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Zooming Out: Communities Growing Their Making Skills

Julia Schroeder is digital content editor of Awards & Engraving magazine.

There’s something about learning specific skills or being exposed to different industries at any age that can have an impact on the path one may take as a career or hobby. It can also be argued that it’s never too late in life to learn new skills and make new friends. 

Those points are only a few of the initial reasons why schools, libraries, small businesses, and brands are providing more and more educational courses, events, and “makerspaces.” Opportunities are available for many communities across the country to allow anyone to learn new skills. 

Those new skills could lead to future endeavors, or at best, one gets to take home something unique that they got to create. Additionally, those who participate in these types of events may potentially form a bond with the space, with other attendees, and whomever hosts the event. 

Studio 1883, a personalization shop that recently opened in Indiana, hosts events such as an introduction to sublimation, a “Wine and Design Porch Signs” night,  and a class on creating with foils. 

“The main reason I like putting on the events and doing the classes is seeing people finish a product and how happy it makes them that they’ve made something themselves,” says Studio 1883 owner Angela Hunt. “Also, just to get people more interested in vinyl, sublimation, and all of the things we offer in store… it helps the business too.”

For locals in Upland, California, there is the Be A Maker Club. The club’s space holds multiple-week courses and trial classes such as an introduction to laser engraving on wood and another one for 3-D printing. Be A Maker Club also hosts birthday parties and rents out its mobile makerspace for homeschool and private events. Children can also take field trips to the club. 

“Be A Maker Club is a makerspace that believes in the genius of children,” says founder Zef Neemuchwala. “They are natural inventors imagining grand fantasies and play in fictitious fabrications of their own design. It is through their creative play that they discover and learn about the world.”

Neemuchwala explains that his goal in starting Be A Maker Club is to help children repair, make, and invent physical products. 

“A big part of making is analyzing the final product for mistakes and errors and then correcting them. This iterative process increases grit and teaches children to be resilient,” he says. They become confident in their own ability to solve everyday problems, and making increases the likelihood that they will pick a S.T.E.M. career pathway later in their career, or even consider entrepreneurship as an option, according to Neemuchwala. 

“Another significant benefit of making is that it provides physical engagement and builds spatial awareness, weaning children away from the constant distraction of screens,” he adds.

On a similar note to Be A Maker Club is the Urban Workshop in Costa Mesa, California. The Urban Workshop is a 28,000-square-foot makerspace that offers tools, workspace, and hands-on training opportunities for adults and children, including four levels of classes for ages 10-16. 

Youth program students learn about laser engraving, silk screen printing on T-shirts, woodworking, electronics, Arduino, 3D printing, CAD skills, and more. Each level of the program builds upon the skills learned in previous levels. Students learn how to make vintage hardwood skateboards in level three and fully functional functional bluetooth speakers in level four. They create everything on their own from scratch, according to Josh Manley, the youth program manager at Urban Workshop. “We give them a complete maker education,” says Manley. “We focus on teaching them on how to safely and effectively use the tools and machinery to create increasingly more complex and more interesting things. Getting a feel for working with materials is very valuable.”

These sorts of opportunities and events give anyone interested the chance to design, build, and test their own creations. You may already offer classes or events geared for your community, or this could be something to implement into your business. 

There are several suppliers in the awards and personalization industry that hold or support events for others to learn new skills as well. Epilog Laser is one company that attends and sponsors maker events throughout the year. 

“While it’s not the traditional awards, personalization, or signage audience, makers, builders, and do-it-yourselfers use laser equipment in very creative ways — often to prototype product inventions and take 'on paper' designs and turn them into tangible goods,” says Mike Dean, vice president of sales and marketing at Epilog. “It’s important to us to foster this type of creativity and reach makers all over the world.”

If your shop regularly hosts classes or events that involve the community, have plans to, or would like to, feel free to let us know by calling 720-566-7247 or email jschroeder@nbm.com.