Written by Michelle Sucher, Al Dente Design Co.
11:57…11:58… 11:59… MIDNIGHT! You’d think it was New Year’s Eve, but it’s just a typical Thursday night. I’m watching the clock to see when the next day’s reservations open for the Library’s MakerSpace, opens a new window. Sometimes, reserving the equipment is hotter than snatching Bunbury tickets. But like any great concert, it’s so worth it.
I discovered the MakerSpace soon after it opened. At the time, I was working down the street at a branding and design agency. As a lifelong crafter and maker turned professional graphic designer, I was curious. To my surprise — and honestly, intimidation — there were so many machines and tools available to experiment with and explore.
The first few times I visited the MakerSpace, I mostly played around to make small gifts for friends or decor for my apartment. But then a big project came along where I could channel my creative juices: my wedding!
I quickly became a regular, getting my hands on everything I could. I made centerpieces with the 3D printer, created custom bridesmaid gifts with the Silhouette Cameo, printed large welcome and wayfinding signs on the vinyl printer, and laser engraved a small wooden box for our ring bearer to carry down the aisle. I even cranked out a bunch of buttons for our wedding guests to wear to the Bockfest parade (it’s a long story that involves meeting my husband at Bockfest, deciding to get married over Bockfest weekend, and creating a parade float as part of the “rehearsal dinner” plans). I was basically Martha Stewart on a budget.
DIYing my wedding fed my creative outlet momentarily, but I was still craving a more regular creative outlet. By now I had left my gig as a graphic designer for the nonprofit world. It was incredibly fulfilling, but I really missed making things with my hands.
Just as I was feeling that tug-of-war coming to a head, my friend and fellow maker, Kelsey Downs, opens a new window, invited me to share a booth at a local craft market. I was equally excited and overwhelmed. I had more ideas than time. I was also a little scared to put my stuff out there. Would anybody actually like it? Would they like it enough to buy it? Thankfully, the excitement outweighed the fear (the looming deadline helped too) and I pulled out my sketchbook, made a reservation at the MakerSpace, and got to work.
I used the MakerSpace to create custom wood earrings, acrylic nightlights, and area code keychains. It was a smorgasbord of products, but this was my chance to test out a bunch of ideas to learn what people liked. Plus, the MakerSpace was the perfect place to fabricate all of my designs and see them come to life on a variety of materials. On a record hot day in late September, Kelsey and I set up our booth and I revealed my new pieces to the world.
After the craft market, I was hooked, and Al Dente Design Co., opens a new window was born! Al Dente Design Co. is a small side hustle and creative outlet that allows me to get off the screen and work with my hands. I can throw a few things at the wall to see what sticks while still working my 9-to-5. I’m still new to this small business thing and I’m still learning, but I’m grateful to have a place to experiment, explore, and create. When the clock strikes midnight, I’m ready to create! And that’s thanks to the Library's MakerSpace.
If you’re curious about the MakerSpace, here are some of my tips:
Ask for help
The Library staff is so knowledgeable and helpful. Don’t be afraid to ask for help getting set up or troubleshooting a problem. They know the equipment backward and forward and can offer great advice. Just be patient because they are often pulled in a number of directions.
Meet other makers
Talk to the other people that are using the equipment and learn about what they’re doing. Some of the best tips, tricks, and ideas have come from conversations I’ve had with other makers. Cincinnati has an amazing creative community and we can all learn from one another.
Bring extra materials
You rarely get it right the first time. The Library has some materials and supplies on hand that you can purchase, but if there’s a special material or size that you want to use, make sure you bring more than you think you’ll need.
Book in advance
The popular machines fill up quickly so you might wait up to four weeks to make a reservation. Plan ahead so you don’t miss a deadline.
You can book appointments at any of the Library's four MakerSpaces at the Loveland, St. Bernard, and Reading branch libraries and Downtown Main Library by visiting CincinnatiLibrary.org, opens a new window.