If you know the story of the Snail, our traveling home, you know it started in a makerspace in Quebec, La Patente. Doing our journey, we remained attached to this place and began to visit similar places on our route. The project recently brought us to Albuquerque, New Mexico, to meet with the local transition group. Following the successful crowfunding, one of the counterparts we had was a burlap bag. We were able to find them in a cofee in the city and now we had to do them. While doing a search, there is a makerspace here and he has a sewing section, so we went to discover the Quelab, an amazing makerspace.
On Tuesday and Sunday evening, the Quelab offers from 7 pm to 10 pm a Hacknigth, non-members can come to visit the space, discuss about it. This is a time when people wishing to be members can come to find out more, but also come to use some machines for a cost of $ 5. The monthly meeting of the board of directors had just ended in the common area and 4 people were still to discuss and several others in the neighbouring rooms. We introduce ourselves and explain our project and the adventure begins, we are offered to make us visit the place.
Back at the entrance, the reception is the Quelab museum, members who have left creations, an example of what we can do when we are a member of the organization. The Quelab allows you to become a member under 3 different statutes that define the amount to be paid monthly, but not the rights that are equal to all. The default status is sustaining member at a cost of $ 40 monthly and it provides 24/7 access to the premises. It is possible to become an associate member for a reduced cost of $ 20 when a member of the same household is already a sustaning member. Finally, a reduced student membership of $ 20 is also available. There are currently 74 sustaining members, 8 associates and 16 students for a total of 98 members who pay 100% of the makerspace monthly fees. Our guide concedes that when they moved to this place a year ago now, they were lucky to find such a place for such a low price, so close to downtown and so … huge.
A big space, but well ordered! As soon as you enter the premises you can feel the disorganized organization of creative minds that populate this place. Once we passes the reception, we arrive in the main room, the lounge: where meetings take place, social activities, the place of meals and the geek space. Large paintings are present in this room to give a summary of meetings, the latest news and also the permanent advices. A friendly place and away from any noise machines, an important point for what we saw in different makerspace. This also makes it a place where members can come and work simply on their computer if they do not want to be at home.
The first room we visit adjoining this room is the printing room. It was a first time for us to see a room like this, two large professional printers for printing posters, T-shirts or just plans. The person giving us the tour tells us about the projects that they have been able to carry out in this room and again it is the proof that the creativity can be stimulated by this kind of place. Having, allows you to think of different things; interesting thinking when we try to live with less.
Back in the main room and towards the bottom of the room where you go through the kitchen. Larger than our van, it only has closets, a counter, a water heater and a huge fridge. This one is filled with soda and industrial products. The kitchen was the only place where we thought there was something missing. The products in the kitchen, buy by the Quelab, are more a collection of junkfood products than healthy food. Discussing after our visit with the members present, they explain to us that the Quelab is a plus an due-ocracy, that things are done when members want to take charge of it. We imagined doing the green revolution in this kitchen, but it will not be for this time 😉
Past the kitchen we move into a first electronic room where there is a 3D printer, and then passing through a second room larger, more provided. Continuing we pass in front of the dark room of Quelab. All the material needed to develop his photos.
Then we continue the visit in the wood space, a workshop of a good size, but I am a little surprised by the size of the workshop, I ask if its small size compared to the rest is because the members work less the wood here. No, it’s just that it’s the manual tool shop and the finishing area … I would actually understand my misjudgment in the next room when we’re in the second wood shop.
The visit will also bring us into a huge room with a garage door, it serves as storage and warehouse where are present projects in progress, bigger and some finds here and there.
Everything is an impressive size in this makerspace and it’s nice to see so many people even for a Sunday night, we think it’s a big space, but used and therefore very useful. The metal workshop that we will visit will continue on this momentum, well equipped and ordered, it is filled with all that is necessary to make a project from A to Z
We will then go back to the main hall to go to the sewing workshop, which I realize I did not take pictures while we were there even if during our second visit, it was the room we spent all our time. Aside is the room in development to make a gaming room completely soundproof and equipped for the cinema.
Captain of section
The Quelab is not only impressive for its size, but its management of the different workshops is a good example to take for any makerspace. A collaborative workshop is a place where people meet and help each other, but to reach economic thresholds, it is sometimes necessary to be broader than the ideal size of a community can be. So it happens that all do not know each other, but that does not prevent a member from using a workshop! In Quelab the method of organization implies that each workshop has its captain, a person sufficiently involved to be the referent to all questions referring to this one.
In front of each door is the name and contacts of the person in charge, so each member can write to ask questions if he needs help on a machine before starting a project or if he had technical questions about local. In a collaborative workshop what will often be the problem is the wear of the machines, sometimes faster than normal due to incorrect use. With this system, any member must go through the captain of section before using a workshop for the first time to ensure proper use. This also allows hyper-local operation if there are decisions to be taken.
The visit of the Quelab still offers us an example in the form of monthly membership, it seems to be a successful model. Once the critical threshold of members reaches that allows to be able to maintain the equipment and to have extras. There are several factors that play in this model, because there can not be too much rent otherwise it would take too many members to start. However, like the famous start-ups, the Quelab started in a garage in 2009 before finding a local in 2010 and moving to the one we visited last year. The monthly payment also seems to be a solution to see the budget over the long term to see what is possible or not. A reflection around a support without use membership could be done, because according to one of the members, some old ones although having moved or not in town, continue to pay their membership to support the project.
We have tried to find out if there are partnerships with other organizations, but that does not seem to be too much, although they try to be present in makers activities in order to introduce themselves and encourage people to become a member, it is not in the mission of the organization. In discussing with the local transition group, the idea of a library of tools wanted to be done, the Quelab could be a good place. But as in any good due-ocracy, it takes the people and the energy to do it.
Also published on Medium.