A sneak peek into Manhattan’s maker & hacker scene 🇺🇸
MakerTour community has reached North America thanks to Alina! After sharing Espace Fabrique’s opening in Montreal, she flew to the United States to explore how maker & hacker communities gather & create together in the Big Apple 🍎 ✨
Venturing into Manhattan’s maker scene led me to two incredible fabrication spaces: Hack Manhattan and Fat Cat Fab Lab (FCFL). Albeit different in the ways they attract, retain and support members, both uphold a mission to hold the space for creatives to realize ideas. True to NYC’s diversity and hustler character, the two labs bring forward a myriad of impressive projects celebrating the integral and finer things in life — engineering, agriculture, art — via maker means of creation. Both located in the Village, they’re central and just a short walk away from each other. Let’s have a look!
1st stop: Hack Manhattan
At 137 West 14th st, Hack Manhattan opened up to address NYC’s limited workshop space, providing a locale to think, work and play with the community. This space focuses largely on electronics and 3D printing, but is complete with wood working and soldering stations, a spacious roof, and storage while equipment available is extensive and often shared by one of the members. Farming, bee keeping AND home brewing projects are also found in this city jewel, which is open to the public for visitors as long as one member is present.
Check Hack Manhattan out!
At its core, Hack Manhattan encourages members to get messy into their ideas within the lab and during monthly organized Fixer Collectives utilizing whatever skills makers’ have and continue to hone. A strong do-ocracy, Hack Manhattan is run by the members themselves, equipment is donated and maintained by those same members, while any hierarchical designations of responsibilities are rejected. If any one member wants change, a new piece of equipment, or a class, they have the power to leverage other members themselves and tackle the objective head-on. Hoping to offer classes in the future, the community is open and welcoming to new ideas for collaborative projects.
Growing in a beautiful chaos, all is possible and projects are made for pleasure, for one’s own development, and for the community.
The home brew? Available to all for free or on donation. The rooftop honey, herbs, and tomatoes? For everyone’s picking. The workspace? To share.
Colour Life, a project from Hack Manhattan community
This community project is a spin-off from Game of Life that exemplifies emergence and self-organisation — a project that truly represents this space. Being a more complex variant of the original, Colour Life utilises a hexagonal structure where cellular automation is shown on an edge choosing different colour options. These edges “sense” its four neighbours and choose its colour state depending on the predetermined game rules.
2nd stop: Fat Cat Fab Lab
Right off 7th avenue, you can find the intimate and beautiful Fat Cat Fab Lab (FCFL) that nurtures a close-knit community of welcoming makers. The space is open regularly for non-members on Tuesdays during their Open House as well as during certain events and classes. Meanwhile, members have complete access to machines and floating desk space. These activities support maker ambitions and develop their technical capacities.
Check Fat Cat Fab Lab out!
Nestled in the vibrant Greenwich Village amongst the city’s best comedy clubs and jazz joints, the lab harbours creative businesses for affordable sums. As part of Fat Cat Fab Lab’s additional services, the lab renders proficient makers available as designers, fabricators, and engineers for commissioned external projects. FCFL’s specialized classes, organised working stations, and daily member-to-member knowledge transfers are lab offerings that create an organizational structure allowing for the professionalization of maker businesses. These are key differences to Hack Manhattan that functions in tune to the independent, proactive nature of members that do not adhere to any hierarchy or particular system design. FCFL functions with the aim to innovate, as well as to capitalize on maker endeavours. Equipment and knowledge sharing is a virtue of its own, but sharing contributes to the growth of these maker businesses.
Launching maker enterprises, projects and initiatives are encouraged by Fat Cat Fab Lab and are showcased for professionalism, experience, and quality on their website. Skill development initiatives and classes often target the use of 3D printers, the CNC, and engineering, technician, and programming domains.
However, the presence of artists, experienced community members, and the dedicated and passionate lab manager, Peter, prompts a balance of art and advanced technology. Members are engineers, artists, entrepreneurs, and technicians dedicated to products made for self, sale, or show. The cocktail of members allows a cross-pollination of disciplines, especially between art and engineering, pushing projects and technical methodologies towards innovation.
Haute Hero, a maker business from Fat Cat Fab Lab community
Founded by artist and designer Christopher Pin, Haute Hero custom creates miniature limited edition contemporary clothing for figure and doll collectors. Quality and unique ensembles are created with 3D printers and laser cutters on plastic, leather, and fabric materials. Leaving menswear design at Converse, Pin takes pride in creating never-before produced or manufactured work, thereby creating a unique product for each collector.
Bushwick Lightbox, art from Fat Cat Fab Lab community
A mobile art installation born in Bushwick and brought into Manhattan, Bushwick Lightbox is a dynamic light art endeavour founded by Canadian-born Jason Yung. The Moving Rothko series has been revealed in spaces like Washington Square park and Sheridan Square, engaging the community of the area. Inspired by colour theory genius of Rothko and James Turell, Yung came across his idea of creating projected light work with LED lights and vellum paper to redefine how art can be created and seen.
Contrasting community forms for collaborative creation
This quick glimpse into Manhattan’s maker & hacker hubs reveals the various ways collaborative creation can manifest. While operating along contrasting organizational structures, open innovation is brought to life and creative projects are realized through synergies stemming from different fields. Both labs prioritize the access to machinery and production, cooperating with community members and combining physical and human resources to realize fun and valuable projects.
Even in bustling NYC, generous workspace can be found with quality shared machinery and MakerTour is glad to have discovered these two happening hotspots! Go see these places by yourself and let us know what you think 😉
🌎 🙌🏻 MakerTour — sharing & connecting the labs worldwide
At MakerTour, we explore, share and connect the diversity of collaborative workshops in the world! Founded in France, our remote community has finally spread to North America.
My name’s Alina and I’m our local ambassador here, eager to connect with local makers and discover more incredibles places and projects! To connect with us, you can:
- read my first paper about Espace Fabrique makerspace in Montreal
- discover all the makerspaces explored in Europe & Asia on makertour.fr
- follow our journey on Twitter, Facebook, Medium, Instagram & LinkedIn
- or ping me at firstname.lastname@example.org to grab a coffee and talk about an awesome lab, a genius maker or a stellar project!
Take care & see you soon.