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State of The Space

I wanted to take a moment to write about our year at the Makerspace. In the interest of getting the important things out of the way first, I’m going to start by talking about our challenges and what help we need from all of you.

Our challenges:
We discovered that our wood shop violates the zoning for the mall and raises red flags for the Fire Marshall. This means our shop – one of the major reasons people join the Makerspace – has been closed for months. While we are working on the problem with the city, progress has been very slow, and there is no guarantee of success.

Ideally, the city would like us to do major structural changes to our space at the mall. Not only is it money we can’t afford – up to $100k in costs – it’s improvements we don’t want to make to space that we don’t own.

In parallel, we are searching for new space. Our options are to find a facility where we can spin off the wood and metal shops, or one where we can relocate the entire space. If we need to relocate entirely, we’ll consider leaving a small retail operation at the mall.

Which brings us to the state of Bellis Fair Mall. As many of you know, the Mall was sold in November. From their publicity material, the new owners view themselves as running community spaces, not retail ones. Their other malls have gyms and libraries and police stations and residential apartments. We don’t know what the new owners will bring, but we are hopeful. Some of the board will be meeting with the new management early in January and we will report back.

My asks of you:
As we start the new year, please keep your eyes out for appropriate spaces into which we can move. We need space that is zoned for industrial use, and we are currently occupying 7000 square feet, but would like more.

We also need someone to take charge of our marketing efforts. While memberships and grants help us keep the lights on and pay the staff, we will need sustaining sponsorships going forward to maintain our health as an organization. Having someone dedicated to seeking out like-minded organizations who can help support our mission will guarantee our future success.

Let’s talk about people first:
When I took over the presidency of the Board, Garth Johnson took over my role as volunteer coordinator. He’s made a better job of it than I did. He introduced the role of “Administrative Member” to have folks responsible for particular areas of our operations. They’re our “go to” coordinators for things functional areas like sewing and woodshop and soft things like community relations and publicity. I won’t take the space to name them all here – that’s worthy of a separate newsletter article.

In 2022, we welcomed Rosa Caldwell, Alicia Allard, and Lisa Lang to the board. Unfortunately, Rupert Ayton resigned his board position due to health issues, meaning we lost his vast knowledge and experience in finance and non-profits.

As you all know, we hired Phoebe Clark early in the year to be our operations manager. In November, we hired Ian Garconnette as our shop manager and he’s hit the ground running. This will allow Jason Davies to concentrate on class development and teaching.

Of course, without the thousands of hours of volunteer work that you all provided this year, as shop hosts, as tool champions, giving tours, mopping the floor, none of what we do would be possible.

Our successes:
We merged with the Bellingham Metal Arts Guild, which brought us new members, new equipment, new teachers, and new classes.
We received grants from both the state of Washington and the Tulalip Tribes. We added classes and events. We had a larger Maker Faire than last year’s in more than double the space.

We are now almost completely recovered from the pandemic. We made special effort to emphasize our retail space during the holiday season. We had triple our normal sales on Black Friday and had high sales numbers on the days we were able to open despite horrible snow and ice in the week before Christmas.

In conclusion:
This wasn’t as brief as I wanted it to be, but there was so much to tell you. And I didn’t cover all the things I really wanted to. We had some tough challenges which still need to be solved. On the other hand, we had some great successes that we can continue to build on. In the meantime, I wish you all a happy, safe new year, and that you finish at least as many projects as you start!


Jeffry Copeland
Board President
Bellingham Makerspace