Creating makerspaces: go beyond your walls


Field notes from creating the Laurier Library Makerspace

One of the best things you can do in building your makerspace is to go beyond your own walls. While this might sound counterintuitive, building a makerspace is about building a community of people and practice. This pursuit is independent of any particular physical space. A robust makerspace effort prospers in a constellation of other makerly efforts.

Last June I took 15 student volunteers from our Laurier Library Makerspace down to the Kitchener Auditorium where we ran a free workshop for the community. Over this busy weekend at Maker Expo, we taught 522 people how to solder a small blinky badge.


It was a spectacular success. The students had a great experience teaching and meeting people in the community. It expanded our notion of what is possible as a group. The Maker Expo visitors connected with our Laurier students who were keen to help them learn a new skill.




Focus on the people

I apply a simple prioritization to resourcing any makerspace: 1. People 2. Tools 3. Space. When I consult on operating makerspaces, I often find that the priorities have been inverted and most of the funding has been committed to physical space. Before I arrived at Laurier I was part of the founding group for another local makerspace, kwartzlab. We learned in this effort that the space was a convenience, but the people were a necessity. So getting your community of makers outside their walls highlights what’s important: people.


Bind the group together

Here’s another example outside our walls. In a debrief after our first semester of operation, the students recognized that we needed to be more active in our outreach to first year students. Their plan was to engage at the Get Involved Fair in September, an event designed to welcome first year students to Laurier and to highlight the many extracurricular opportunities. With a lot of persistence we got on the map, planned, provisioned and ran our pop-up at the event. Julie, Alex and Madi raised our banner on the athletic field.

Result: we taught another 77 students how to solder and talked to several hundred more through the course of the day. Equally important: we again had an opportunity to work together on something big. We learned to trust and depend on each other. And we were bound together as a closer group.





Make new connections

Outside our walls again: Alex, Ola, Roula and I visited my friend Sandra Dunn of Two Smiths in Kitchener. Sandra is a blacksmith and coppersmith who blends art, craft and technology into her fantastic practice. All places of making are part of a collaborative constellation; we are not islands. I introduced these new makerspace student leaders to makers in the community so they could understand our makerspace in a broader context.



Connect and give to the community

In August Jake, Alex and I got outside our walls and supported the KW Library of Things with our Learn-to-Solder workshop. The Library of Things loans tools to community members and part of their mission includes teaching people how to use tools. My friend, the KW LoT coordinator, Juanita Metzger reached out to ask if we would run a workshop at their space in Kitchener. They had just received a donation of soldering tools. Again, we had a great experience contributing in the community.




Find new domains of making

Last May we took a trip to the artist-run Globe Studios in Kitchener for their spring show. I don’t get hung up on semantics of “artist” and “maker”. I just want us to all know each other.


I introduced Ola and Roula to artist Pam Rojas (her work in the background) and all the other artists up and down the hall. There were painters, jewellery makers and printers. We met people working in ceramics and photography. The disciplines practiced by these makers are outside the usual domain of the Laurier Library Makerspace. The discovery of new domains of making is another key benefit of exploring outside your walls.

Practically speaking


  1. Focus on people.
  2. Contribute to your community.
  3. Make new connections.
  4. Find new domains of making

Connect with me

You are invited to:

  1. Maker Mondays – a weekly 1pm-4:30pm drop-in time to visit the Laurier Library Makerspace
  2. Connect with me on LinkedIn – I graduate from my current role in September. I’m keen to continue building capacity in young adults.
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Creating makerspaces: the power of examples


Field notes from creating the Laurier Library Makerspace

In our makerspace, we share examples of work from different makerly domains for three reasons:

  1. To inspire other makers
  2. To answer questions
  3. To affirm that this is our place of making

I call them “maker snacks”. They are everywhere, purposefully accessible, not behind glass or carefully arranged on a display shelf. We encourage makers new to the space to pick things up, examine them closely, meet the makers and ask questions.



Pictured above is a fantastic shadow box stackup, designed and fabricated by Madi. She used Adobe Illustrator to create the layers, which were then cut from heavy cardstock on the die cutter. The individual layers are separated by double-sided foam tape. The best examples, like this one, are works-in-progress, so as not to discourage newcomers with seemingly unachievable finished results. Continue reading

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Creating Makerspaces: from learners to teachers


Field notes from creating the Laurier Library Makerspace

Encouraging learners to become teachers offers three substantial and communal benefits to any makerspace:

  1. Amplifies your horsepower – creating a virtuous ripple effect of onboarding new teachers
  2. Opens the opportunity for ownership – it really *is* your space when you’re teaching in it
  3. Facilitates diversity – new teachers from underrepresented groups can balance your maker membership diversity.

Amplify, democratize and diversify. Continue reading

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Creating makerspaces: building capacity in people


I’m trying to save the world by working with a bunch of creative, resourceful, hard-working students at Wilfrid Laurier University. We invented the Laurier Library Makerspace here in Waterloo, Ontario. We teach everything from sewing to circuit board design to 3D printing and we just wrapped up a very successful third academic semester.

This is an introduction to a series of posts describing the journey ranging from the practical elements to the strategic vision. I’ll be graduating from this effort at the end of the summer and I’m seeking new opportunities to help organizations drive experiential learning. Continue reading

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kwartzlab v3 build out

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Popped by kwartzlab v3 on Sunday morning to see what’s cooking with the new space. It’s been 6 weeks since my last visit and there has been a tonne of progress on all fronts from moving to mudding. Melissa Pynkoski, kwartzlab Treasurer, was mudding drywall seams on the new 10×10 individual studio spaces.

Got an unreasonable number of photos here for you, surveying the mid-move efforts. This just gets more exciting with every visit. Connect with kwartzlab!

kwartzlab v3 - 2019-01-13 009 Continue reading

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kwartzlab on the move

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After a good number of years at the corner of Charles and Kent, Waterloo Region’s original makerspace, kwartzlab, is on the move to new digs just around the corner at 145 Bedford.

Hard working meta-maker and move organizer, Cam Turner (right) invited me for a look at the new space last week. Happily, my good friend and kwartzlab President, Ravi Baboolal was there, too. While I’ve only got two people in frame for this photo, there are many more kwartzlabbers who have worked hard to get here, including the three women and three other men on the board of directors. A big team effort.

The TL;DR: kwartzlab is a fantastic bunch of people who support hands-on making in the community. They’ve been doing this since 2009, so in makerspace-years they must be something like 63. The group is massively expanding their space in response to member requests for personal studio space and from experience running concurrent activities with different crowds. Moving only four blocks, they’re still in the heart of Kitchener, steps away from a GRT Express Bus stop and a 10 minute walk from the ION stop at Charles and Borden. They just launched a refresh of their web site that describes how to join and what they’re all about. Be sure to follow along on this next leg of their evolution on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. The group is in serious move-mode now, packing up tools for the move, so be sure to hit one of their Tuesday Open Nights 7-10pm in the new year and don’t miss the big opening (tbd). Big congratulations, my friends. Continue reading

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Artist Dave Hind–the medium is the metal

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A week ago, my brother and I jumped on a bus in Hamilton to take a tour of Brantford artist Dave Hind’s work and studio. The experience positively blew my hair back. Dave is one of my absolute favourite artists, melding aesthetic, story, community, collaboration and makerly fabrication in his projects expressed through layered, riveted and abraded aluminum works. And he’s a helluva nice guy.


The results are eye-popping, richly rendered narratives like this 2017 piece, “La Landscape de Kanata”, completed as a collaborative public commission involving other artists and contributors, celebrating Brantford-born Group of Seven artist Lawren Harris, while being aware of this place and complete history.

Click through for a completely unreasonable number of photos from the day trip, but first let me give a shout out to Annette and Ned from Hamilton Arts Council who organize/host/make possible the art bus tours. Secondly…

Screenshot_20181021-014018_Hamilton Rising

Annette put me on to HAC’s Hamilton Rising app, that connects people with stuff happening in the community in a geo-aware, calendar-integrated way and can be found at all the usual app purveyors. I’m a new user, but it looks pretty cool. Love to see this in the tech-steeped Waterloo Region. Ok, on to the pics…

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Art + awareness–toward safe affordable housing


I’m thinking about three things for the whole community: accessible mental health care, food security and safe, affordable housing. I’m woefully under-informed in all of these domains, but I’m a pretty good listener. I hit the Outsider Art Show on Sunday afternoon at Kitchener City Hall to learn something and take in some art by artists who have experienced homelessness.

If you need a TL;DR:
1. Support oneROOF helping youth
2. Check out Homeless in Waterloo stories


Here’s Michaela Panchaud, Director of Homeless In Waterloo. Along with her crew, she hosted this show of art. The $4 cover went to oneROOF and any proceeds from the art auction go entirely back to the artist. HiW is not incorporated, but rather an around-the-kitchen-table type of organization: just my style. I saw their stories emerge last year on Facebook, engaging homeless people to tell a fragment of their story. Those stories personalized their plight and made think more about the broader problem. It’s immaterial that this isn’t a novel approach. What matters is that they are *doing* it.

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On a personal note: people helping people


“It’s just people helping people”, he said, and I rolled my teenage eyes. We had moved an altogether-too-big-for-the-truck horse-drawn sleigh to a friend’s flower shop in Sarnia to serve as a Christmas display. I was along for the job as muscle and shifted impatiently as the shop owner tried to pay my Pop for the assistance or at least send him home with an armload of flowers, which he refused. These impossible (or at least improbable) missions were his favourite, cheerfully done for thanks alone.

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Sustaining community jams

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Eric Rumble, Night\Shift founder and festival director

On Sunday afternoon, I read the farewell for Downtown Kitchener cultural mashup event: Night\Shift. My friend, Eric Rumble, N\S founder and festival director, offered a familiar explanation, one with which I can sympathize. Sustaining community events on a volunteer basis is a metric tonne of work, that on a longer timeline is difficult to reconcile with day jobs, family commitments, personal projects and occasionally getting a day to just chill.

Before sharing a few thoughts of my own on this, I’ll give you a TL;DR:

1. Big thanks to Eric and crew for 5(!) years of hard work and new experiences.
2. If you like the work: support the work. On-now/upcoming events/efforts: Irish Real Life Festival, Maker Expo, CAFKA18Art$Pay, Summer Lights Festival and a whole lot more. Every jam I’ve ever worked on here in WR has needed: you to participate, you to promote, you to help organize and you to help fund. If you like the work: support the work.

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Night\Shift 2013 – “Show Us Yer Bike Face” installation by Darin White and Joe Martz 

The news about Night\Shift comes close on the heels of the end (or uncertain future) of Cambridge Arts Fest, Cambridge International Street Art Fest and FLASH Photography Show. Over the past 9 years that I’ve been paying attention, I’ve seen our cultural fortunes rise and fall like a sine wave. It gets me pondering what changes might make it easier for us to start, grow and sustain cultural events as a community…

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