By Vaibhav Chhabra:
My initiative ‘Maker’s Asylum’ began when the ceiling of my old office in Mumbai, fell down. All our furniture and equipment was destroyed. However, instead of buying new furniture, I posted a note on Facebook asking people to join me in building some tables. That Sunday, six people showed up and we made our first table (I love building tables, by the way). Word got around and making tables became a weekly thing.
Every weekend, we’d see some new faces along with the ones we knew. Some would come to work on their own projects – from building water bottle bazookas to LED cubes, and some would come just to collaborate. In a couple of months, we had so much equipment and projects that we hardly had any place to move around! That’s when we went in search of a new home for this community of makers and set up shop in a 250 square foot garage in Bandra. Called ‘Maker’s Asylum’, the space was a playground for like and unlike-minded people to meet, explore and have access to all sorts of tools to test their ideas and ‘tinker’, without the fear of failure.
During this phase, I quit my job as a lead project engineer with a start-up out of MIT Media Labs. I got involved with ‘Maker’s Asylum’ full-time, and pretty soon we were teaching people how to prototype concepts better. We started hosting tool trainings on 3D printers, laser cutter and power tools. Every time we broke the 3D printer, we learnt how to make it better by simply fixing it!
Soon Maker’s Asylum was a super buzzing space; the projects that came out of collaborations became a top priority, and I knew for a fact that we needed a bigger space. So, we ran a crowdfunding campaign, the response to which was amazing! People across the world supported us with funds, manpower and plenty of enthusiasm. We found a beautiful space in Andheri. And once again, through Facebook, over 50 people came to help us set up, in the first month! From building the tables, painting walls and doing the electricals, everything in the space was done by the members and the community. And by now, ‘Maker’s Asylum’ was a brand.
That’s the thing about social media. It allows people to give a movement like ours brand status, by simply working as a great documentation tool to showcase what happens at the space. Thus people associate ‘making things’, with us, ‘Maker’s Asylum’.
People have followed us even though we changed locations (thrice including a stint at the Indian School of Design And Innovation). Each walk-in, meet-up (enthusiasts meeting around a common passion), mash-up (people with different interests being in the same room) ends up in something interesting. Designers, engineers, architects, musicians, doctors, artists, students – a group of misfits – all come together.
You should come visit. The space has everything a tinkerer would want – a laser lab, wood lab, electronics lab, bio hacking lab and a 3D printing lab. Some of our makers run innovative businesses. ‘The Black Canvas‘ does a wonderful range of leather products made on the laser cutting machine. ‘Quidich‘ has designed drones for aerial photography through our co-working space. Our in-house makers have designed 3D products as per client specifications.
Other interesting things have also happened across the Asylum in Mumbai and Delhi – a Laser Harp, with no strings but which works with lasers to make music; a retinal imaging device; home automation devices; the SatNOGS project; 3D printed Prosthetic arms; open source micro-controllers; a Wave Parametric architecture installation made for BNP Parabas and Virtual Reality camera rigs!
We recently started to monetise the space, and the response has been great; we have been getting a lot of requests for smaller companies wanting to be a part of the community and work out of the space. Our weekday tool training workshops and weekend events across several topics, bring in a mix of hobbyists, entrepreneurs and experts. We have hosted CAD modelling sessions, screen printing, spray painting, art, rocket-building, bike-building, a wood work-laptop table workshop and tons more.
We also have a very active community discussion forum on which the threads are created by members themselves. And this is really the maker movement. It is the coming together of people and ideas. The ‘Maker’s Asylum’ is only the catalyst.
You can check out what we do below: