Makerspaces: Where Do-It-Yourself Becomes Do-It-Together

On my first visit to a makerspace I felt out of my depth because everyone was doing electronics, woodwork and welding. Even though in other settings I have skills to offer, I didn’t know how to fit in and contribute. But the members can-do attitude inspired me to want be part of the community and they soon helped me learn new skills.

It was worth persevering. Makerspaces are ideal for making things and doing small scale manufacturing. They expand what you can do without needing to buy your own tools and they turn creativity into a sociable activity.

To my surprise it wasn’t long before I became one of the people in charge. I am now a trustee of Build Brighton and have taken on the role of facilitating communication and considering the needs of visitors and new members. This includes chairing meetings and redesigning the website with Jon, another trustee. When people send emails to it’s usually me that replies. I also write blog posts about projects going on in the space as a way for people to find out more before coming along.

Improving Makerspaces

Until recently we called Build Brighton a Hackerspace because we encourage taking old equipment apart to scavenge components for projects. But the public associate hacking with the unofficial use of computers, so we use the term Makerspace and Hackerspace interchangeably.

Around the world, it’s mainly men that are involved in hackerspaces. Ours has about 10% women, which is the average except where there are initiatives to address the balance. I recently linked up with Liam Ellerby, a founder of the Curious Forge Hackerspace in California, where the ratio is about 50:50. We are sharing what works well for us and making changes based on each other’s experiences.

What works well for women at the Forge is clearly demarcated areas for activities they were familiar with. This is not to stereotype anyone as making this change benefitted everyone. But it’s particularly helpful for anyone who experiences the ‘imposter syndrome’, where they don’t know how to fit in. So at Build Brighton we are creating new facilities for pottery, textiles and game design.