Makers’ Mill creates new community crafting space

September 16, 2015 by Emily O'Brien, Staff Writer

Makers' Mill, which opened in North Adams in June, is intended as a creative, inclusive community space for fiber and print projects. Emily O'Brien/Staff Writer.

Makers’ Mill, which opened in North Adams in June, is intended as a creative, inclusive community space for fiber and print projects. Emily O’Brien/Staff Writer.

In June, Makers’ Mill was founded as a community space for do-it-yourself individuals to create various types of crafts. The studio, located in downtown North Adams, Mass., provides materials and opportunities for bookbinding (the Williams College Museum of Art’s bookbinding studio recently moved to the new space), letter-pressing, loom work, screen-printing, figure drawing and fiber arts, as well as a general space for both community members and local students to create art.

Because the Makers’ Mill project is so focused on fulfilling a communal need and making a community-oriented space, its creators chose a crowd-funding model to raise money to purchase space and equipment, additionally partnering with institutions such as the College in order to foster community networks. According to the project’s website, its mission is to “strengthen the northern Berkshire creative community through infrastructure, collaboration, organization and education.”

The opening of Makers’ Mill is part of a larger movement across the country through which creative spaces are popping up to not only provide the equipment for these types of crafts, but also to provide the resources to teach interested individuals how to partake in said crafts.

Membership is required in order to gain access to the space. While general community members must pay a modest fee for this access, the College has become an institutional partner of Makers’ Mill and has facilitated the opportunity for students to become members for free. Additionally, College faculty, staff and their spouses receive a 50 percent discount on membership to the Makers’ Mill community. Art classes are then offered at a discount to all of the aforementioned individuals.

Members are allowed to use Makers’ Mill’s tools independently after demonstrating competent and safe use of the equipment to one of the volunteers or instructors, or by taking one of the scheduled training sessions or classes. The sessions are offered by appointment and run by local experts at an hourly rate, and each session includes the necessary materials. In addition, classes are taught to both community members and students on how to best use the equipment to serve individual and group goals.

Makers’ Mill is a “creative resource for the local community that allows people to work and learn alongside one another,” said Kate Barber, a member of the project’s founding board. Barber explained that the “makerspace,” as the studio is also called, offers “regular training workshops, project specific workshops, weekly figure drawing classes and meet-ups.” The diversity of these offerings is meant to foster inclusion, bringing together individuals who are experienced in crafts-making as well as those who are just starting to learn.

“So far, we have organized free, engaging projects in conjunction with DownStreet Art in North Adams, which runs in the summer,” Barber said. “Additionally, we have hosted a variety of open workshops for the community, including a free knitting workshop taught by an area teen and a free collaborative weaving project sponsored by Storey Publishing.” These partnerships, according to Barber, are key to making the space run as it does by involving a multitude of institutions and artistic individuals who contribute to the space in a communal manner, helping to expand its resources to encompass as many interests and people as possible.

One of the difficulties for College students trying to take advantage of the resources in Makers’ Mill is transportation, seeing as the space is located in North Adams. However, Barber explained, “for students wondering about transportation to North Adams, there is the Berkshire Regional Transit Authority bus that runs regularly and stops directly across the street from the Mill.” Barber also said that students can ask to use campus vehicles for transportation of groups, and that she would be happy to facilitate these arrangements between the College and the Mill.

Barber hopes to make the Mill a positive resource for local students, especially by offering to organize “specific workshops for student groups,” she said. “For example, if a group wanted to learn to screen-print bags or T-shirts for their organization, then it would be possible to design a tailored workshop and potentially apply for organizational funding to cover material and instruction expense.”

Yolanda Zhao ’18 interned at the Mill this summer and agrees with Barber that College students could benefit greatly from the space. “At Williams, we are constantly engaging with our minds but not necessarily with our hearts and hands,” Zhao said. “Makers’ Mill is the place where we can simply enjoy the pleasure of making something awesome with our hands.”

Zhao recommends that new members remember that “everyone is an artist,” an important idea in the philosophy of Makers’ Mill.

“Be open to new experiences and you’ll unlock your artist self,” she said. “Art can be the cohesive force in the process of community building.”

To stay posted on upcoming events, check out Makers’ Mill’s Facebook page as well as their website, northadamsmakerspace.com, for more information and to sign up for membership.

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