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Seattle's new DIY hardware labs

Seattle is brimming with creatives. Meet the third places where they gather to tinker, craft and solder.

By day, many of Seattle’s part-time creatives work full-time jobs at Microsoft, Google, TMobile and Amazon. By night, they hunker over soldering irons, woodworking tools and sewing machines, creating wearable technology, self-propelled vehicles and fine jewelry.

“There are more than 10,000 professional creatives in the city of Seattle alone,” says Ellie Kemery of Makerhaus, the newest of the city’s maker spaces — facilities that offer equipment, training and support for those of an innovative mind.

Maker spaces are a destination for professional creatives, but also for a larger community of tinkerers, hobbyists and inventors — many of whom have a vision, passion and the motivation to see it through. Below, get to know a few of Seattle's most popular spaces. 

Jigsaw Renaissance, 815 Seattle Boulevard S, 206-853-4319www.jigsawrenaissance.org

This SoDo space houses “a community of people that are willing to take time and sit down with each other and teach others how to code or how to build a robot,” Monica Houston says, “a community of friends, really. … We bill ourselves as a safe place to fail. It’s not a place where you have to know everything.”

Houston is the development director for Jigsaw, a nonprofit space in the Inscape Arts and Cultural Center. Jigsaw's library is filled with materials on electronics, programming and sundry robot parts. There are DIY 3D printers, but no laser cutter yet. The space hosts regular classes, events and meet-ups for local groups and memberships range from $15 to $200 a month (which gets you a dedicated working space).

Jigsaw’s members are a diverse bunch. Houston says: “We have people that don’t necessarily fit the maker mold, so it’s not all tech — there’s artists, and there have been people into textiles or films.”

It’s also home to some of the city's more established creators. Like Zombie Orpheus Entertainment, a multimedia production company that develops and produces scripted content for the web, including the popular video series “JourneyQuest.”

Houston has a day job too -- building websites. At Jigsaw, attracting new members is a large part of her role. She says the diversity is both a challenge and a strength from a marketing perspective: “It’s a place where a psychologist can talk to an iPhone app builder and compare notes.”

A Cyborg Camp Seattle attendee plays with fruit and electronics. Photo: Amber Case.

That's also what makes Jigsaw special. Because all of its funding comes from dues, members have an investment in the space and in their fellow creators. 

“Right now it’s a small community,” Houston says. “That small-community feel is something that I really want to make sure stays.”

Makerhaus, 122 36th St. NW, 206-457-8968www.makerhaus.com

The most decidedly professional of the trio, this Fremont maker space is 10,000 square feet and features wood and metal shops, a materials library, 3D printing, a computer-controlled router for woodworking, industrial sewing machines, a laser cutter, gallery space for members and co-working space for professionals to rent.

Heidi Allen, a local artist behind Arboreal Jewelry, recently showed her wooden wares in Makerhaus’ gallery. She produces her jewelry and even her packaging on the facility’s laser cutter.

But what Mike Kemery and his wife, Ellie, have really created is what he calls “a facility for all types of abilities.”

“What we really want,” Mike says, “is good people with abilities and ideas and motivation and spirit to come in and bring their ideas to life.”

A big part of Makerhaus’ mission is education. It sponsors regular classes and workshops on topics from professional development and business creation to CAD rendering, woodworking and metalworking.

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