Making Space for Makers in Brooklyn

THE MARRYING OF COMPUTERS (often just teeny little processors called Arduinos) with older technologies such as lathes and milling machines means an explosion of opportunities for artisans over the next few years, whether the maker is creating for themselves or selling services to other creators. Expect to see more and more automated machines of all sorts landing in the artisan’s workspace. But here in New York, the distribution of such space is uneven. Apartments are generally small, while nearly any making requires space. How do you start garage businesses when you don’t own a garage?

The decline of New York as an industrial city has led to the conversion of much of the old work space into high-end residences in the downtown cores (SoHo, Tribeca, Dumbo). The remaining loft space in those areas is generally pricey in response to uses and users with deeper pockets. Brooklyn still has acres of old industrial spaces, though, that seem ripe for conversion to a new industrial model.

The appearance of hackerspaces and makerspaces in some of those old industrial buildings is providing an opportunity for small makers to get access to tools and expertise as they create, innovate and develop new products or businesses. Several showed up at World Maker Faire 2012 this past weekend and all are open and eager to meet people looking to connect to a creating community. Stay tuned to Brooklyn Artisan in coming months as we cover this exciting new industrial/community model.

Justin of NYC Resistor brought a pile of electronic gear ideal for scavenging by itinerant robots.

NYC Resistor on 3rd Avenue at Bergen is one of the oldest hackerspaces (and the birthplace of Makerbot), represented at the Faire by an impressive pile of electronic parts threatening to become self-aware at any minute. Alpha One Labs in Greenpoint had a table but I was never quite able to catch up with their representative, Psytek (which I was assured by another hacker is not his given name). I’m looking to cover their space and efforts in future posts.

Gary Oshust, owner of Spark Workshop, started looking for studio space for his sculpture work, ended up as a part-time landlord for other makers and artists in Sunset Park

The arguably newest workspace in the borough (a mere two weeks old) is Spark Workshop in Sunset Park. Owner Gary Oshust, a sculptor looking for studio space, found himself taking on a lot of space that he is renting out to other makers along with access to power tools, photo studio and gallery space. (Warning: the Brooklyn Artisan editorial team may find themselves experiencing flashbacks of their own adventure with running shared workspaces in an ex-industrial loft not so long ago.)

One notable approach to activating tools, expertise and craft in Brooklyn that deserves mention is  Fixers Collective, a group that gathers in Gowanus to repair broken things brought to them by others. As they say on their literature “If you can’t fix it, you don’t own it.”

Fixer Collective: bring them your tired, your broken, your wretched refuse. They will repair it or recast it for imaginative repurpose.

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