March Maker Mail

News from Lowell Makes

Making it work: a year of COVID-19 

It’s been one year since Massachusetts instituted a “stay at home” advisory and we shut off key card to the doors at our Lee St. location, not knowing when we would open them again to members. We were several weeks away from our May 15th real estate closing on our new building at Western Avenue and the members of our Executive Committee were looking at each other through computer screens wondering how we were going to come through this. 

One of the best distractions from the uncertainty was doing what we love: making and innovating. By the end of March 2020, we were carefully allowing volunteers into the makerspace to contribute to our open-source 3D-printed PPE efforts. We remained closed to our general membership until May 2020, when we started allowing in 5 members at a time during reserved and socially distanced time slots. 

When we effectively closed in March 2020 the majority of our members continue to support Lowell Makes, but we did see an understandable decline in our membership. We are proud to announce that as of this month, March 2021, we have officially reached pre-pandemic levels of active Lowell Makes members. This includes both returning and new members! In our new building we have more to offer our members than ever before – and that includes a resilient and passionate maker community. We’re so grateful to our supporters and sponsors who believed in us over the past year. 

President Sam Burdett and Marketing Director Amy Watson examine plans for the Western Ave. build-out

Update on our fundraising campaign: a $5,000 match challenge for Operation Repair our Roof!

As we announced last month, this harsh winter has exposed a few leaking spots in our membrane roof above our main warehouse where many of our shops are located. We want to fix these leaks as soon as possible before they escalate and cause more damage.

We are thrilled to announce that a generous donor has offered to contribute $5,000 in matching funds before the end of March.

We have SIX days to raise the remaining $1,687 and earn the full match. Any amount you can give this month will be doubled! 

Upcoming events at Lowell Makes

Bicycle Tire Replacement (Virtual Event)
Wed. March 31, 2021 | 6:00 PM – 7:30 PM EST | $25
Warm weather is coming! Bike Shop Captain Sam Green will show you how to remove the wheel from the frame, how to swap out tires and inner tubes, and how to reassemble the bike afterward.

What are we making?

Construction has begun on our new front entrance! If you’ve been by our Western Avenue space, you may have had trouble spotting our front door which faces the garage bays to the left rather than the parking lot. We’re very excited to have a new front door and a re-graded and more accessible ramp. Thank you to the Mass Development Collaborative Workspace Grant for enabling us to rebuild the front entrance, and to our contractor Nick Sarris!

Current stage of construction and final mock up for new front entrance

News from our Shops

Psanky! Ukranian Easter Eggs

Electronics shop captain George shared a beautiful tradition with several members – Ukranian Easter eggs, also known as Psanky! In our maker community, members often connect over shared interests. It’s common for these informal groups to get together and chip in on supplies to learn a new craft like creating wooden instruments, candles, and now psanky!

New Spray Booth 

Again, thanks to a grant from the Collaborative Workspace Program through Mass Development, we were able to purchase a Marathon paint spray booth. Our ductless booth is 52 inches wide and uses a filtration system to capture overspray, fumes, and solvents so we can work safely. Makers from Cosplay to the Wood Shop are excited to put this booth to use.

Renovations for our Media Production Studio 

In partnership with CTI’s Entrepreneurship Center, Lowell Makes is upgrading the infrastructure and equipment in our Media Production Studio. New additions will include an audio recording booth, soundproofing ceiling tiles, an enhanced photography station, upgraded printing capabilities, high-tech editing software, and more!

What’s on tap?

Before COVID-19, our Brew Crew was collectively brewing (and drinking) about one 5-gallon batch of beer a month. Members got together to brew, then a few weeks later to bottle and bring home a six pack of their own creation. While they haven’t been able to gather as a group, the shop still managed to brew the first batch of beer for the kegerator in our new building – a Pumpernickel Rye Stout!


February Maker Mail

News from Lowell Makes

Making 2021 our best year yet

February is always the biggest monthly members meeting of the year, when we host our annual “State of the Makerspace” presentation. Looking back on 2020 was a reminder of how much we have overcome to get here. Thank you for being part of our community!

In 2020 we saw our highest membership month ever (February), our lowest membership month since 2014 (April). In the past year we bought a building, moved in several stages, and established our new home on Western Ave. We are fully open (with COVID-19 precautions in place) and welcoming new members. In 2021, we hope to settle into our new normal and bring you more virtual events and news from our busy shops.   

Rapid Prototyping Shop Captain Jim Frederick poses for our recent feature in the Lowell Sun.

Announcing our next fundraising campaign: Operation Repair our Roof!

This harsh winter has exposed a few leaking spots in our membrane roof above our main warehouse. This is the part of the makerspace that contains our Cosplay, Ceramics, Paint, Plastics, Wood, Metal, Bike, and Rapid Prototyping shops; it’s also the section where we just completed our new build-out. 

We want to fix these leaks as soon as possible before they escalate and cause more damage. We are hoping to raise $13,000.
Learn more: Help with our Roof Repair

Upcoming Events at Lowell Makes

Virtual Crafting Meet Up
Sat, February 20, 2021 | 12:30 PM – 2:30 PM EST | $5
This crafting meetup event is to help you stay on track with your project and hang out with other crafters. Whether you are casting on stitches for the first time or trying to stay motivated to complete an outfit, we want to help bring everyone together. Participants are encouraged to ask questions and offer advice as well as chit-chat about anything crafting or not. All skill levels are welcome!

Virtual Small Clover Leaf String Art
Sat, March 13, 2021 | 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM EST | $25 – $30
Make a St. Patrick’s day craft from the comfort of your home! Our small clover leaf string art is an easy to follow along online workshop. Sign up for the class to reserve your materials – you can pick up your kit from Lowell Makes or have the kit shipped to you. Deadline to order a kit to be shipped is 3/6/21!

Forward Facing – A Virtual Vision Board Mask Workshop
Sun, March 21, 2021 | 3:00 PM – 5:00 PM EST | $30
This virtual workshop is a great chance to think about positive changes you’d like to see in your life, whether it’s around a job, relationships, habits, or just your general outlook. It can be as light or as deep as you’d like to make it. There are no special skills needed other than a willingness to be honest with yourself and to engage in an artistic journey. It’s all about the process!

News from our Shops

Donation from Blick 
The Blick Store in Cambridge MA made an incredibly generous donation of $500 in store gift cards. We shared the donation between our Ceramics and our Fiber Mixed Media and Crafts Shops who purchased supplies like sculpting tools, glazes, pliers, and glue. 
Learn more about sponsorship »
New Woodshop Equipment
Our corporate sponsor RIKON has delivered new machines for our woodshop. Members also constructed 8-foot walls to create rental bays, a lathe room, and a finishing space while still allowing lots of natural light into the room. Email [email protected] or click here to learn more »
Expanded Machine Shop 
Our expanded Machine Shop is up and running and – thanks to a grant from the Fleetwing Foundation – we have been able to add and upgrade some equipment, like the parts washer pictured above (photo credit Lowell Sun).
Read more from our feature in the Lowell Sun »
Leather Sewing Machine
Our Fiber, Mixed Media, and Crafts Shop members recently crowdfunded to purchase a leather sewing machine. 
Learn more about the Fiber and Mixed Media Shop »

Pausing for Gratitude

“What Lowell needs is a makerspace.”

When Kamal Jain said this to John Noto over drinks in the Worthen seven years ago, our trio of co-founders (which also includes Eric Sack) likely never imagined the scene we witnessed at Lowell Makes on November 20th, 2020. From 8am to almost 4pm, our movers hauled ten-truck loads of tools and equipment from our rented Lee St. basement, across town to our permanent home on Western Avenue.

Even when we purchased the building at Western Avenue in May, in the first wave of a pandemic, we weren’t sure we would reach this day. So much seemed uncertain and our big 11,000 square foot warehouse felt very empty. Now that warehouse echoes a little less with full height walls, furniture, and tools. All of this has come together this year thanks to the support of:

  • Financing from Mass Development and the Lowell Development Financial Corporation;
  • Grants from the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund, the Theodore Edson Parker Foundation, and Eastern Bank;
  • In-kind donations from Nick Sarris, Gallagher & Cavanaugh LLP, the Onyx Room, and the Burlington MA Microsoft Store;
  • Generous gifts from Jim Mertes, Rikon Tools, Enterprise Bank, Kronos, Jeanne D’Arc Credit Union, Qualcomm, and many individual supporters
  • Countless volunteer hours from Lowell Makes members – including members who started volunteering the very first night they joined, and members who have been with us from the beginning. Our members have been painting walls, cleaning, packing, and now unpacking. We are especially grateful for the care our members have shown by taking precautions to protect each other from COVID-19.

Tonight we are hosting a members meeting to formally welcome new and longtime members to the space, but on this #GivingTuesday we want to acknowledge all our supporters who made this possible.

Thank you.

Lowell still needs a makerspace, and we are so grateful that our community came together this year to help us grow. We hope you’ll continue to believe in our mission and support Lowell Makes – whether that’s by making a donation or joining our ranks!

What’s next?

Currently we are focused on unpacking and identifying short and long-term needs in the building.

We are fundraising for our next phase of buildout, launching in January, will include smaller, but no less important elements, including: some remaining electrical work, a new utility sink for our downstairs shops, some metal shop equipment, a sign to welcome visitors to our space, and a new ACCESSIBLE and VISIBLE front door facing our parking lot.

Take a look at our journey:

The warehouse a few months after we bought it – we’d sold about half of the large metal racks and were finalizing plans for walls.
Construction crew begins laying out the walls in the empty warehouse.
Framing in the Wood shop.
This door opens to our new state of the art Wood shop.
This view shows our new walls – now painted! – and the corner that will house our Cosplay shop. The open doors from left to right will be a spray room, a plastics chop shop, and the roasting room for Brew’d Awakening.
We have our work cut out for us! This view shows the shared common area to the left, the Ceramics shop in the back corner, and the lounge to the right. Our utility sink will also be located to the right.
Open House Western Avenue

We’re opening our doors at Western Avenue to you

If you’ve walked by our Merrimack St. window in the last week, you might have noticed – we moved! Our “upstairs” shops have relocated to the second floor at Western Avenue. Our members worked hard to break down cubicles, brighten the walls, and pack our shops. Last Thursday, Electronics, 3D Printing, Brewing, Fabric & Mixed Media Crafts, Photography, our Scanning Electron Microscope, kitchen, classroom, and conference room all moved to the new space!

Now we’re ready to open our doors to you!

This Saturday, September 5th, from noon to 4pm, come to 150 Western Ave #3 and look for the small white building to the right of the garage bays. We’ll be ready to greet you and direct you on a tour through the new Lowell Makes.

Masks are required for all visitors; we will limit the number of people in the building at once and hallways will be one-way.

When is the rest of Lowell Makes Moving?

For now Cosplay, Bike Repair, Rapid Prototyping, Pottery, Metal, and Woodworking are staying put in the basement at Lee St. while we build out walls and electrical in the 11,000 square foot “warehouse” at Western Ave. We have selected a contractor and will be starting construction very soon. We hope to move the remaining shops over at the beginning of November.

This is where we need your support. 

Our GoFundMe is still $17,000 short of our goal, and we need to close that gap and fund our construction. 

Thank you to our member volunteer packers and the Sterling moving crew!

Western Avenue

Move out! August Building Updates from Lowell Makes

Hello there! We hope everyone has had a safe summer full of making.

First, we want to make sure everyone knows that we are OPEN! During COVID-19, we closed down our makerspace for several weeks (except for members working on our PPE efforts). As Massachusetts began offering reopening guidance, we gradually allowed members back into the building at limited capacity by using a sign-up system. As phases progressed, we increased capacity until reopening completely about a month ago. Our members have been very vigilant about social distancing in the space, wearing masks at all time, and cleaning all the tools they use. Thank you to all of our members for your compliance and for caring for one another.

We have not resumed open houses, but we are signing up new members on an individual basis. If your membership has lapsed or you have been thinking about joining, this is a great time to get involved! E-mail [email protected] to set up a one-on-one tour or reactivate your membership.

Second, we’ve been hard at work on a few fronts to move Lowell Makes to our new building. Tasks have included

  • Pulling cable for access control and high-speed WiFi – As we move our facility, we are also upgrading our member management and access control systems. The new tools will provide a better member experience and give us better insights and control over our systems. We worked with a local locksmith to hook up all the wiring to new strikes and doors.
  • Selecting a contractor – We are soliciting bids from three local contractors using plans drawn by our architect. We’ve spent a lot of time making sure that all our shops have what they need and building in modular design elements that will allow our layout to evolve over time.
  • Cleaning, painting, and emptying rooms – Our upstairs space was previously used as a business office. We inherited a lot of useful cubicle furniture that all had to be broken down and stored. Our members spent several weekends moving furniture and painting our classroom and hallways.
  • Getting rid of shelves in our downstairs area – The previous tenants also left us bunch of large metal shelves. We kept about 18 of these to use for storage and rental, and sold the rest (every dollar counts!). The downstairs is so much brighter with the shelves out, and now we have room to start construction.
  • Writing grants! Our build-out will be completed in phases, so we’re already looking ahead to things we want to add in phase two like a triple slop sink for our downstairs “dirty” shops, a more welcoming and accessible front entrance, and a new paint room. Please continue to support Lowell Makes through our GoFundMe.

August Asks:

  • Donations of packing and moving supplies (and member volunteers!)
  • Donations to keep our build-out funding on track – We are currently maintaining two buildings and funds are tight. Donate to our GoFundMe here:
  • In-kind donations – we would love to publicly thank your business on our Sponsors page. We will need things like outdoor signage, dumpster and cleaning services, and new classroom furniture. E-mail [email protected] if you’d like to partner with Lowell Makes!
  • Join Lowell Makes! Membership is our primary source of revenue and it dropped about 25% at the height of COVID-19. If you let your membership lapse, or you’ve been meaning to join, this is a great time!

What’s next?

  • Pack and move about half our shops to the upstairs at Western Avenue; shops included in the move will be most of our upstairs shops (kitchen/coffee, Fermentation, Photography, Electronics, 3D Printing) and Crafts/Fabric.
  • Select a contractor and begin build-out downstairs at Western Avenue

Enjoy these photos of the transformation happening at Western Avenue, thanks to our member volunteers!