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Adam Berejkoff has a notebook full of ideas.
“Any time I see something that's not what I want it to be, I just sit down and draw something that would make it better,” said Berejkoff, an audio engineer who would love to make his ideas into something real but admittedly doesn't have the tools or the experience to do so.
In order to reach his goal, Berejkoff needs someone like Bill Rodgers, a building contractor with Jeld-Wen Windows & Doors who is licensed in more than a dozen states and just happens to have a table saw and a few other pieces of machinery sitting in storage units scattered about town.
“I'm very good three-dimensionally,” Rodgers said. “If you get some people together and they start brainstorming, I can make their ideas work.”
Scot Brees, an IT consultant who moved to Bend from the San Francisco Bay Area, hopes to create a place where idea people like Berejkoff and builders like Rodgers can come together with the High Desert Maker Mill, a project he and a few dozen other people have been working on since April.
Building off a model the local arts community has already seen a huge amount of success with, the maker mill's organizers hope to jump-start a concept Brees calls the “democratization of invention,” a philosophy that lies at the heart of the maker movement, a growing trend that brings together people who have an idea about ways they can build a better light bulb so they can share the tools and the skills they need to do it themselves.
Brees said this movement, which got its start in the Bay Area in 2005 and has spread across the country, could generate a new wave of entrepreneurship and inventiveness that could spur an economic revolution, and this is exactly what he hopes the High Desert Maker Mill will bring to Bend.
“Let's give someone with an idea access to a $50,000 tool and five people who know how to use it and let's see where it goes,” Brees said of the maker mill, which is still in its developmental stages.
Cari Dolyniuk sits at a 13-by-6-foot table made out of reclaimed wood that serves as the centerpiece for the Workhouse, a shared workspace for artists she manages in the Old Ironworks Arts District on Scott Street in Bend.
“Most of our collaborative work time happens around this table,” she said, explaining that the table provides the 13 artists who rent a space at the Workhouse a place to share tools, ideas and talents.
When Dolyniuk and the Workhouse's co-founder, Stuart Breidenstein, who runs a jewelry studio and showroom in the space next door to the Workhouse, started their business, they knew there was a growing number of artists in Bend who didn't have enough space in their homes for their projects and equipment, nor did they have the money to rent a commercial or light industrial space of their own.
Recognizing the need for studio/production space, they divided the Workhouse space into studio spaces where individual artists could do their work, figuring they'd earn enough money to “at the very least keep the rent paid and the heat on.”
The two partners equipped the Workhouse with some metal working tools - anvils, a set of metal cutters, a rolling mill and a collection of scrap material and metal they've collected - that the building's artists can share along with a kitchen and bathroom. They also share the table, which seats up to 26 people and provides the individual artists with a space to offer classes and a large, solid surface they spread their large projects across.
Dolyniuk said there are other benefits to being part of the Workhouse's shared workspace as well.
She said having the open space means a person who comes to buy a necklace from a jewelry maker will have a chance to see what the fashion designer in the space to his or her left and the painter in the space across the table is working on. The customer, who wouldn't have met either of these artists had they not been sharing a space at the Workhouse, may see something he or she likes and buy that item as well.
“People come by here to create relationships,” Dolyniuk said, explaining the artists share their expertise as well as their customers.
Since it opened this spring, she said the Workhouse has given rise to at least one project where a few artists — each of whom had experience with a different type of material or technique — came together to make something beautiful.
The maker mill
Brees saw a similar concept evolve about eight years ago when the TechShop, a company that bills itself as being “America's first nationwide open access public workshop,” sprung up in the Bay Area and took the region by storm.
“One guy who collected a bunch of equipment put it in a warehouse so he could show people how cool it was,” Brees said about how the maker movement got its start.
For a monthly fee, people can join the original TechShop and use its collection of high-dollar tools that includes a 3-D printer, a plasma cutter, an injection molder and a computer numerical control router, provided they've taken the proper safety class and signed a waiver of responsibility.
Brees said the TechShop attracted hundreds of people, many of whom were eager to use its founder's tools to build their own projects.
In the years that followed its creation, the TechShop grew from a single location in Menlo Park, Calif., to a business that now runs shared workspaces in Detroit, Pittsburgh, San Jose, Calif., and Austin, Texas. Groups borrowing the TechShop's idea created their own shared workspaces, also known as maker mills, in cities across the country, including Portland, Eugene and Kennewick, Wash.
“We know the community aspect of a maker space is going to work here,” said Brees, who thinks Bend would be the perfect place for a maker mill because it has an industrial background, a business community that invites entrepreneurship and a track record of making meetup groups and other collaborative efforts a success. “We just have to sustain this project from a business perspective.”
So far, Brees and the other High Desert Maker Mill organizers have devoted a considerable amount of time into reaching this goal. They've amassed a group of about 20 to 50 people who regularly attend their meetings and classes, which are held at Jeld-Wen's Innovation Center, and have another 150 to 200 followers on their Facebook page who Brees said are waiting for a call to action.
He's also been doing the rounds and attending various business events, including last month's Bend Venture Conference, in search of partners that, like Jeld-Wen, will help the maker mill get off the ground once its organizers find a space to occupy and have raised enough money to keep its doors open.
Brees said he's heard interest from the High Desert Amateur Radio Group and the Lego robotics programs that operate at Central Oregon's high schools, and from a number of would-be entrepreneurs who are eager to build something.
“Everybody's saying: 'Build your place because I want to use it,'” Brees said, confident that his maker mill program will be successful once he gets the space and the money needed to make it happen.