For years tinkerers and craftspeople have labored in their home workshops, but now many are emerging in makerspaces across the country.
The latest makerspace to spring up in Minnesota is the Cannon Valley Makers, who have found a home in Dundas where people can drop in to use an assortment of tools to build nearly anything their mind conceives.
From woodworking tools to metalworking tools to CNC equipment and even a plasma cutter, the Cannon Valley Makers have assembled a deep reservoir of tools to use.
The Cannon Valley Makers is a collective of people in Rice County who have banded together to share their tools and knowledge for those who already create and for those who wish to learn. The doors to the building at 300 Railway St. in Dundas are open for classes, workshops, meetups and those just looking for workshop space.
David Peterson moved to the Northfield area nine years ago and had a background in metalworking. He also enjoyed wood turning as a hobby but didn’t begin dabbling in wood turning with more frequency until he came to Northfield. By then he’d assembled a number of machines for wood turning and met Loren Larson, who had equipment of his own he wanted to move somewhere to continue to use. Peterson had space for Larson’s equipment and soon the idea of creating a makerspace made sense to Peterson.
Peterson continued to kick the idea around even though finding an ideal space proved difficult. He later met Anne Ijima, who also had an idea of creating a makerspace. Soon more people jumped on board and the group incorporated in October 2017 at a 501 (c) (3) non-profit with a board of six people. The board includes Peterson, Martin, Ijima, Chris Whillock, Amy Boxrud and Ezra Plemons.
They found the building in Dundas, which used to house Judy’s Floral and started moving equipment in as they improved the facility to be able to hold the machinery and tools.
The makerspace business model typically follows a membership plan where people can join for an annual fee and have access to the tools. The Cannon Valley Makers use that format with the additional bonus that members can get first dibs on upcoming classes and discounts on class fees. The Cannon Valley Makers will charge $25 per person for a membership or $35 for a family membership.
Interest is strong in the community so far. Peterson said the group has 400 people on an email list and they held an open house this month that drew several curious people.
Inside there are three areas for makers. In the front there are three 3D printers and a space for crafts. In the second room there are woodcarving tools, scroll saws, chisels, drill presses and other tools.
In the back you’ll find sanders, a plasma cutter, along with other tools that require a dust collection system.
The Cannon Valley Makers will also make the work created there available for people to buy. Additionally, the group plans to build a tool library where people can borrow tools for home projects or for other uses.
The Cannon Valley Makers mission statement, in part, reads: “We know that members will enrich their lives through their experiences and successes as makers. We believe that the Cannon Valley Makers is embedded in the tradition of making things using our hands and our minds in unison, thereby deepening our relation to the world we inhabit.”
Makerspaces have caught on in the last 15 years as people have sought ways to do things themselves. Whether inspired to master woodworking or learn 3D printing, makerspaces encompass a realm of creativity that mixes in traditional workshop tasks and the frontier of modern workshops that feature 3D printers.
“It was clear there is a really dynamic and supportive community in this area of artists and artisans and highly skilled craftspeople,” Peterson said. “It’s a real continuum of skills and ages and interests and capabilities. The more I saw these people and became part of the community it just seemed to me obvious that it seemed like a perfect place to have a makerspace because there are people who want to teach, there are people who want to learn, there are families that want to be involved. It was a very thriving and dynamic element in the community at large. Our mission is to build a community within this community. Give people who have these interests and needs to have a place to come. They can belong on any terms they want.”
Minnesota has seen a crop of makerspaces take root. There’s the Twin Cities Makers and Nordeast Makers in Minneapolis, a makerspace in Mankato, Duluth and several libraries that have started to offer makerspace activities.
It’s hard to pinpoint an exact moment when the makerspace movement took off but many point to the creation of Make Magazine in 2005 as the demarcation where makerspaces gained traction. But in a way, people have always had a desire to learn how things work and how to create things on their own.
“It seems to be rooted in two things,” Peterson said. “One of them is to have a real connection to your physical environment in a way that’s not easy to maintain, especially in this day and age where technology is so complex and sophisticated. The other is that it meets a need for community and connection. People doing things yourself with your hands is very satisfying. Doing it with other people who may be teaching you or mentoring you or who you are teaching, adds a real community element dimension to it. That’s what makes it work and that’s what we’re determined to do.”
Michelle Martin, a teacher at Prairie Creek Elementary School, got involved with the Cannon Valley Makers after Ijima spoke to her about it. Martin has run a makers club at Prairie Creek and a robotics club the past several years. She noticed that in addition to the students making things, the parents joined in with equal interest.
Martin researched the makerspace movement as the Cannon Valley Makers started forming in earnest.
“There’s always been this interest in what’s in the box,” she said.