For those without the workshop basics or the skills, there is a safe space where you can turn crafty ideals into reality
"Everyone likes to perve over Pinterest but no one ever gets those ideas done. So we’re here to get them done for you," says Megan Kirchhoff, co-founder of the Tool Share Studio. "We like to say we’re Pinterest made real."
Kirchhoff and her business partner, Paul Mackenzie, run what they call "a makers’ space" from an industrial park in Ferndale, Johannesburg. The studio is a friendly, bright workplace with natural light pouring in through the windows and the smell of wood shavings and coffee in the air.
Not to mention that nearly every available tool one might need to carve, saw, hammer, drill, join, weld or sew a multitude of creative projects are in there.
In a sense, it’s like a hot-desking studio for designers and DIY enthusiasts who might not have the space or equipment to make what they want at home. For a reasonable fee (hourly, daily or monthly) anyone can come in and use a workbench and tools to develop a prototype, upcycle something for home or school, or build just about anything.
There’s also the option of having items custom-made for you by the Tool Share staff but Kirchhoff and Mackenzie are most keen on getting people, even complete novices like me, to do their own "making".
They do this by offering technical advice and hands-on assistance as well as a range of regular "how to" courses that teach the basics, such as welding and woodworking. Their Young Makers courses are geared to children between the ages of five and 13 and they have even had a book club come in (bringing their wine and snacks with them) to build bookshelves. There’s also a regular women’s home maintenance course, which teaches "handyman" basics to women.
Kirchhoff and Mackenzie are quick to emphasise that you don’t necessarily need to be creative to make something – all you need is a block of time and a dollop of enthusiasm.
Many people turn up with a photo or a half-formed idea and, by talking it through, arrive at a feasible project. "A lot of the job is coaching. A person might come in and want something, but have no idea of how to ask for a thing. We sit down with them and figure out what they want," Mackenzie says.
When I go to the studio, I have a head full of ideas, a paltry budget and no practical experience or knowledge of how to use power tools or make anything, so my "coaching" session with them is invaluable.
I initially email them with my idea to carve out a buck’s head from balsa wood and the template I have downloaded from the internet but, given that I have only booked a two-hour "design-assisted" slot, I’m gently dissuaded from the idea. It turns out that what I think would be a simple project is likely to take me about 10 hours to make and, given my inexperience, could become expensive as I learn to master the jigsaw through trial and error.
Instead, it’s suggested that I take on something simpler that will allow me to come to terms with the tools but still result in a satisfactory end product. I finally settle on one of the studio’s designs for a vertical garden, upcycled from a wooden pallet and guttering. The studio encourages the use of "waste" products as a foundation for ideas, using recycled materials wherever possible, and a stock of pallets and reclaimed wood is available for purchase.
The result after a satisfactory and fun two hours of learning to use the drill, band saw, electric screwdriver, jigsaw and other equipment is that I have something I can take home. I have to admit I feel rather chuffed with myself and can’t wait to fill it to overflowing with plants so that, if anyone asks, I can proclaim: "I made it myself."
The Tool Share Studio is open from 8.30am to 6pm Monday to Friday and 9am to 4pm on Saturdays. Rates start from R75 an hour for a workbench and tool hire; design assistance is R100 an hour. The rates are the same regardless of the type of work you do. You can also buy studio time in bundles and use these as you need
Virtual resource pool
The idea of having a communal space to work from follows international trends towards self-sufficiency, repurposing and upcycling, while minimising the cost and waste of production.
Makers movement and third industrial revolution are terms we are likely to see bandied about increasingly as the costs of mass-manufactured goods increase and quality declines.
Through technology, idea- and tool-sharing, individuals can take ownership of the market by making things themselves and turning the tide on wasteful mass production.
The internet is at the forefront of these revolutions by providing an international platform to share ideas and designs, with many sites offering step-by-step instruction.
Aside from the obvious idea-sharing platform pinterest.com, there’s also houzz.com, which shares ideas for home renovation, design and décor.
A firm favourite among makers is instructables.com, an ever-evolving and expanding DIY platform offering step-by-step instructions for a diverse range of products. – Lisa Johnston