Bellingham Makerspace has a new home in Bellis Fair Mall. Above the doorway, a light-up sign changes colors. Inside, a huge masked hamster wields a lightsaber, while trinkets, technology, and art line the walls. At the front desk, a volunteer smiles through their mask.
Bellingham Makerspace is a place for people to learn and use tools and technology to create anything they want. These tools include laser cutters, CNC machines, vinyl cutters, 3D printers and scanners, sewing machines, and wood shop machines. An Electronics Station offers wire cutters, gadgets, and computers, while a Sewing Station features a Pfaff Creative Vision Sewing and Embroidery Machine. Each station invites creators to do what they do best: create. All it takes is a monthly membership, and a class or two to learn the more advanced tools.
Jeremiah McCoy became the company’s operations manager in 2019, after years of doing projects, volunteering, and teaching classes at Makerspace. During this time, he noticed Makerspace was operating more like a club than a business, and sensed the untapped potential.
“It was like, this is a cool place where we get to keep all these tools and people can hang out and use them,” McCoy says. “But they didn’t have much in terms of a long-term business model.”
Before relocating to the mall, Makerspace shared the Technology Development Center (TDC) with Bellingham Technical College (BTC) and Western Washington University. In 2019, they were able to lock down a spot at Bellis Fair Mall near Dick’s Sporting Goods, which they took over in early 2020. Little did they know, the Makerspace would shut down months later due to the pandemic.
Coming Together to Make a Difference
In the early months of the pandemic, as they were remodeling, Makerspace received a call from county council members and the hospital asking for their help. There was a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) — masks, gowns, and face shields – and Makerspace had the tools to help.
Using their sanitizing chamber, Makerspace became a hub for PPE distribution. They set up a database for requests from nursing homes, hospitals, shelters, and tribes. People who sewed masks and 3D printed face shield brackets at home could drop them off at the Makerspace to be sanitized and distributed. Makerspace even made their own Tyvek hospital gowns on site.
“It was amazing because it just blossomed into this incredible volunteer, grassroots, self-organized, chaotic effort of making all of this stuff that people needed,” McCoy says. “I’ve never seen people come together like that in my life.”
One of McCoy’s most memorable moments was taking one of their first donations to a Bellingham nursing home where the staff was using bed sheets as medical gowns.
“There were all these posters that kids had made for their grandparents that were posted outside of the nursing home because they couldn’t go in,” McCoy says. “[Saying] thank you to the caregivers and thank you to the doctors and thank you to the nurses and everything. That was just heartbreaking.”
When PPE became more accessible and businesses began reopening, Makerspace was finally able to open their new location. Makerspace is now open in the afternoon six days a week, offering classes, tools, and rental spaces to artists and creators. 1 Bellis Fair Parkway, Ste. 618, Bellingham, 360.230.8092, bellinghammakerspace.org