Create and Collaborate — Nevada County’s Makerspaces Have Something for Everyone

Garden bed building workshop with Slow Food at the Roundhouse in Truckee. Photo courtesy of Truckee Roundhouse/Karyn Stanley.

Create and Collaborate — Nevada County’s Makerspaces Have Something for Everyone

Imagine a community center with high end equipment that you can use to make things out of wood, metal, clay, cloth, glass or electronics. Other creative people with similar interests make their own projects in the space, sharing what they know and collaborating with each other. This is a Makerspace, and Nevada County has TWO of them.

The Roundhouse in Truckee

The Roundhouse, located at the Truckee-Tahoe Airport, “supports the teaching, learning, and practicing of a wide variety of crafts, skills, technologies, and arts,” according to their website. Roundhouse co-founder Steve Hoyt compares it to “a gym membership for people who want to make things.” Recent projects that came out of this space reflect Truckee’s outdoor mentality: a replacement part for a kayak (built using a 3D printer), sheepskin-lined baby booties, and a six by six foot weather vane.

The Curious Forge in Nevada City

The Curious Forge recently moved to a 20,000+ square foot space in Nevada City. Its website describes it as a “community of builders, tinkerers, artists and professionals who love to make — an artistic, technical and industrial playground.” Or, as Darkin Tanner, Program Director at Curious Forge, put it: “We’re democratizing the equipment and skills that are needed to make things, transitioning from capitalism to participating in culture and embracing creativity.” With an emphasis on exploring the intersections of what used to be separate disciplines, members are making everything from playa-worthy dresses that light up with LED lights to tiny homes, an augmented reality sandbox, and an actual sailboat.

Collaborative Creativity

Sound like fun? A lot of people in both communities agree. Over 500 people — women, men, kids, retirees — attended the grand opening party for Curious Forge’s new space. Only a year after opening, Roundhouse is expanding into the space next door so that textiles and technology can have bigger spaces that are farther away from the noise and dust of the metal and wood shops. Kara Asilanis, co-founder of Curious Forge, believes makerspaces fill a need in the community for collaborative creativity: “Where else can you go to learn how to use high end equipment, and be surrounded by so many inspiring people?”

A Community Effort

Unlike many other makerspaces around the world (Curious Forge co-founded Liam Ellerby recently visited one in Iceland!), both spaces are nonprofits (Curious Forge is also an LLC), and they depend on volunteers and donations from the community, in addition to membership fees. This keeps fees low, and community participation high. Community volunteers came together to build out and paint each space. And each space is actively seeking engagement with different segments of the community. Roundhouse is collaborating with local schools to host STEAM summer camps. Curious Forge is teaching job skills to college students, including valuable training on equipment that these students would not otherwise have access to.

STEAM Camp at Truckee Roundhouse Makerspace

STEAM Camp at Truckee Roundhouse Makerspace. Photo courtesy of Truckee Roundhouse/Karyn Stanley

Learning from Each Other

Members love having access to big, powerful tools that would be too expensive to purchase on their own, or would take over their garages. But the real value in makerspaces lies in the people who use the space together. Hoyt explains: “What’s more valuable than tools is expertise.” Ellerby agrees: “The heart of the Maker Space is peer to peer skill sharing.” There is even a group at Curious Forge called “Geeks and Geezers” where tech-savvy millennials and retired artisans learn from each other.

Both spaces work hard to be accessible to all community members. Ali, a volunteer at Roundhouse, encourages people to just stop by and check it out: “Don’t be intimidated,” she said. “Take a workshop and learn to use the tools. Then you can make your own project.”  Workshops at both spaces are open to the public (you don’t have to be a member to participate).

Want to learn more?

Roundhouse offers public tours on Thursdays and Saturdays, or just stop by and a volunteer will be happy to show you the space. More information at  http://www.truckeeroundhouse.org/

Curious Forge hosts an open house on the first Thursday of every month where you can learn about all the different ways to get involved, or just stop by and a volunteer can show you around: http://thecuriousforge.org/.

Learn more about all the fun things Nevada County has to offer!