At the end of July I became a member of a maker space in town called ADX. Ever since I heard about ADX a few years ago I looked forward to being able to have the time to make it worth my money to become a member. I finally did it.
It wasn't really planned. I was looking for a laser cutter class and it just so happened that on the day that I was looking for a class, ADX had one coming up the next night. The class was cheaper if you became a member, so I thought I might as well put half of the class payment ($75) towards a membership. I was so excited to finally be stepping into a community of makers and working on my own art. The laser cutting class was great and I went home that night ready to get to know the space and what it had to offer.
(Now, I don't want to come across as a complainer while writing this post, but the reality is that I am trying to capture this journey through the happies and the failures because all of those things are going to to take me to where ever it is that I go. This venture into ADX was one of my first steps into the maker scene in Portland and it was full of frustrations. I don't want to dwell on them but they need to be documented.)
When I went to register for the required orientation that they make every member take, I was told I needed to pay another $10. That does not make sense to me. You require me to take a class to ensure that your members are safe after I already pay my $75 membership fee and I have to pay $10?! They waived the fee after I called to give them some feedback on this policy. They told me that it was only to cover the fee that they give the person giving the tour and asked how I thought they should charge it. "How about include it in the membership fee?" The orientation was basically a 3 hour tour of all of the spaces that they have available, almost all of which are an extra fee to even use. I found out the girl who gave the tour was actually a volunteer. I left wondering what is the point of the $10 if it just pisses people off, and what does my $75 even cover?
I had become a member mainly to use the laser cutter and I soon found out that there were extra costs and time limitations on when I could use it. "They make most of their money through their fab(rication) department so they use the laser cutter during the day every weekday," stated an ADX member. Well, those are the hours that my son is in school so are the hours I was hoping to be able to go into ADX and work. They also charge $50 an hour to use the laser cutter, which is crazy expensive to me but I soon realized it was the going rate for laser cutting around town. The problem though is that they charge that fee for using the laser cutter AND for making sure your files are ready to use the laser cutter on the only computer they have with Corel Draw. So when I returned to use the laser cutter at the Laser Lab class and on my own, I spent at least an hour and a half (paying $75!) to just get my files laser ready.
On the last week of my membership, I was determined that I was going to make use of my new laser cutting skills and decided that I would just go in one evening. Well, when I called to book some time I was thrilled to find out that actually the fab department was not using the laser cutter on Friday. Sweet! So, I signed up first thing Friday morning hoping to get as many things cut as possible and maybe even stay for a couple of hours. I had spent hours at home working on 4 files that I was looking forward to trying out. After getting them finally ready after about 35 minutes on the computer, I focused the laser, placed my plywood in, set the printer to the right speed and power and pressed go. I did it! I finally got the laser working on my own and was setting out my other materials in preparation for me next job.
"Um, members are not allowed to use the laser cutter on Fridays." one of the fab department workers said in annoyance that I was on her machine.
"When I called earlier this week, they said that the calendar was open on Friday." I said sheepishly, watching my lion head smoking as the laser traced around the eyes.
"Well, who was that you talked to?" she remarked. "She must not have known what she was talking about." Well, she was looking at the calendar.
"Okay, sorry." I said as her fab buddy placed his materials on top of mine, staking his claim. I looked a the clock. It read 9:51am. "My hour that I originally planned is almost over. I'll just finish this job and get out of your way." I said. She stood over my shoulder as I cleaned up the area and swept out of the room. At least I go one thing cut for that $50!
I left that day, once again, frustrated with my experience at ADX. In my opinion, this new girl that told me that I could use the laser cutter on Friday was not to blame. It was the fabrication department, who obviously think that they are more than fab! They should make sure the calendar has them listed if they are using the laser cutter. I was annoyed. I only had one day left in my month and had really wanted to get more cutting done to make that $75 worth my while and I got kicked out.
In determination to not let one last punch defeat me, I decided to book one more stint on the laser cutter the next day, a Saturday. Not ideal, but it needed to get done. I spent two hours on the laser cutter that morning. The woman at the front desk was patient with me, knowledgeable, and helpful and I probably got at least 50 pieces printed. At least I ended my month on a good note.
It's taken me some time to process my experience at ADX. I've come to the conclusion that the education was worth the money that I spent. I also met some nice people and got some cool work done. I'm just not going back anytime soon. I'm on the hunt for another laser cutter in town.