A growing community of creative builders who produce work on every scale, in all materials, both high-tech and low, is settling into a new shared workshop in Sebastopol that they hope will inspire additional interest and, thus, exposure to new skills.
Though already nearly four years old, the 65-plus-member Chimera maker group has only this month moved into a permanent home that will permit the full range of activities its members plan to undertake — from welding and woodwork to robotics, jewelry making and glass blowing to mobile app design.
“We just want to service a whole cross-section of interests,” said longtime member Dave Harris, a former contractor who hopes to spend more time building furniture in the future.
The Chimera Maker Space is at once part tool library, clubhouse, innovation incubator, lab, training center and co-working site. It grew out of a shared desire for space to pursue work and hobbies as well as a desire to learn and collaborate across skill platforms — what Harris calls “cross-pollinating.”
Founder and Executive Director Dana Woodman, 30, a software developer and sometime painter, said he had in mind sharing a shop with a couple of friends when he first floated his idea for a community work space four years ago.
But as soon as he posted his proposal online, the depth of interest was clear.
“Within a week, we had 800 people on our Facebook group,” he said. “I could tell this was pretty much a universal need in the area.”
Sonoma County’s sizable and diverse arts community is one reason. The region has proven fertile ground for the burgeoning do-it-yourself maker movement among its inventors, hackers, tinkerers and craftspeople.
Sebastopol is also the birthplace of Maker Media, publisher of Make Magazine and producer of Maker Faire, and helped give shape to a growing interest in DIY design and fabrication on all sorts of levels.
The group has since incorporated as a nonprofit with a volunteer staff and operates with paid memberships, based on how many days a month a given person might utilize the shop.
Initial hopes of setting up in rented space in the rear of an old Ford garage on Sebastopol Avenue, at the edge of downtown, came up against permitting and license issues that delayed the move for three years. The group operated, in the meantime, on a smaller scale in a modular building at the rear of the property.
But it still managed to host 185 meet-ups and events, in addition to popular robot fights that drew several hundred spectators each time, Woodman said. All told, he figures thousands of people have come through since its founding.
The new Chimera Maker Space was built over the past two years by its members in the shell of the vacated Ford building, largely using recycled or second-hand materials.
It is hosting a free public grand opening celebration Saturday night.
The workshop includes 3,000 square feet of interior space filled with tools, work tables, an electrical shop, metal shop and full jewelry-making studio. A 4,000-square-foot area outdoors offers space for noisy, large-scale metal fabrication, woodwork, storage and the like. Some of the larger machinery isn’t yet set up.