(Photo by Lindsay Podraza)
Wilmington is on the brink of a big maker expansion: Yes, we know NextFab is moving in sometime later in the year, but the city’s first organized maker group, Barrel of Makers, is also making moves to expand in a big way.
For the past year, the group has been meeting at 1313 Innovation on Monday nights, but it wasn’t really a space conducive to building projects with big tools. That’s why, starting this month, president Jessi Taylor began renting an unused wood shop — and all its mighty drills and saws — in the Highlands neighborhood. It’s part of the aptly-named Highlands Art Garage, which serves as a community art space.
“It’s not very big, but it’s a nice starter space,” Taylor said. Indeed, it’s got a chopsaw, table saw, circular saws, a radial arm saw and a drill press.
She hasn’t written off 1313, though. Barrel of Makers will continue its Monday night classes and demos there (from 3D design to soldering), and Taylor said she’s rented space both at Highlands Art Garage and 1313 Innovation through May to see if the dual-maker location situation works.
The plan is to hold the safety and orientation class from 11 a.m. to noon on Sundays at Highlands, Taylor said, and then have an open shop from 12:30-5:30 p.m. Once people take the introductory class, they can come by the shop any Sunday they want. She’s also planning on Wednesday nights at Highlands, and hasn’t yet decided if she’ll hold regularly-scheduled classes or simply open shop. Saturdays will also be a possibility down the road, she said.
Barrel of Makers, a nonprofit, is now also paying its teachers, Taylor said. The price of classes will vary, mostly because of the materials used. Cross-stitching will be $12, but glass-etching, on the other hand, requires more pricey materials and will cost $30 a class.
She’s also looking for people in the community to teach classes. This Wednesday, she’s teaching a class at Highlands on needle-felting.
Many of the people who attend Barrel of Makers’ events — varying from a truck driver to software programmers and a construction worker to engineers — seem to have a penchant for electronics, and Taylor said she is hoping workshops at the new Highlands space will spark some interest in new maker possibilities.
When NextFab does move in, Taylor said she’d like to work with them, though they haven’t yet figured out those details. But by creating more opportunities for making in the community, she might be able to help uncover what the facility’s Wilmington “specialty” should be, which NextFab is trying to determine.
“I think it’ll be great for them as well as for us about how to move forward,” she said. “It’s going to be an adventure.”