Fablab Amsterdam (Waag Society initiative) gives you the chance to experiment with digital fabrication, learn and share your experiences with others!
Makerspace for social innovation & craftsmanship
Fablab Amsterdam in details
All you need to know about the workshop before getting there
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A guided tour of Fablab Amsterdam
Interview of Emma Pareschi & Cecilia Raspanti and immersion into the workshop
MakerTour's 6 topics
Understand in depth the mecanisms and practices of this workshop
“Don’t take the world as it is.” Since 1994, Waag Society foundation has been an institute mixing technology, art, education and social good, giving people access to technologies. And the fablab was another way to follow their mission.
It started as a project in 2007 at Pakhuis de Zwijger and joined the fondation’s building after the Fab6 conference in 2008 (the first FabConference outside MIT, in Boston). Meanwhile, Alex Schaub (the first fabmanager) completed the FabAcademy program to learn to use all the technologies. It was both meant for their own research/projects and the general public (artists, researchers, designers, kids, students, teachers, creative people, etc.).
In their eyes, the fablab is a great tool to work at the intersection between craftsmanship heritage and technologies, to keep them alive and spread both through digital fabrication. “Like Alex’s metal work, our health and care projects, the artsy side of Waag Society, let’s mix everything and make it accessible!”
Today, “the main aim is still the same, but the social impact is wider than we thought, with empowering others, giving the technologies accessible, for whatever project and public.”
According to Cecilia Raspanti and Emma Pareschi (the two fabmanagers), those who come to use the fablab are “people who want to make a difference, to do something”. Both pros (artists, architects, makers, designers, tinkerers, biotechnologists, electronics, engineers) and hobbyists. On the learning side, it’s mostly kids, teachers and students (graduated profiles mostly).
Fablab Amsterdam is in the middle of the city within a castle (even if not many people know there’s a fablab inside). People tend to discover it through Google, blogs, projects documentation and local meetups.
“They come here looking for a place where they can tinker, access technologies, find inspirations, learn new things, meet a community. Even us, we all need an environment to bounce ideas, influencing us without knowing it. The projects, objects you see, the small chats, the comments on each other projects. Some people are coming every week making a very open and broad range of stuffs.”
But are getting involved in the fablab? As an example, Cecilia came as a user, did an internship and now work at Waag. 2 or 3 times a week, the team and users cook together and share a lunch in the lab. “They’re always willing to help and often leave us some presents when they’re making something.”
The pedagogy and animation
Waag Society is a wide institute, spread in several team and labs (some labs are physical, others conceptual): creative learning, creative care, future Internet, future heritage, the make team with the open design and wet lab (biotech)! All of them are to be found there.
Regarding the fablab activity, newbies show up on Open Days (happening several times a week), during which consultancies are free and encouraged. “So if they’re wondering and looking for solutions for their projects, we just sit down and chat.” Here, you never pay for the space, only for the machine use. And you get a 50% voucher if you document.
You’ll find improvised workshops happening all the time (the team is more interested in transmitting the content in the lab’s everyday life than through structured workshops). However, they run interesting formats like FabSchool (8-week program, meant for kids between 9 and 11), Teacher Maker Camp (1-week program, teach the teachers to bring that tools and mindset to their world), the FabAcademy (6-month program, learn how to make almost anything), hackathons and open source workshops. All events are to be found there.
We often remind members to document their stuffs, but some users are doing it as a habit. We hope that with the new system (50% discount on the hour-based machine use price if you document), people will document more than they do at the moment.”
According to Cecilia and Emma, “the processes and technics are the most important thing. Not only the file, but how do you got to that point? We need to know your mistakes, how you fixed the mistakes, and how to improve from the bases you created, the reasons you decided to do things that way.”
You can start with the “How to Document” section on the fablab’s website. It provides a manual and advices like “document your work on Openthings.wiki”, “start documenting right away”, “what to describe?” and “how to be featured on their website”. To start the platform, they’ve uploaded 8-9 years of Waag documented projects..!
“We found out that documentation is a difficult topic to address. People should start as they’re doing the project.” Emma even built a documentation wallstand two years ago (see the pictures above). For their personal use, they go a lot on Hackaday and the FabAcademy documentation.
The business model
To create Fablab Amsterdam, Waag Society applied for European Union fundings on social, environmental and community projects. A 50.000-euro grant helped them to pay for the human cost (4 people approx.) and some machines. Some resources came from the Fab6 conferences. Waag got the building as a rent from the City Hall through a call-to-projects 20 years ago.
Today, the fablab is a 3-people team + 3 interns, and relies on Waag Society resources (finances, communication). While 10-15 people on every Open Day, the busiest months are May, June and December. The main income sources are the projects, national fundings, workshops and hour-based use of machines. Total yearly budget? 75.000 euros, excluding projects work. They’ll soon move the Open Days to the weekends and set up the Textile Lab on the castle last floor.
“I think smiles and community are our biggest indicators: the fact that people come back, being happy, sharing, starting to work with each other, with us, outside of the lab, finding new ideas and things to do, so that it impacts the other aspects of their life. See them showing up at our events, starting to teach and to share their experience.” It’s been 9 years that Fablab Amsterdam opened!
But what makes Fablab Amsterdam & Waag Society unique in the fablabs and makerspaces world? According to Cecilia and Emma, it’s “the combination between craftsmanship and digital fabrication. The social impact, empowering people and giving them access to the knowledge and technologies. It’s pretty artsy also, as Amsterdam is a city full of creators.” It has become real through Waag’s and users projects.
Looking at their environmental practices, all suppliers are local ones. “Some of the materials and tools we use are very difficult to find in Europe, or very expensive. There is a supply network within the international fablab community.”
Here in Amsterdam, “people collect a lot of things in the streets. And we tend to keep everything for internal projects or for the FabAcademy. We don’t like to throw away good materials or broken pieces of a machine. So we call people to help us repair it or pick it up for their own use.”
MakingSense is a meaningful project started at the fablab, about environmental, urban data and citizen empowerment. It is connected to the original SmartCitizen initiative from Barcelona, check it out there.
The great practices of Fablab Amsterdam
The good initiatives of this workshop which should inspire everyone
The future development and projects of the workshop
Setting up the Textile Lab
Fablab Amsterdam & Waag Society are taking part in a European Union project gathering 18 partners all over the continent, all from very diverse backgrounds. The aim: change the textile and fashion industry by setting up Textile and Clothing Business Labs (TCBL) . Finding new ways of designing, making, producing, using the technologies to keep craftsmanship alive and question the actual system by “opening the curtains”. These fashion labs will be connected throughout Europe and become operational progressively in the next months/years.
Testing a new Open Days system
Fablab Amsterdam & Waag Society will soon test a new Open Days system to make it more sustainable. The current formula is expensive for the fablab with a 16-hour total opening every week. The plan is to make people pay for the machine time. “This little contribution that would help a lot. But if you document, you get a 50% discount. And we’re talking of a proper documentation with the processes and technics!”
Wait, there's more to read!
A few links and ressources about the workshop
- Movilab's link: movilab.org/index.php?title=Maker_Tour
- FabCity Campus in Amsterdam started! : http://iaac.net/fabcity-campus-in-amsterdam/
- Fablab Amsterdam on Waag Society’s website : http://waag.org/en/project/fablab-amsterdam
- FabAcademy 2016 documentation : http://archive.fabacademy.org/archives/2016/fablabamsterdam/
for their warm welcome and the time they dedicated to the initiative!