Want to build a robot, or make your own jewellery? You can do all that—and more—all over Toronto.
By Sarah Steinberg
“Makerspace” is a Pinterest-y catchall term that refers to any spot where creative community members gather to work on projects and—you guessed it—make things. Thanks to increasingly accessible technologies, many of these places have a digital focus where coding and robotics are the order of the day, but a makerspace can be low-fi too, devoted to knitting or shoe making. What they all have in common is a belief in the power of community and a philosophy that DIY is both satisfying and worthwhile. Here are 10 cool spots that cater to tinkerers, hobbyists and try-it-outers alike.
Located on the ground floor of the Centre for Social Innovation on Spadina, Steamlabs is the quintessential makerspace (and, at 3,000 square feet, one of Canada’s largest). Learn coding and robotics, design your own flat-pack furniture (think DIY Ikea), or make high-tech costumes for cosplay (yes, it’s what you think it is). Initially conceived of as a makerspace for the littles, this non-profit hub has welcomed grown-ups to their workshops, programs and drop-ins since 2015. (Photography courtesy of Shanik Tanna)
When this non-profit in Newmarket took over a former collections agency and storage warehouse in 2016, they built two separate, but adjoining, units: a co-working space and a makerspace. Here, adults and teenagers can take courses in 3D printing, or learn how to use Pinterest for profit. It even offers a first aid course—a wise move, given they engage in some serious laser-cutter action.
Do you know what a digital storage oscilloscope is? Or a Vortexer? Me neither. But the folks at Hacklab in Parkdale do. Outfitted with everything from X-Acto knives to amateur radio tools and all kinds of computer gear, these guys and gals are all about creative problem-solving, programming and inventing for good (i.e., do not come here with cybercrimes in mind). If you want to get in on the action, newcomer night is every Tuesday.
If getting a cup of coffee is more your speed, but you’re kinda-sorta interested in checking out an entry-level makerspace, Maker Bean might just be your cup of tea—er, java. Currently housed at the Ontario Science Centre with plans to open an independent location in spring 2018, Maker Bean café requires no membership or preplanning. Just pop in and try out the laser cutter to make latte art stencils, coasters or keychains. (Photography courtesy of Maker Bean Cafe)
This sewing room provides everything from sewing fundamentals for those who dream of whipping up their own clothes (but have never actually threaded a needle), to classes in pattern drafting and leatherworking. If you’ve fallen in love with the process, but don’t have your own space or machines, you’ll find ready access to both during sew-by-the-hour studio time at their east- and west-end Toronto locations.
A joint initiative between the City of Brampton, Sheridan College and the Brampton library has resulted in a makerspace with daily drop-in hours at libraries and trained library employees who can help with tools like 3D printers, vinyl cutters and devices that convert analog video to digital. Got a project that requires real expertise? Attend a Tuesday night session with an instructor from the Centre for Advanced Manufacturing and Design Technologies. Best of all, it’s 100 per cent free—up to and including the filament for the 3D printers. (Photography courtesy of Herman Custodio)
Located on College St., The Shop specializes in ceramics workshops taught by pros and features throwing wheels and two large kilns. The studio also hosts a variety of craft classes—past workshops have included script lettering, fabric dyeing and macramé. They also sell handmade ceramics in case you’re in a real-life rom-com and need to pretend you’re good at pottery to impress someone.
Perhaps you’ve got the next Elon Musk on your hands? Or maybe you just want to raise children who don’t turn up their noses at any of the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics)? At MakerKids in Bloordale, students from grades 3 through 8 work with highly skilled instructors to learn coding, robotics and Minecraft (playing video games is a practical life skill nowadays, just FYI). (Photography courtesy of MakerKids Toronto)
Long before the term “maker culture” was trending, this studio on Queen Street West in Toronto had been showing people how to DIY jewellery with courses like Silversmithing for Beginners or Wire Working Basics. One of their most popular classes is a one-day wedding band workshop: bring your betrothed and make a wedding band from scratch in six short hours (longer than some Hollywood marriages).
The Toronto Tool Library lends out more than 5,000 tools (everything from nail staplers to sheet sanders and mitre saws). But sign up to the makerspace associated with the Danforth location and not only can you learn how to actually use those tools, you’ll get access to high-tech apparatus like 3D printers, laser cutters and a woodshop. And the kicker—it’s open 24/7, so you can tinker to your hearts content no matter the time of day, or night. (Photography courtesy of Toronto Tool Library Staff)