Namestorming

The Makery @ Bridge Artspace
The Makery @ Hearth Artspace
The Makery @ Maram Artspace
The Makery @ Kriti Artspace

We’re going to try to pin down the name of the makerspace today. Someone suggested The Makery, which it turns out has been used a bunch, unsurprisingly, but maybe that doesn’t matter — there’s a lot to like about it — easy to say, clear, etc. We’re still thinking either Bridge Artspace or Hearth Artspace or Maram Artspace or Kriti Artspace for the overall project. Or Make. Or Arts.

Make @ Bridge Artspace
Make @ Hearth Artspace
Make @ Maram Artspace
Make @ Kriti Artspace

I really hate naming things. Sometimes the perfect name just emerges out of nowhere, but mostly, they don’t. Naming Strange Horizons was a long conversation. Clean Sheets and Jaggery were a bit easier. All the books were hard. Sigh.

The Makery @ Bridge Arts
The Makery @ Hearth Arts
The Makery @ Maram Arts
The Makery @ Kriti Arts

Anyway, feel free to opine some more. We’re going to have a planning meeting at noon today, and will hopefully pin this down one way or another.

Make @ Bridge Arts
Make @ Hearth Arts
Make @ Maram Arts
Make @ Kriti Arts

*****

And what about acronyms?

MAKA: Make @ Kriti Arts
MAKE: Make @ Kriti Artspace

(Can you use the ‘e’ at the end of art space that way?)

Preliminary graphic. It is a photograph of pine trees, at an extreme angle, with a green circle in the middle. In white letters, it says Maram Makery: An Oak Park Area Artspace.

An idea that took root and grew

There was a moment in grad school. Kevin and I had split up and I was desperately broken-hearted. I’d been getting up at 4 a.m. every morning to an alarm because it was the best time for me to concentrate, when the world was dark and still, writing by the light of a candle. I’d gotten about halfway through drafting Bodies in Motion at that point; I had been working so hard, for so long. I loved the book, but I was otherwise very tired and very sad. I cried all the time.

There came a day when I just couldn’t stare at the computer screen any longer. I found myself — and I honestly don’t even remember making the decision to go — at the art store, ringing up $200 of supplies (money I didn’t really have, but I just didn’t care). I came home and I made things — candles and collages mostly. They weren’t very good but I needed to do something that wasn’t just brain work, that didn’t require so much deliberate thought. I needed to use my hands. It helped. (My mother still has the candle I made her that year. She thinks it is too pretty to light it.)

• Welcome to Memoir
• Designing in Inkscape for Cricut
• Survival Cooking

I was talking to Jed a few nights ago, trying to explain why I haven’t been able to let go of the idea of the maker space, even though it takes lots of time that would perhaps be otherwise spent on writing (I am still writing, but inevitably slower than I would normally be).

• Fix Your Own Garbage Disposal!
• Checklist for a Renovation
• Visible (Beautiful) Mending

I did try to set the makerspace aside, over and over, for the last few years. I told myself, “This would be a nice retirement project, but first, write the damn novel.” Then I’d find myself scouting out spaces, or making workshop lists again, or thinking about whom I knew that had skills they could teach. (Lots of people, it turns out. Lots and lots.)

• Stop-Motion Animation with Legos
• Intro to Weaving on the Rigid Heddle Loom
• Botanical Soaps and Candles

Workshops I wanted to teach, workshops I wanted to take. And many of these don’t fit neatly into some conceptions of a ‘makerspace,’ but to me, these are all making. Making with hands and mind and generous creative hearts.

• Getting Started with Arduino Controllers
• Firespinning!
• Drawing Comics

A friend just offered to pass along some shoes for Kavi, and she didn’t want money for them. I am going to leave her some handmade soap and caramels and a book. Gift economy, and how much more satisfying that is.

• 3D Print a Custom Drop Spindle
• Planting a Wildlife-Friendly Garden 
• Jewelry Making with Resin

I am not quite old enough to be focused on my legacy yet, but the thought does pop up now and again. I’ve done some good things in politics, and hope to do more. I’ve done some good things for science fiction and fantasy too, and ditto. But if I can leave behind a thriving Oak Park makerspace, one that might even (a girl can dream) spin-off into Austin and Berwyn locations too, encouraging collaboration, artistic expression, and entrepreneurship throughout our community, bridging silos and ending isolation — that would be a legacy to be really proud of.

• Worm Composting
• Knitting with LEDs
• 3D Printing for Cosplay

I can just see it, humming with life. A makerspace, an artist shop, a free art supply exchange, cafe and lounge, co-working space, an artist residency program, low-income artist housing, and more. I hope we can make it happen.

• Stained Glass using the Copper Foil Technique
• Songwriting
• Welcome to Podcasting

(Pictured below, dried marigold petals harvested from my garden for marigold-turmeric soap, made with a coconut milk base, unscented. I’ll be selling them at Pem Hessing‘s Colorful Holiday fair, featuring the work of makers of color in our community, Saturday 12/15, 10 – 3:30. I’ll also be donating some to the Garden Club holiday sale, where they’ll be incorporated into hostess gift baskets to be raffled off at the December meeting, to support club activities. We’re hoping to host a fundraiser for the makerspace in December as well — details soon.)

• Art Journaling
• Resume Writing
• Crowdfunding for Beginners

Makerspace Update

We had a meeting last night about the makerspace, etc. project, and mostly determined that we should focus our Big Idea grant proposal on the makerspace piece. If that happens in isolation, great — if we can raise enough funds to do a bigger space with co-working, cafe + shop, artist studios, residency program, low-income artist housing, etc., also great. I need to put together a list of places we’ll be applying to for grants (could use help with that!) Good progress.

Most of the last few weeks has been heavily scheduled with meetings as I try to get feedback, collaborative vision, buy-in from lots of local folk — people in government, housing, arts, business, etc. There’s going to be lots more of that! Pretty much everyone I’ve talked to has been supportive of the idea, and most have been genuinely excited by it! It’s the sort of thing where you look at it and say, “I can’t believe we don’t have this already!”

Two of our people have now taken the proposal to try to turn my wordiness into two tight opening paragraphs. I am terrible at boiling things down to sound-bites, elevator pitches, and even concise paragraphs. I just want to put in more words. Brutal concision is not my strength, and I’m grateful that they’re taking a stab at it. 🙂

They’ll give it back in a week, and then I’ll try to draft answers to the rest of the proposal questions, and then we’ll meet again to review that draft and fine-tune it. I need to start collecting supplemental materials too — a list of other makerspaces, photos of great makerspaces we can compare to, for example.

I’m spending time in upcoming weeks touring possible rental spaces, hoping to find someone willing to donate space or at least let us use it at significantly below-market rates for a while. We could do a month-to-month lease to get the project off the ground. (If this is maybe you, get in touch, please!)

Ideally, our main space down the line would be big, near transit, and near both Austin / Berwyn (so Arts District or near Oak Park and Harrison would be ideal). But a big space may be years off, and in the meantime, we could put a makerspace in something as small as 300 sq. ft. — though definitely having more like 900-1200 would be better, letting us fit in lounge and classroom / meeting space as well, plus a coffee station!

I’m having a budget meeting today with a finance person who will help me start drafting a spreadsheet (volunteering his time, so kind). Space rental, tool purchase, furniture and supplies, insurance, permits and fees, and if we have some money left over for staffing, that’d be good, but initially, I suspect we’ll be relying on volunteers (working in the space) to keep the doors open.

We’re going to aim for being financially self-reliant through class tuition, memberships, and space rental in off hours, with fundraising to help us lower costs as much as possible — making everything sliding-scale, and offering free scholarships. We’re also going to have one day / week open for walk-in free making — the Chicago Public library does Wednesday 1-8, which sounds like a good possibility, though Saturday might also be good.

If you’re in the Oak Park area, an artist or educator or just someone who thinks we should have a place where we can introduce people to all kinds of making in a fun, low-cost environment, and want to be involved in the project in some way (planning, volunteering, donating, teaching), please do get in touch! We will need lots of help getting this off the ground.

Things are progressing. 🙂 It’s exciting to see this taking shape!!!

(I borrowed this graphic from the NUSD Makerspace task force — isn’t it charming? We may need to make our own version.)

Wider call for Makerspace involvement

I’ve been having gazillion meetings about the makerspace in the last few weeks, mostly with locals in the area — artists, local elected and former elected, possible funders, etc. I think I’m ready to put out a wider call, so here are a few things:

a) if you’re in the spec fic field and interested in helping me think about who in our genre might be interested in helping us build a strong speculative arts component to this project, please get in touch! I’m thinking Meow Wolf, I’m thinking 826 Valencia, I’m thinking strange alien creatures hanging from the ceiling and rocket ships in the bathroom. I want to encourage everyone who comes into our space to dream of bigger possibilities, fantastic futures. If you have ideas or just want to be part of that conversation, e-mail mohanraj@mamohanraj.com, subject line MAKERSPACE SPEC ARTS.

b) If you’re interested in helping me think about funding (grants and donors), I’d LOVE to hear from you. I’d like to start soliciting private (largish) pledges of donations. Maybe you know someone who might want a room (or a building) named after them? I’d love to talk. We’ll be doing more grass-roots fundraising as well, of the $1 – $500 donation level, but not quite yet. Stay tuned for the Kickstarter! The more we can raise, the more we can offer sliding-scale, scholarships, and completely free components to the project. If you’d like to be part of the fundraising conversation, or just have a tip or two for me, e-mail mohanraj@mamohanraj.com, subject line MAKERSPACE FUNDING

c) if you’re in the Oak Park area, and would like to be involved with this project on the organizational / administrative end, drop me a line? mohanraj@mamohanraj.com, subject line MAKERSPACE ADMINISTRATION. I’d particularly like to hear from people with convention running experience, class scheduling or department administrating experience, financial planning experience, etc.

d) if you’re in the Oak Park area and interested in possibly being a workshop / class teacher, or a mentor, or a tutor, please drop me a line? mohanraj@mamohanraj.com, subject line MAKERSPACE TEACHING. We’re starting to put together a roster of possible teachers and mentors, and I’d like to get a solid listing of that together. No commitment needed right now!

Whew. That’s probably enough for now. Feel free to comment below, too, with any thoughts, even if you just want to cheer me on. 

Art residency

Arts residency question for any artist / writers / etc. So, for the makerspace, we’re working in phases: phase 1 is whatever we can teach out of dining rooms and other free spaces, phase 2 is when we rent a space, probably around 900-1200 square feet, phase 3, if we get there, is buying a building or renting a large space. Yes?

So I was talking to a member of the planning team, and she suggested the we could phase the artist residency program (an affiliated project) the same way. I’d been thinking that we couldn’t start it until we were ready to buy a building (if you have a nice Oak Park arts & crafts house that you’d like to donate to a 501(c)3, please get in touch!).

But she suggested that we could start much sooner, because there are homeowners in the area with lovely historic homes and spare rooms, who would be delighted to host a working artist for 2-4 weeks. Maybe people whose children are grown, who aren’t ready to downsize yet, for example? And then those artists would have access to our local arts community, and all of Chicago’s museums, writing scene, etc., as well as nearby Thatcher Woods, etc.

I was sort of hesitant, thinking that artists wouldn’t want to just stay in a stranger’s house, but of course, AirBnb has actually made people much more comfortable with that kind of thing. So maybe it would be fine?

We would take applications and look at art / writing samples, charging a small application fee for our time, and then match those people up with local hosts that we have, at least somewhat, vetted. We would include a photo of the room you’d be staying in, and a description of the hosts. (Although we’d also need to make clear that artist / writers are on their own recognizance in some ways — we wouldn’t be really set up for adjudicating a sexual harassment complaint, for example, or if you slip-and-fall on their stone steps.)

There’d be a relatively low per-week rate (maybe $100 / week or so), sliding-scale and with scholarships available as well. And we’d probably ask you to do a reading or a talk in the community.

So, thoughts? Writers and artists, would you apply to such a program in Oak Park, and if so, why or why not?