Since I moved out at 18, I've been living in boarding houses and apartments. There have been no garages with dad's table saw and the driveway is mysteriously always shovelled by someone else. Home improvements are forbidden, the noise of power tools would upset the neighbours, and my stay is so temporary that it's not worth the investment. When Ryan and I moved in, we planned to make all sorts of furniture out of shipping pallets. We got the pallets but we have nowhere to make a mess with them and a power-sander.
This is why a lot of people want a suburban home. With the move to a knowledge and service economy, the opportunity to build and work with your hands for a living has been eroded, but the desire to make has not. The backyard, garage, basement, and driveway become the production centres of people who are not quite fulfilled by the rules of our economy today. They are farmers that can't afford to be farmers, artisans told not to be artisans, mechanics with no need to be a mechanic, builders and makers of every kind.
Why not just share the drill? And the garage, and the workbench, and your know-how?
It's an old, simple idea; build things together and help each other out. And we're making it happen. For the past couple months, I've been loosely involved with a group here (led by Philip Leblanc) to create the Fredericton Makerspace. This video features a fundraising launch event for a community workshop that will house shared tools, equipment, and facilities so we can build together in the heart of the city. When individuals or institutions become members, they get access to the space and classes from other Makers. This is one piece in a larger Maker Movement - a kind of union between artisans, the DIY crowd, and tinkerers of tech. You may even have a Maker Faire "festival of invention, creativity, and resourcefulness" somewhere near you. Sharing a workshop is financially and recreationally sensible, but it also builds community as a by-product.
Working together has become the basis for all of my greatest friendships (family included). You can overlook a lot of differences when you're both sweating buckets or up all night to meet a deadline. I think a few shared sunburns, blisters and wood slivers would go a long way in achieving the sense of community we seek in otherwise anonymous or lonely feeling cities.
For my part, I'll be looking for Makers that will join me on a couple projects. Chair-bombing, public art, parklets and raised bed gardens to be expected...
If you're in Fredericton, any donations now go directly toward a membership once everything is up and running. I'll see you there with a hand saw and a staple gun.