Light snacks

Today’s creativity / productivity retreat went well — we had five people attending, and I think most folks got some good stuff done. We’re going to continue them Wednesdays in July, 10-3, $5 — we should have an EventCombo listing up shortly, as soon as Amanda has a moment to put it together. My idea of ‘light snacks’ to accompany the tea & coffee is maybe slightly excessive. (But what if someone is HUNGRY? Can’t be allowed.)

Last Saturday’s Tea and Textiles

Last Saturday’s Tea and Textiles. Arya (kitten) helped teach Pat the basics of crochet — we got the chain stitch down, I think, and made good progress on single crochet, although why, oh why, is the first row also the hardest one to do? Seems unfair to beginners.

I added some stitches to my dress pockets that otherwise had a tendency to drop phones out of them; I should’ve chosen a darker blue thread, clearly, but I was too lazy to go back downstairs and hunt for it in the chaos that is my basement at the moment. Task for this week — straighten up the basement! But it’s okay; I doubt anyone will be peering too closely at the stitching on my pocketses…

I also managed to get the stitches back on the needles after some terrible person [cough, ANAND] pulled two needles out of them at some point, probably somewhat aimlessly while watching a tv show.

I knit another row, and was feeling quite proud of myself for finally picking up this project again after many months, until I looked at it more closely and realized that I definitely have a noticeable error about six rows back. Am I willing to tink it back that far in order to fix it? GAH. I think so, because this is my first time designing something, and I want it to be done right, but I may need more tea for fortitude before attempting it. (Also have tons of computer work to do this morning, and meetings, and annoying errands in the afternoon, so it’s not going to happen soon. Maybe this evening, though.)

(‘Tink’ is the word for un-knitting; it’s knit backwards, because knitters are cute that way. What’s less cute is that it’s just as much work as the actual knitting. Sigh.)

Next Tea and Textiles will be Sat July 7 link in comments!

(I think I’m remembering the names right — Jackie and Pat? I am so very terrible with names…)


Maram retreat

A little bit of a slow start, but we’re settled into the Maram writing / creativity / productivity retreat. It’s 10-3 today at house; do feel free to drop by, locals. (The next one is next Wed, the 26th). I’ve sent the kids to the park up the street to meet with friends; they are unsupervised, but Kavi has her cell and can call if they run into issues; she also has two other 12-year-old friends with her, so I think they should be fine. I am talking myself into this, because this is the first time I’ve let them do this unsupervised. They will be fine.

The plan is that around 11:30, Kevin will go and walk them up to the library (about a mile away, I think, and in theory, they could do that bit by themselves too, but I’d like them to practice it with a grown-up a few times first). I told him he could just drop them there for an hour, but he thinks he’ll probably just stay there and work. Then either he takes them to grab lunch out somewhere, or walks them back here, or I go pick them up and bring them here. Then they play (quietly) upstairs; the electronics go back on at 1 p.m., so they can do video games if they want.

And I keep writing, and around 1-2-ish, Teri, who is here, has promised to teach me how to do drop-spinning, so that will be cool. And at 3, the retreat ends, and I take the kids to the pool for a few hours. Probably Rehm, so that if they want to stay for a while, they can — Ridgeland closes at 4:15, but Rehm is open ’til 8.

It’s a little complex, combining writing and kid-minding and retreat-hosting, but I think we’re good. 🙂

Explaining Maram: Sharing the joy of making with the community

I’m trying to get better at explaining what Maram is. How is this?


I’d love to invite y’all to join the Maram Makerspace FB group / like our page / sign up for our newsletter. Maram is a new non-profit project, that hopes to share the joy of making with the community, lowering costs and making access to skills and tech more available to Oak Parkers and our neighbors.

We define making very broadly, though we’re particularly interested in areas such as futurist tech, traditional handcrafting skills, and sustainable making. We’ve offered workshops in 3D printing, coding, cooking, writing, textile arts and more! While most of our workshops are geared towards adults, some are open to kids, generally if accompanied by an adult.

We’re currently actively looking for a space, and hope to be in one by the fall, at which point we’ll also be offering memberships for those who want to use the space for co-working.

Expect to see a Kickstarter within the next few months, to help with start-up costs; we’ll also be accepting donations of tech and equipment / furniture, and are always looking for volunteers to work on the project with us. (We’re all volunteers!) Maram is sponsored by the SLF, a 501(c)3 non-profit, so all donations are tax-deductible.

We have a few Tea and Textiles meet-ups coming up, the next two Saturdays afternoons in June, and some writing / creativity / productivity retreats on weekdays.

You can sign up for those here:…

Please also save the date for our MakerFaire at the main library, an opportunity to drop in and try out some of our different activities: Sunday, August 25, 2-5, Veterans Room.

Learn more at our website:

Newsletter sign-up:

Facebook group:

Facebook page:

Sale sale sale!

BIG SALE! There’s just three days left to register for this weekend’s Maram workshops — mostly botanical-themed on Saturday, and mostly dad-themed on Sunday. A few of these are low enrollment, so if they don’t fill today, I’m afraid we’ll need to cancel those. So if you’re thinking of registering, don’t wait!

I’ll be teaching a workshop on botanical art (bookmarks / cards / poetry collages), and one on Sri Lankan cocktails and appetizers from my new cookbook!

We’re also offering:

– Alexa basic coding

– intro to 3D printing (make a personalized keychain!)

– wet-felted flowers

– botanical jewelry and soaps

– two writing workshops (personal essay and science fiction)

– and a building jam (that last is for dads and their kids, some freeform fun!)


We’re offering TWO BIG DISCOUNTS right now:

– 50% off a workshop if you take our 2-3 minute survey — we’re trying to figure out how to better promote and bring people out to our events, and could really use your help!

– Bring a friend — two for the price of one! Sign up two people for a workshop, and use the 50% discount code on both of them. This is a great way to try out our workshops and get a feel for what they’re like. Making is more fun with friends. 🙂


Here’s the survey:

Here’s the discount code: Maramdiscount

Buy tickets for this weekend here:…

(And as always, Maram is a non-profit, extending the joy of making throughout the community. We have additional discounts and full scholarships available; if cost is a barrier to entry, please let us know, and we’d love to offer you one of the additional discounts / scholarships.)

Reminder: Creativity/productivity retreat tomorrow

Reminder for locals — we’re doing Maram writing / creating / productivity retreat at my house tomorrow (Wed), 10-3. RSVP if you plan to attend, please!

Bring your laptops, notebooks, paints, anything quiet – headphones recommended.

There are four open work spaces on the first floor — two large tables, multiple couches and comfy chairs. There’s a writing shed in the backyard that you’re welcome to use (with a small heater), and a second floor library and home office (with a door that closes). $5 to cover coffee, tea, substantial snacks (and there’s always bread and peanut butter and jam for a sandwich too). You don’t need to be there before 10, but please enter quietly if arriving later.

June Events!

Hey, folks — here’s the link with all our upcoming June tea+textile meet-ups (free!), plus productivity retreats ($5) and our Father’s Day workshops (a bit more, but remember that all our events are sliding scale)! Hope you can join us!

Registration now open for Father’s Day Workshops

Father’s Day Maram Makerspace Workshops — ticket sales open!

Make something for the father in your life or sign him up for a fun workshop! We’ve got a wide variety of great hands-on activities scheduled for Father’s Day Weekend.
(You don’t have to be a father to participate, though!)

Saturday June 15
10:00 am – 11:45 am Botanical Cards and Bookmarks
12:00 pm – 1:45 pm Floral jewelry – Prismacolor on Metal 
2:00 pm – 3:45 pm Botanical Soap making
2:00 pm – 3:45 pm Personal Essay Writing
4:00 pm – 5:45 pm Wet Felted Flowers

Sunday June 16
10:00 am – 11:45 am 3D Printing 
10:00 am – 11:45 am Writing Science Fiction that Sells
12:00 pm – 1:45 pm Building Bridges
2:00 pm – 3:45 pm Coding Alexa at Home
4:00 pm – 5:45 pm Sri Lankan Cocktails and Appetizers

COSTS: All tickets are $45 unless otherwise noted. Need-based scholarships are available; if interested, please request one by emailing with the subject line: MARAM SCHOLARSHIP.

Maram Makerspace was created with the goal of extending the joy of making throughout our community; generous donations make it possible for us to offer several scholarships for each session. Please don’t hesitate to apply for free or discounted workshops.




Botanical Cards and Bookmarks with Mary Anne Mohanraj

We’ll used pressed flowers from the garden to design and produce laminated bookmarks and delicate botanical greeting cards. Botanical materials will be provided, but feel free to bring your own as well – ferns, leaves, pansies, and other fairly flat botanicals work well for this. Press them in a book for a few weeks before the workshop so they’re nice and dry, or speed the process up with a microwave. Ages 8 and up (children must be accompanied by an adult. One ticket purchase per adult/child pair).

Flower Power – Prismacolor on Metal with Alix Mikesell

Colored pencils are an easy way to add color to metal. In this workshop, you will learn how to color on metal using Prismacolor pencils, how to blend, how to protect your creations for lasting use, and how to turn your colorful flower drawings into earrings or pendants. Materials are provided. Each participant will create at least one piece of jewelry. Ages 16 and up.

Botanical Soap making with Cynthia Borah

Learn how to make your own soap using the melt and pour process. Students will learn to use natural colorants, essential oils, and botanicals (calendula petals, lavender buds, etc.) to make unique bars of soap for themselves, for friends, or to give away as gifts. Melt and pour soap making is a creative and fun project for all. Ages 8 and up (children must be accompanied by an adult)

Personal Essay Writing with Deborah Jian Lee

This workshop will teach the fundamentals of how to find your voice, sharpen your ideas and tell your story through cinematic scenes that keep readers hooked. Geared toward adults.

Wet-felted Flower with Pamela Penney

This workshop offers an opportunity to create a small felted object: wool flower or vessel. Students will learn how to lay out the fibers, wet them down, then add some friction and fun. Through the magic that is actually called “fulling” the fibers will come together and be shaped into the desired object. Each student will go home with their finished object as it is drying in the final shape. Materials will be provided and include the wool roving for one item per student. Additional wool can be purchased from the instructor. Ages 7 & up (children must be accompanied by an adult).

Intro to 3D Printing with TinkerCad with Kurt Hedlund

Get an introduction to 3D printing by interactively learning to design a simple keyfob/keytag/luggagetag using the internet based Tinkercad tool. Follow along with the workshop leader designing your own key tag and create a design file to be 3D printed after the workshop. This class is appropriate for a beginner to 3D printing / design, who is generally computer literate. The class requires a laptop; if you don’t have one and would like to participate, let us know ( — some laptops may be available for loan during class. Ages 14 and up.

Writing Science Fiction that Sells with Alec Nevala-Lee

Science fiction offers a thriving audience for short stories, but it can be hard for beginners to break into professional markets, and even established writers can have trouble making consistent sales. We’ll discuss strategies for writing stories that are compelling from the very first page, based on the principles of effective characterization, plot structure, and worldbuilding, with examples drawn from a wide range of authors and publications. Geared towards adults.

Building Bridges – Heath Penney

Get ready to engineer your own structure to get from point A to point B-eyond! Lego, Wooden Blocks and a variety of creative materials will be provided to kids with their adult partner to explore the possibilities that come with creating an architectural span, whether your crossing an imaginary river or a deep ravine. Each pair (child and guardian) will embellish their construction with a fun variety of art materials and take it home at the end of the session. Ages 7 & up (children must be accompanied with an adult). One ticket purchase per adult/child pair.

Coding Alexa with Kamal Jackson

Create an ap for Alexa – no experience needed! We will create a simple game app for Alexa from start to finish, without writing a line of code. An Alexa account is required, and a laptop for class use. (If you don’t have access to a laptop, let us know – we have some available for loan-out during class.) Ages 8 & up can accompany a ticket-holding adult.

Sri Lankan Cocktails and Appetizers with Mary Anne Mohanraj

Learn how to make two different Sri Lankan cocktails using arrack, a bourbon-like liquor made from coconut flowers (recently become available at Whole Foods, Binny’s, etc.), along with two seafood-based appetizers (prawn vadai and mackerel cutlets). (Vegetarian versions can be made if you prefer.) Deep-frying is involved, so come prepared to deal with fire. Adults only. Learn more about Sri Lankan recipes and Mary Anne’s forthcoming cookbook at her cooking blog, Serendib Kitchen:

NOTE: Additional fee when you sign up: $10 (good alcohol isn’t cheap)

Drafting the Mission Statement

So, I have to draft this for the Maram makerspace meeting tonight, but I’m also going to do it as a blog post, so let me just draft this here. Let me know if anything’s unclear?

(If you’re local and would like to come to a Maram planning meeting, this would be a good one to attend, as it’s the seasonal reset meeting. 5 – 7 p.m., my place, dinner provided, please RSVP if attending! If you need to show up at 6 because of commute or anything, that’s fine, just let me know.)


Maram Makerspace is a mission-driven Oak Park area project, created to bring together people, knowledge, and tools (physical & digital) to spark inspiration, bridge the gap between the desire and the means to create, and build a collaborative, inclusive, community hub.

We’re particularly interested in offering sliding-scale tuition and scholarships, to extend the joy of making to those who might be otherwise excluded.

Through a combination of workshops and talks, memberships in the makerspace itself, and eventually event space rental, we look forward to funding a long-term sustainable non-profit arts, tech, and writing community. We look forward to building bridges to Austin, Berwyn, Forest Park, River Forest, Elmwood Park, Galewood, and other surrounding communities.


a) What happened with the Big Idea? We put together a great presentation, we were finalists, but we didn’t win the $50K, which would’ve guaranteed two years of rent on a space. We did get about $350 in audience vote door prize money, which was nice. We’ll apply again next year!

b) How much money do we need for a space, exactly? It’s about $25K / year for rent on the kind of 1200 square foot space in the areas we want (good foot traffic, good parking, close to public transit, accessible from Austin / Berwyn), which would let us do a solid version of what we’re looking for. There’s a bigger version of the maker space that would let us do a lot more, but it would require raising a lot more money. In addition, there are insurance, etc. costs.

c) How much money do we have on hand? We have $15,000 in pledges from two big donors, plus about $1000 from the Big Idea + tuition on events. We’ve also had various items donated, such as two projectors, a printer, a Cricut, a sewing machine — we even have a line on a lasercutter. We’ve bought some stuff too — a big screen, a 3D printer, a tent for events!

d) Are we renting a space this summer? Maybe. We can put maybe $500-$1000 / a month towards rent on that, if we decide it’s a good idea. There’d also be some costs for insurance, etc.

e) What are the pluses / minuses of renting? The advantage is that we wouldn’t be working out of my living room anymore, and that we could hopefully find a fully-accessible space (I have stairs and pets). We’d also have a base of operations, could sell artisan items out of a storefront, etc. It might make more sense to wait until fall, though — a lot depends on how many active volunteers we have to work on the project over the summer. (This means you?) There’s so much we can do, but it’s all dependent on having enough capacity to do it.

f) How will we raise more money? Through tuition (workshops do bring in money, though it takes time to ramp up programming and publicity), and grants (we need people with time to work on that — no expertise needed; I’d be working with you; it’d be good training for future grant-writing work for anyone interested in development or arts administration).

g) What has Maram been doing so far? Writing workshops, days of making (3D printing, coding, cooking, jewelry, paper dying, gardening, more), creativity / productivity retreats.

g) What are we doing this summer? Presence at What’s Blooming on Harrison and Day in Our Village, more workshops and retreats (upcoming ones include adding board game jam, building jam, botanical arts), six-week writing classes, possibly a one-week summer camp. Maybe a textile arts working group for people learning to knit / crochet / etc., if there’s interest.

h) How are we on infrastructure? In the last months, we’ve put together our website (mostly Amanda Chablani‘s doing) and set up a newsletter, which should help with publicity; we’ve also hired a very part-time PR person who is doing tweets, Instagram, etc. for us. Thanks, Irene!

i) What do we need from volunteers? We need to know who can work on this over the summer:

– we desperately need help with PR. That’s our biggest weakness right now — we can put on great events, but it’s tough to get the word out. We could use volunteers to put together flyers, to print them, to walk them around to different neighborhoods (I’d love to have a point person for each neighborhood, ideally). We could use volunteers who will talk us up in various community forums. Beyond that, we can use people in any of the following

– the core admin team (currently me, Amanda ChablaniPamela PenneyAlix MikesellMeghan O’Shea) should be able to come to a weekly 1.5 hr meeting — we’re meeting weekdays right now, but that can shift if needed to accommodate others

– the space research team would be going to spaces and looking at them (that’s currently me, Pam Whitehead)

– the grantwriting team should start researching other grants and writing applications (that’s currently me, Carollina SongLaura Hsieh)

– the event staffing team should make sure that we have people working the booth at events like What’s Blooming on Harrison and Day in Our Village (that’s currently me, Pamela Penney, and Meghan O’Shea, primarily)

– the fundraising team should start thinking about when we’ll be ready to offer memberships / if we want to run a Kickstarter, etc. (that’s mostly me right now.) 🙂

j) Can people give us money now? Yes! 🙂 And if you’re in the U.S., it’s tax-deductible. 🙂

k) Finally, do we have a logo? Possibly. Check back soon. 🙂


Okay, so that’s the draft. What questions did I not answer yet?