On Sunday afternoons, you can find a congenial group of people gathered in the old Watts Brothers Pharmacy building, located at 1227 S. Pasfield in Springfield, working on a variety of projects. One recent Sunday, the discussion turned to how to make rag rugs. Several people in the group expressed an interest and decided to purchase a few looms and learn how.
That’s the concept behind makerspaces, do-it-yourself spaces in libraries, schools and other community spaces where people meet to learn, collaborate and share. The term itself is relatively new. However, the maker movement has been around since the early 2000s and is designed to foster STEM learning.
“We’re a little community resource center,” said Mona Colburn, one of the original founders of Springfield Maker Space, a group of people with a common interest in making things who came together in 2015 through word-of-mouth and serendipity. She and Karli White had always been interested in makerspaces and had wanted to start one in the Springfield area for a long time.
About 15 people came to the first meeting at the Illinois State Museum Research and Collection Center to discuss what they would like to do, and plans were made to go forward with the group. The museum offered to let them use the former classroom in the basement of the Illinois State Museum on Sunday afternoons.
Adam Strong owns the property, which has been through several uses. When Colburn explained what the group wanted to use the space for, he thought it was a neat idea and wanted to support them.
The space is open to the public every Sunday afternoon from 1 to 4 p.m. From digital embroidery to jewelry making and crafts to 3D printers and everything in between, the group offers something for everyone. People can come in and work on their own projects or take a class, depending on what their interests are.
Members don’t call themselves experts but are always willing to share their knowledge with others. If someone wants to learn something, the group is willing to pitch in and learn how to do it, or find someone who does and wants to teach a class.
“We’re all makers,” said Bob Emerson, one of the members of the group and a retired engineer. He’s considered the group’s electronics expert and teaches classes on how to build 3D printers from kits. He also does minor repairs and is always willing to teach someone how to do it themselves.
His wife, Mary, teaches digital embroidery. With more than 15 years of experience, she knows the inside tricks and tips. The space has four digital embroidery machines that anyone is welcome to come in and use.
“It’s a unique resource,” said Mark Suszko, who belongs to the Springfield Uketopians. He and Bob Emerson are collaborating together to make miniature 3D ukuleles.
This is the only makerspace in Springfield, and it is self-funded. Everyone pitches in to cover the costs. It’s a social group where people can gather and share with each other. “We have a lot of fun,” said Mary Emerson.
Springfield Maker Space will be open every Saturday and Sunday afternoon in December and Wednesday evenings by appointment only. For more information, visit the group’s Facebook page at facebook.com/groups/springfieldcommunitymakerspace.