Close your eyes for a minute and imagine the perfect workshop. Is it in an old industrial building with “they don’t make ’em like they used to” heavy timber columns and beams? Does it have a 3D printer, CNC machine, laser cutter and more word working equipment than you can shake a stick at? (Don’t go shaking sticks without proper eye protection.) Does that dream workshop also have people that are as skilled as they are friendly? If you answered “yes” to all of the above, this place exists in Atlanta. You guessed it, MASS Collective.
As I alluded to earlier, the MASS Collective workshop resides in the 7,000 square foot basement of a 100-year-old building in the Castleberry Hill neighborhood adjacent to downtown Atlanta. The building has its fair share of problems, but MASS is putting in a ton of sweat equity to polish a gem in disrepair.
How much advanced equipment can someone squeeze into a 7,000 sqft workshop? Honestly, more than I care to list in detail. As I mentioned before: CNC, 3D-printing and wood-working – But, there’s also equipment for fabricating leather, metal, ceramics, electronics, robotics, photography and even VR and audio recording. All of that technology and machinery for $100 per month!
If all that expensive stuff makes you nervous, don’t worry. MASS offers another, less quantifiable resource. There are many talented and approachable men and women (owners and members) that can offer fabrication advice and assistance. Heaven forbid a machine breaks down, the folks at MASS are skilled enough to get them back on-line themselves!
LABOR AND PASSION
MASS Collective started about five years ago, not with a bang, but with sustained effort and persistence. A group of friends from a variety of backgrounds – artists, fabricators, business managers – drank beer and dreamed of an amazing collaborative space. (That dream was probably similar to my opening paragraph.) But, it wasn’t easy making that dream come true. Dedication was frequently tested, and hundreds of hours went into preparing a suitable workshop environment.
The member-centric workshop is modeled after similar businesses like NYC Resistor and Tech Shop. However, what makes MASS different is the ownership. I spoke with Mike, one of a handful of co-owners. He and his wife Gabi (also a MASS project manager) have a passion for making – and more importantly, learning – that permeates throughout their business and their personal lives.
On the business side of things, their passion manifests itself with a variety of classes, learning opportunities and partnerships with other local fabricators; All of which is available to members. They recently had a class on welding. Cool!
On the personal side, Mike’s passion is obvious through his side work. He’s part of a non-profit-on-wheels called STE(A)M Truck. It brings fabrication and automation education to public schools around the Atlanta area, especially in lower income communities.
A REAL ESTATE CONUNDRUM
The art of making – and the literal space that it requires – is constantly at odds with prevailing real estate trends. MASS Collective is nestled in the shadow of the almost-finished Atlanta Falcons stadium. But, that wasn’t always the case. It used to be a less desirable place. Unfortunately, businesses like this want to be in convenient locations for their members, but they also need cheap square footage. Gentrification not only affects residents in need of cheap housing, but also businesses that require low overhead to be profitable. As mixed-use developments pop up one after another, artists and fabricators could get pushed out.
But, enough with the Debbie Downer talk! The fact is, MASS Collective is great because most people don’t have the space or funds to build a kick-ass workshop larger than a 5-bedroom house. If you wish you had more space to work and access to amazing equipment, check out MASS. Steve (DK’s own author of Home Brewing 101) is one of their biggest fans! Plus, a cool business and tons of innovative projects aren’t the only things Mike and Gabi are making; They have a baby on the way too. For that, Dad Kingdom says; “Welcome to parenthood!”