textile arts) component.

Practically speaking, I think they won’t actually be segregated into separate areas — if we have multiple rooms, I think they may divide into no tools / small tools / big tools. So this is not so much for space planning as for department organization & programming categories.

(Names should ideally have intergenerational appeal.)


a) hard tech: 3D printing, laser-cutting, coding, game design, photography and video production, stop-motion animation, digital design. (If space permits: wood shop / metal shop / stained glass studio.)

What else could we call this?


b) soft tech: sewing machines, embroidery machines, knitting / crochet tools and yarn, looms, drop spindles, fabric. Classes include eco-friendly focus on mending, re-use, home textiles and clothes, practical sustainability.

What else could we call this?


(NOTE: These aren’t hard-and-fast divisions either; one of the neat ideas that came out of the meeting yesterday was that people are 3D printing custom drop spindles, which I love.)

Makerspace Project Plans

Good meeting this morning! Think we’ve solidified project plans a little:

– makerspace (focus on tech arts / textile arts)
– co-working space
– if possible, artist residency (prob. separate building)
– if possible, low-income artist housing (above?)

We’re going to put together a draft proposal in the next few weeks that we can submit to potential funders, including a draft budget. We’re dividing into three phases:

Phase 1: essentially free (free space, tools we already own)
Phase 2: relatively cheap (rent space, buy tools) — could start with about 1000 – 1200 sq. ft.
Phase 3: expensive (buy building)


Plan for rest of day — take kids to swim lesson, maybe open swim with them afterwards. Come home, maybe do some gardening — move / divide perennials, plant tulips. Type up meeting notes while still fresh. Maybe work on LeGuin essay. Maybe just goof off 🙂

Thinking about what a dream weekday might look like

Daydreaming about our maker space. Today I’m thinking about what a typical weekday might look like (in the dream version of the idea, where we have gobs of space):

7-10 a.m.: cafe opens; makerspace open to those already trained on the equipment; also open for members’ co-working

(question: can we make one space that’s kid-friendly, so stay-at-home parents can bring littles there to hang out while the grown-ups work in congenial company? depends on how the space plays out)

10 a.m. – 3 p.m.: maker space and co-working open, + classes geared towards retirees, work-from-home / stay-at-home adults: resume seminar, memoir writing, etc.

(possibly also preschoolers, though we have a lot of that already in Oak Park, so I’m not sure we need to cover that same ground)

3 p.m. – 6 p.m.: maker space and co-working open, but this is also when the teens show up: classes geared towards teens, mentoring program, tutoring program

6 p.m. – 10 p.m.: back to an adult-friendly space, the cafe starts serving wine and beer, more substantial evening classes (like a 7-8:30 3D printing class), maker space and co-working open.

Makerspace ideas

Still turning over the idea of the Oak Park maker space in my head. The problem is that I want to put everything in, which is probably not feasible. Components I keep thinking about:

Makerspace itself:
– tech studio — focused on video game design, coding, etc., maybe we can get a tech company to partner with us on this part, get funding from them so we can offer free classes for low-income folks, partner with organizations in Austin (Kel Bachus, if I do this, you have to come to Oak Park and teach at least one game design course for us…)

– soft textiles — with sewing machines and a plethora of knitting / crochet supplies, yarn, and fabric available for use, free classes for low-income folks, esp. classes on things like mending, making home textiles and clothes, practical sustainability, re-use; an ecologically-friendly focus

– metalwork / welding / etc. space? I know almost nothing about this part of it, honestly, but it seems like it could teach some useful skills that could apply to home improvement projects as well as artistic endeavors

– writing / publishing classes — Oak Park has a kind of startling lack of writing classes. (This part I could kind of do in my sleep, so I haven’t bothered writing up anything detailed about it, but I should do that at some point.)

– urban garden — partner with Deep Roots Project and other local groups to teach gardening and eco-friendly choices

– cafe + books & art, featuring work of locals but also including some popular and kids’ books, perhaps + small performance space suitable for readings + outdoor garden space (ideally could connect the two to make a larger space — I’m picturing big garage doors that open or some such).

– co-working & class space

Artist apartments:
– low-income loft rental spaces above the maker space reserved for artists (I was taking to someone knowledgeable about this last-night, and it should be feasible, if complicated)

Artist residency program:
– Modeled on Ragdale; I kind of think this goes in a separate building; it’d be ideal if someone owned a Frank Lloyd Wright or otherwise architecturally significant house and wanted to donate it for this usage. Except I’m not sure if the upkeep / preservation costs on a FLW house would make it cost-prohibitive. So maybe just a less important, but still fairly large and characteristic of the region Craftsman house?

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