How to Make a Makerspace

In the summer of 2012, Dale Dougherty of MAKE Magazine approached me about running a conference on how to design and run makerspaces like Artisan’s Asylum. MAKE had been watching the proliferation of spaces like ours over the past several years, and wanted to create a venue where founders could learn about the best practices for starting and sustaining spaces. Similarly, the Asylum was getting constant requests (at a rate of 3 to 4 requests a week) to help space founders talk through processes and develop their business plans. As a result, we announced that we were co-producing an event called How to Make a Makerspace, which ended up being sponsored by Sparkfun Electronics, ShopBot Tools, MassDevelopment, and Cognizant.

The event drew over 200 people from 5 different countries and most of the states in the US, and we had 22 speakers from 14 different makerspaces. The event featured two main educational tracks that focused on startup efforts and sustainability for these spaces, with a third track on Sunday focusing on education. I spoke on a majority of the panels about the foundation and running of the Asylum, and presented about acquiring insurance, finding appropriate space, and acquiring tools.

My role in this event was that of primary event organizer and panelist, but the event wouldn’t have been possible without the huge support from Artisan’s Asylum volunteers and all of our panelists. Artisan’s Asylum is continuing to develop the information presented at this event, with the goal of creating an open-source, distributed packet of materials and lectures that can help founders establish spaces without running into many of the standard pitfalls.