Nonprofit hoping to raise $50K to continue running communal workspace

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Posted at 5:44 PM, Jan 05, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-05 18:38:26-05

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (WXYZ) — A nonprofit in Ann Arbor is working to raise $50,000 as a part of a month-long giving campaign.

Maker Works is located on Plaza Drive. The communal workspace provides tools, space, and classes for students, hobbyists, local artisans, and makers at affordable rates. The nonprofit launched the giving campaign on December 15th in hopes of helping to support their operations throughout 2023.

"It's sort of like a gym membership. We have tools. We have space. We have about 14,000 sq. feet here in wood, metal, textile, electronics, and jewelry," said executive director Josh Williams.

Williams says around 30-40 makers use the space daily. He says those artisans fund about 80% of their operations. They're now working to raise the rest of the nearly $360,000 it takes to run the nonprofit annually via fundraising.

Williams says he entered the design industry/tool working about 15 years ago after discovering traditional learning methods did not work for him.

"We have students. We have artists. We have engineers. We have business owners, entrepreneurs. We estimate roughly 60% of the people who are in here every day are doing something financially," said Williams. "Providing opportunities for people to learn and grow feels fantastic personally because I know the basic (learning) model didn’t work for me and this opens up so many more opportunities for other people."

Thursday several artists spent the afternoon at the Ann Arbor office.

"I came here 18 years ago with a newborn and there was no fashion design here in this area and I've always wanted to make leather bags," said Anke Eichstaedt-Trampler who is the designer behind Elophina.

Eichstaedt-Trampler says while at Maker Works she uses tools like the leather sewing machine, laser cutter, and embroidery machine. The designer says she makes things like handbags, wallets, and art pieces to sell at art fairs across the country.

"They’re all kind of European-inspired, modern, simple," said Eichstaedt-Trampler as she described some of her pieces. "I’m saving a ton of money by not having my own machines, not having to deal with repairs or anything."

Kelly O'Neill, who retired a few years ago, is the owner of Fusion of Iron and Earth. The artist says she uses recycled materials to create abstract sculptures.

"I retired four years ago and decided to become a full-time artist. I was inspired by my father who’s a potter. I started making metal stands for his pottery," said O'Neill.

O'Neill says without Maker Works she wouldn't be able to price her work the way she wants.

"My art is really limited by the equipment I can use and if I were to invest in all of this fabrication machinery that they have here, you wouldn’t be able to afford my art," said O'Neill. "From the plasma cutter to the roller to the power cord, If I were to invest in all that, that would’ve been thousands and thousands of dollars."

Williams says they're hoping to raise the $50,000 by January 15th but there will be opportunities to support their effort throughout the year so artists can continue running their small businesses and creating what they love at affordable rates.

"If you walk through anywhere: a city, home, restaurant, you’re going to see stuff that was made and that was made by somebody. We always talk about how nice it is to see stuff that’s locally made. Maker spaces by definition support local made goods," said Williams.

More information on how to donate can be found on the Ann Arbor Maker Works Website.