Studio Barn Inc provides unique new opportunities for County residents
Makers’ Spaces have been gaining popularity in urban centres, but they have also proved their worth in rural settings like the County. What is a Makers’ Space? The term Makers’ Space is a relatively new concept and it’s defined as a creative space for co-working, project creation, events and more. It’s meant to be a space that community members can come to build on old skills or learn new ones. Studio Barn Inc (SBI) founders Jay Elbourne and Courtney Black want their space to provide the tools, technology and education for those who wish to further their creative passions. Both Elbourne and Black grew up learning skills taught to them by their parents or grandparents. Elbourne considers himself a bit of a tinkerer, and Black was exposed to building at a young age in her grandfather’s wood shop.
“I remember helping by handing my grandpa things like clamps and glue. I had that feeling of loving it instantly, and that carried me through grade school and into college. I thank my parents for realizing my talent and encouraging me to go to Sheridan College for woodworking,”says Black.
“We were both lucky and learned a lot of from watching our parents and grandparents, but if you look around, the youth of today are not exposed to these inherited skills anymore. We wanted to have a place where if anyone wanted to further a skill or a hobby they could come in and use our facilities. Also, who knows? A lot of hobbies transform into small businesses or parttime jobs. Or it can just be about spending the weekends doing something creative,” says Elbourne.
The feeling you get when learning a skill is the driving force behind this project. Both saw a need for a Makers’ Space, and there’s currently nothing like it in the area. But Elbourne and Black made sure that due diligence had run its course to confirm it was the right project. So the duo travelled across Ontario, seeing what’s out there for Makers’ Spaces. They spoke to industry leaders, community members and artists, trying to get as much information as possible. Even though they were focusing on local, they also branched out and went to events on Parliament Hill. That’s where they got hooked up with Start Up Canada and spent some time with the CEO of North Forge, the largest Makers’ Space in the country. Once they knew that their business plan was sound they immediately pushed forward and started the search for a space.
The original concept for SBI was to build a large space for the project. But after further market analysis, it was decided that leasing a smaller building would be best. Fate stepped in on the first day of their search when Elbourne and Black took a tour of an old ambulance depot on MacSteven Drive. In a funny twist, the space was already going to be leased, but there was a complication in that process and the deal was delayed and put back on the market. It turns out that the first day of Elbourne and Black’s search for spaces was also the first day that the space came back on the market.
“It was perfect because of the two large bays that were there for ambulance storage and repair. The facilities also came with a lounge, classrooms, washrooms with showers, and a reception that would work well for our gallery space. We walked in and immediately checked all the boxes for what we wanted in a space,”says Black.
After the building was confirmed, the plans began for what the space would entail. It’s an impressive array of things under one roof. The Studio Spaces at SBI will include ceramics, glass, woodworking, automotive, metal shop, computer sciences, textiles and electronics. The building will also play host to classes and seminars, with conference rooms fully tricked out with the latest technologies. Currently, SBI is waiting on the grant process for purchasing tools and should hear back in March. Right now, only the conference spaces and meeting rooms are operating. Elbourne and Black will start with procuring the woodworking tools and will build their inventory from there. As for the educational aspect, SBI has already been approached by local tech companies wanting to host techoriented workshops aimed at building up certain skills in the area.
“The point of this whole thing is to develop a platform that the community can attach itself to. We want to be an accessible tool that people can use to run a festival, build a project, run a workshop or teach something. The result is another revenue stream for the person organizing as well as building the economic development of the community by allowing access for everyday people to start something,” says Elbourne.
There are two events planned so far, one occurred this past Monday, where nine families squared off in a Lego building contest. The competition featured three rounds of building. Each contestant’s entries were photographed, and the winners will be chosen via votes on Facebook. It was a great family event and an adult version with some form of libations will happen in the future. The next event planned at SBI is an introductory class in coding taught by Elbourne. It’s a class that he has taught before, and one that can lead to a very lucrative career if put in front of the right candidate. The class is Sunday, January 21 at 10 a.m.
For anyone interested in using SBI for its services, there is a flat fee of $25 per day that gets you use of everything onsite and access to one class happening that day. For Elbourne and Black, it’s the beginning of a long haul. With no other staff, they are responsible for everything, including working the reception and cleaning the facilities when everyone’s gone. It’s a scaled down operation until the demand hits and they can hire some staff. And the demand will hit. It’s inevitable. Ideas like Makers’ Spaces are ahead of the curve, and much needed in creative communities like the County.