On a quiet Thursday afternoon, Mary Elliott walks into Bellingham Makerspace. Located in a waterfront industrial building, Makerspace is exactly what its name implies: a space for creative types to make whatever they desire. Here, one can find an array of machines, from laser cutters to 3-D printers, which members can use at a fee.
Elliott holds a crate of mysterious cardboard tubes. “We’ll find some way to use these,” she says, moving her brown bangs out of her eyes and taking a deep breath. You get the sense it’s the first one she’s taken all day. On a typical morning, Elliott drives to Ferndale School District where she works as their director of assistive technology. She helps students with learning challenges and disabilities access their education. This can mean anything from providing dictation software to a student with impaired vision or adjusting a wheelchair to accommodate a student’s needs.
After a full day of work in Ferndale, she often goes to Makerspace and checks in. She opened the space in 2014 when she realized there was need for a creative community space. Funding was difficult to access in the beginning, so she sold her house to afford the initial equipment. Since then, Makerspace has steadily grown and is now partially maintained by membership dollars.
The Maker Movement, which inspired Elliott in the early 2000s, is all about creating a space for artists, students, and builders from all backgrounds to carry out innovative ideas and inspire each other. She encourages everyone to learn how to use today’s technology. If you have an idea for a project and don’t know where to start, Makerspace is the perfect place to ask questions and connect with others. “Just come down and start talking to us. We’ll introduce you to people that have those skill sets,” she says.
As an occupational therapist, Elliott has always used her skills to help others. She has what some call a “helper personality,” which she says runs in her family. Her mom is a nurse and her sister works as a speech therapist.
Elliott’s obsession with engineering and technology began in 2002, when she was tasked with making a pinky splint for a 2-year-old girl. She couldn’t make it in the traditional way, but had heard about 3-D printing. She gave it a try and made a perfect canoe-shaped splint for the girl’s tiny finger. “It’s such a daunting and intimidating technology,” Elliott says, “but honestly it wasn’t that hard.”
From there, she taught herself more about electrical engineering and, after discovering the Maker Movement, it all snowballed from there. Overall, she’s proud to have created something that is so well supported by the community.
1000 F St., Bellingham
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