Aaron Bowens sat at the table in the basement of the Owego Street Makery sketching designs for end tables and explaining how makerspaces help people economically and creatively.
“I’ve always loved kind of working with the different woodworking projects,” said Bowens, of Homer. “I was working on building a shop in my garage, but when this opened up I thought it was a great opportunity to have the shop available and also to have the interaction of that creative culture.”
A makerspace is any area where people with like-minded interest can gather to make products using provided equipment. Over the years, the number of makerspaces has risen.
Makerspace.com founder Andrew Miller said he’s noticed a lot of makerspace growth in the U.S., Canada and Australia.
In 2016, Popular Science reported that there were 14 times more makerspaces worldwide than in 2006 and New York state was in the top five of states with the most makerspaces.
In Cortland, makerspaces have been popping up over the past few years including two wood-oriented spaces, two paint-and-sip shops and a business that offers a variety of crafting classes, plus a sewing makerspace planning to open up soon.
Bowens, like others, said he thinks the spaces are becoming more popular because people learn new skills, can make something of their own and the cost to make the item is alleviated by machinery that’s provided.
Lessening the cost
Bowens has done the math and it’s worth more to him to use the woodworking makerspace than it would be for him to buy all the tools he would need on his own.
“I could go out and buy the saws and everything, but they’re probably going to end up sitting more than I’m actually going to use them,” Bowens said. “The reality of my life is I’d go buy it, set it up and I would use it maybe the equivalent of a week a year.”
Aaron Bowens designs and builds a small table for his home in Homer at Owego Street Makery in Cortland.
While Bowens has just started sketching his plans for the end tables he’s looking at several design choices he’d have to make – maybe rounded corners, complex curves, circular legs, square corners and bevels to name a few.
So when Bowens started the project he turned to Owego Street Makery owner Tim Robideau who was a contractor and makes his own furniture. Robideau knew exactly what equipment Bowens might need.
A table saw ranges from a couple of hundred dollars to a couple of thousand. A sliding compound miter is a couple hundred dollars. A biscuit joiner can be up to a couple of hundred dollars and clamps are about two for $20, but you need several.
“Clamps – they can expensive to have but you can never have enough of them,” said Robideau.
And that’s only a few of the pieces of equipment he might need.
Robideau said he struggled for years to have space to build furniture and he feels that everyone should have an area where their creativity can flow. It’s why he officially opened his business Dec. 7.
“Nobody’s passion should be snubbed by lack of space or equipment,” he said.
At Magpie Custom Creations, owner Stacey Goldyn-Moller is getting ready to open a sewing makerspace.
Magpie’s makerspace at the Cortland Corset Building on East Court Street in Cortland contains 12 basic sewing machines, an industrial leather sewing machine, three vintage pre-1940 Singer sewing machines, five sergers and two embroidery machines. Someone looking to buy even a basic sewing machine can expect to spend a couple of hundred dollars. The makerspace also has textiles, trims and other embellishments that people would have access to.
“I had always envisioned the classroom having machines and crafts available to people,” Goldyn-Moller said.
Cinche Art Space, a couple of doors down from Magpie, isn’t a typical makerspace in that people pay to use the space whenever the business is open, but instead offers classes in pottery, soap-making, sewing and more where material and equipment is provided.
“I think people are interested in creating things on their own, but don’t have the space and materials,” owner Tammie Whitson said.
Coming to school
Miller said many makerspaces are opening up in schools and libraries, with the education sector making up the majority of his websites users. Over the next few years, Miller said, privately owned makerspaces also will increase.
“Right now I’m getting an e-mail at least once a month from someone asking for information on how to open their own makerspace,” he said. He expects those e-mails only to increase.
“A lot of people are realizing people in their towns don’t have access to this these things,” he said.
Miller also noted that makerspaces have also become a hub for entrepreneurs looking for space to develop prototypes of their products without a lot of cost. He said makerspaces are becoming business incubators.
Igniting a flow of creativity
For Bowens, the journey of making the end tables for his home has reawakened his creativity, he said.
ìIt’s easier to live in a disposable world when we’re going and buying all the products, but I think when we make it we put more of our self into it, Bowens said.
He said it’s a lot easier to build when one can bounce ideas off of other people or ask for help.
It’s something Bowens does with Robideau all the time because Robideau has a background in furniture making and general contracting.
Goldyn-Moller feels the same way when it comes to sewing.
“I don’t want people to feel intimidated,” she said. “If you have the knowledge to share, then share it.”
She said having someone nearby who knew how to use a serger machine when she was learning made the process much easier.
And because people are sharing their expertise it’s leading to more people liking the idea of self-producing items.
“It’s more than just building things,” Robideau said. “For me it’s building self-confidence in people and giving them a place they can create.”
The hanging on the wall of the makery is a reminder: “You can … You will.”