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DIYers Flock to Claremont to See Developing MakerSpace

  • Casey Pisani welcomes people to the Claremont MakerSpace open house on Oct. 21, 2017 in Claremont, N.H. Pisani of Claremont is on the steering committee for maker the project. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Don Fitzpatrick, of Grantham, N.H., left, gives a tour of the Claremont MakerSpace open house to Kevin Chase, of Claremont, N.H., with his niece Kathy Nauceder, of Bellows Falls, Vt., and Rick Curtis, of Claremont on Oct. 21, 2017. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • People gather for the open house for the Claremont MakerSpace on Oct. 21, 2017 in Claremont, N.H. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Sunday, October 22, 2017

Claremont — Barely an hour into the open house on Saturday, more than a dozen visitors to the new Claremont MakerSpace had posted sticky-notes on a wall of the former Sawtooth Mill under a handwritten sign reading, “What will you make?”

“Guitars!” answered one prospective member of the cooperative aimed at hobbyists, entrepreneurs, artisans and do-it-yourselfers.

“Food truck,” another pledged, next to one reading “Learn to weld.”

“Quilts” and “Quilting!” read two more.

And these: “Birdhouses and such …,” “Keyboards (for computers),” “Smoker,” “Ceramics,” “Clay work,” “Classes on everything!”

Just as important to the founders and supporters of the Lebanon-based TwinState MakerSpaces, which is renovating the former factory, a good dozen people each had already left their names and email addresses and phone numbers on sign-up sheet for memberships, for in-kind donations of equipment and expertise, and for availability to volunteer.

Claremont resident Dana Allen, a machinist by trade, already is looking forward to using plasma cutters, lathes, sanders, 3-D printers and soldering equipment on home projects for family and friends, and maybe taking computer classes on design.

Maybe best of all, he foresees comparing notes with quilters, jewelry makers and whoever else he crosses paths with in the MakerSpace’s cafe and common room as well as in the dozen rental studios and the woodworking, machining, electrical and textile shops.

“I like to keep busy,” said Allen, who with his wife, Marie, moved to Claremont from Reading, Vt., in 1993. “This is going to be prime for me. I think it’s going to be a viable thing for the whole community. The networking of the whole thing has astronomical potential. You’re going to be ’round a lot of like-minded people. People will bounce ideas off each other and get other ideas just by looking and seeing what other people are doing.”

That kind of enthusiasm is music to the ears of Steven Goldsmith, TwinState MakerSpaces president and co-founder, who heard a symphony’s worth while showing some of the dozens of visitors around the building he and his partners expect to open by the end of 2017.

“There’s overlapping interests here,” Goldsmith said. “I had somebody from the SooNipi Quilters Guild talking with somebody who’s an expert in framing ... about projects they might work on together. The whole point of the design of this place is to foster that kind of interaction. All along, we’ve been asking each other the question, ‘How do we make it so people have to interact?’”

Starting with a $250,000 award from the Northern Border Regional Commission, and a variety of state and federal community-development funds, the nonprofit has been renovating the inside of the building, which the city of Claremont refurbished with new windows and other exterior work before selling the 11,000-square-foot structure to TwinState for $18 last summer. Goldsmith said the total investment could approach $1 million.

Now the task is to attract enough handy and inventive people, through memberships modeled on a fitness center or health club and through tuition payments for classes, to cover an operating budget that assistant director Josh Bushueff estimates will amount to around $250,000 a year.

For about another two weeks, Twinstate MakerSpace is offering discounts at the various membership levels for people who commit early: $51 a month for access on nights and weekends ($60 after the discount period), $39.10 for weekends only ($46 post-discount), $58.65 for weekdays from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. ($69 post-discount), and $95.20 a month for access at all times ($112 post-discount). Members also will be able to rent 10-by-10-foot studio spaces for $200 a month.

While Goldsmith and Busheuff both hesitated to enumerate how many people had committed to join as members before Saturday’s open house, they were encouraged by the number of people asking questions and signing up through the late morning and early afternoon.

“It’s a bunch,” Goldsmith said. “We’re really happy with the response from the community, and early signups.”

Among the early supporters touring the building and asking questions Saturday was Claremont resident Bill Carpenter, a do-it-yourselfer in his 50s whose day job is at the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services complex on Water Street, one of the city’s first projects to redevelop the former manufacturing infrastructure for the 21st century.

“I’ve been rebuilding my own house over the years, and I enjoy it,” Carpenter said. “It’s been a hobby through the years. Having access to a facility like this will be great to have. I’ve got kitchen cabinets to do, and now I won’t need to mess up my house so much to do it. For me, this would be an evening and an occasional weekend thing.”

A member of a variety of civic organizations and boards in town over the years, Carpenter sees the MakerSpace as another step in Claremont’s gradual transformation toward a model of development he’s observed in parts of Europe, with tradespeople and artisans working around a walkable city center.

Along with the chance for hobbyists to interact and for professionals and entrepreneurs to experiment with new ventures without investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in buying high-tech equipment, Carpenter added, “I see the potential for this to be an apprenticeship kind of model. I’d rather see kids come in here from the schools rather than moving away to learn a trade. There are so many things that they don’t teach in the schools as much as they used to. There are so many talented people whom kids can learn from.

“To have this incubator here to do this, this is how I’ve been looking at this all along.”

After seeing the installation of electrical outlets and lighting in the different work spaces, several of which are now framed in, as well as talking with potential users of the facility, former city councilor and historic-district commissioner James Reed said he is doubly grateful that the city chose to preserve the building and entrust it to MakerSpace instead of demolishing it.

“They came in and had a vision that could change the community for the better,” Reed said. “They’re giving opportunities to people who don’t necessary have them. … Preserving some of our historical buildings and reinventing them is one of the best things we could do.”

David Corriveau can be reached at dcorriveau@vnews.com and at 603-727-3304.