On Oct. 9, a normally quiet corner of Bellis Fair mall bustled as more than 500 guests found their way to Bellingham’s first-ever Maker Faire. Hosted by the Bellingham Makerspace in partnership with the international MAKE organization, the Faire showcased the talent and creativity of Bellingham artisans.
Bellingham’s Faire featured passion projects of all kinds including 3D printed art, laser-engraved photographs on wood and even custom lightsabers sturdy enough to play with. Visitors of the Faire were greeted with the whirring of 3D printers and the babble of vendors making sales.
MAKE began as a magazine in 2005, teaching DIY projects and showcasing invention, creativity and resourcefulness, according to their website. In 2006 they held their first Maker Faire in San Mateo, California; it has since expanded to more than 200 cities including Paris, Rome, Tokyo and Shanghai.
The Makerspace, unlike most of its neighbors in Bellis Fair, is a nonprofit. It is funded by membership fees and largely supported by volunteer work from community members. The space offers members access to tools that would be otherwise inaccessible to a casual creator and lessons on how to use them, according to their website.
While unique in its nonprofit status, the Makerspace shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic like every other business in Bellis Fair. Makerspace Interim Executive Director Tina Stroh said this shutdown was only temporary.
“When [we] saw that a 3D printer company, Prusa, had released a 3D model to make face shields, [we] contacted several experienced members to assist in making face shield brackets,” Stroh said.
From there, the Makerspace joined a community effort of local residents, groups and businesses to make, sanitize and distribute personal protective equipment.
One of the experienced members Makerspace brought in to help with PPE was Anthony Roselli. He has been volunteering at the Makerspace for more than three years. In the early stages of lockdown he delivered masks made by the Bellingham Assistance League, another nonprofit, to the Makerspace for sanitization.
Outside of delivering PPE, Roselli takes commissions for custom lightsabers. He has been making lightsabers for the last six years and originally found the hobby after viewing The Force Awakens.
Roselli and his friends bought lightsabers online which soon broke apart after constant dueling. Rather than pay retail prices for repair, Roselli decided to reverse engineer the sabers.
“From there I just started to learn to make [lightsabers],” Roselli said. “I like to mix and match, I like to make new stuff, and I didn't want a saber from the movies, I wanted my lightsaber. Just that.”
Along with the many creative pursuits that the Makerspace supports, they are also committed to sharing their deep knowledge base with their partner organizations and schools.
Amelia Lockhart, volunteer marketing director at Makerspace, said they work with Gabriel’s Art Kids and Whatcom Intergenerational High School to teach science-based curriculum. The Makerspace is also working with the Bellingham Men’s Shed to make toys for the Toys for Tots program.
Roselli now uses the tools of the Makerspace to get others their own sabers, and he has been involved with the Bellingham Order of the Saber club at Western Washington University.
He offers courses to instruct others on making their own lightsabers and makes customized sabers for juggling, sparring and display. Customizations include sound effects, color-changing blades and even animations.
One of the primary partner organizations the Makerspace works with is the Technology Alliance Group for Northwest Washington, or TAGNW. This nonprofit is focused on technology education and community engagement, Executive Director Michael Gan said.
TAGNW offers many networking opportunities for students of all disciplines. Their website offers many community groups focused on data analytics, cybersecurity, engineering and robotics. These community groups are for those who want to participate in a peer group for sharing learning, building relationships and growing community, according to the website.
For those who missed the Maker Faire and are interested in other events at the Makerspace, Lockhart has good news. The Makerspace hosts weekly classes, which are discounted for members, on a variety of subjects. Their website has listings for woodworking and even making your own 3D printer. Along with these courses, they are planning a “Make and Take” event for making handmade holiday gifts.
David (he/him) is a Journalism major and city life reporter for The Front. Outside of the newsroom, David spends his time gaming with friends, listening to music, and petting his cat Asher. You can contact him any time at firstname.lastname@example.org.