The old school artists’ commune has fallen by the wayside these days. Art is moving into a digital age, and our economy is seeing a growing deficit for skilled, work-with-your-hands kinds of jobs. But with schools finding themselves hard up for funding in art and craft apprenticeship learning, and colleges focusing on profit-driven programs, kids and creatives find themselves with diminishing resources to experiment, create and ultimately learn “maker” skills. To address this void, across the United States, a maker movement has emerged. It’s homegrown, DYI-friendly, and all about inspiring creativity across mediums and all ages.
“The maker movement…is the umbrella term for independent inventors, designers and tinkerers,” as Time Magazine describes it. “A convergence of computer hackers and traditional artisans…Makers tap into an American admiration for self-reliance and combine that with open-source learning, contemporary design and powerful personal technology like 3-D printers. The creations, born in cluttered local workshops and bedroom offices, stir the imaginations of consumers numbed by generic, mass-produced, made-in–China merchandise.”
Makerspaces, which serve as epicenters of this movement, are becoming more and more common. What exactly is a makerspace, you say? I’m so glad you asked! They operate, essentially, as co-ops, either sponsored by a public institution like your local library, or supported through membership fees. They provide basic training and work spaces, but they also pool resources to build kilns, buy 3D printers, stock metal shops, provide sewing machines, and provide other tools and materials for communal use. Veteran makers can often be found at these spaces teaching classes or just helping out the newbies when they have a free moment.
Maybe you’re raising a budding Master Builder who can’t stop leaving LEGO on the floor. Perhaps you’re a cosplayer looking to make your first suit of armor. Or maybe you’re a DIY/pinterest fiend who’s dying to try that craft you saw online. In any of those cases, you definitely need to check out a Makerspace near you. If you’re in our neck of the woods, here are some great ones in the Denver area:
The Gizmo Dojo: This makerspace in Broomfield is perfect for a Jack of all trades and features space for working with textiles, Weaving, Jewelry Making, 3D Printing, Laser cutters, CNC routers, Electronics, Raspberry Pi, Arduino, Mechanical Engineering, and Autonomous vehicles.
Arapahoe Makerspace: Library Makerspaces are free with a library card, but may require an appointment to use. This one has resources for sewing/textiles, crafts, and electronics.
The Tinker Mill: This is the biggest maker space in the region. It has a large space with resources for many trades – and offers a family membership option and kids classes!
If one of these doesn’t work, Colorado libraries are partnering to bring many of these tools, classes, and resources into the community for free. There are almost 50 libraries in Colorado with a makerspace of some kind – find the one closest to you on this map.
If you don’t live in Colorado, just google “Makerspace near me” and you will find a variety of options!
Wondering how you can make this an educational experience? If you’re a grown up, or already a passionate crafter you probably don’t need much coaxing to check out one of these makerspaces this summer. Here at The Order though, we like to encourage you to take your little nerds along for the ride. Who knows? You might have the next Stan Lee or Steve Jobs in your home.
Here are some tips for using a makerspace to spark that inquisitive mind in your kid. Full disclosure: I’m not a mom, but I was a full time nanny and tutor for almost ten years, charged with educating and entertaining 2-12 year-olds. Any moms out there – I’d love to hear your take on these tips.
- Figure out what they love. If they are elementary aged, they will probably be sure to let you know. What did they request for their birthday party theme last year? What’s the movie they play on repeat every weekend? If they are older, figuring out what they like can be a little more tricky. My best advice? Try to include them in your own hobbies. Kids want to be grown up and they want to do what grown ups do. If you exude a love of all things Star Wars, chances are your kids will pick up some Vader voices or make their own Leia buns. The world is full of people who are afraid to embrace things they love. Show your kids that passion is normal and they will develop passion.
- See if they are already making things related to their passions. Are they wanting to make clothes for their dolls, or constantly trying to architect a bigger LEGO house? Do they beg you to let them help with cooking, or just love getting their hands dirty? Whatever it is, try to tie a skill into that. For your messy one, pottery or painting might be just the thing. For the kid who’s outgrowing dolls, maybe sewing lessons for real clothing and cosplays. For the little builder, woodworking or electronics fill that kinesthetic hole in most classrooms. And of course, for the gamer, there are so many computer science skills they could get into!
- Get them to a makerspace that has the stuff that fits their passion… but make sure they don’t feel tied down to exploring just one thing. Most makerspaces have an emphasis on teaching interdisciplinary thinking (a key skill in the job market these days). In other words: computers aren’t just about games, textiles aren’t just about clothes, and 3D printing isn’t just about toys. Get your kid hooked on makerspaces and you give them tools to later enter a market that is desperate for creative people with a background in practical trades.
What creative spaces are in your area? Let us know your favorite places for making and inspiring in the comments, and share with us what you and your family have been making this summer!