makeshift society

by Grace Bonney

Photo by Bonnie Tsang

Over the past year or so, I’ve felt a huge shift in the things I need and want out of life. Not only because of changes in my personal life, but also because I feel like I’ve hit a place with work and the way I’m used to communicating (online) that feels less effective, satisfying and inspiring. I love the online community and hope to be part of it for a long time to come, but over the past two years, I’ve slowly started to change the way I work and live to include more in-person meetups and face time with friends. I know it seems silly to need to remind myself of this, but I think it can be easy to forget when the world is at your fingertips on a laptop: Connecting with people in person is crucial to happiness and creativity.

One of the groups I am overjoyed to see embracing this idea (and really taking it 50 steps forward) is the newly formed Makeshift Society. The brainchild of one of my creative idols, Rena Tom, Makeshift is a membership-based organization for independent workers who crave camaraderie to fuel their creativity. It’s that simple. Makeshift will launch in San Francisco this fall and share a private clubhouse (a 1,000 square foot storefront in Hayes Valley) that’s been designed for coworking, collaboration and community activities. In addition to a collaborative space, Makeshift will offer classes that encourage personal, business and creative growth.

Rena was the inspiration for my original Biz Ladies series, so I am thrilled (though not surprised) to see her again taking the reigns to not only come up with a great idea, but also have the motivation to see it through. Rena is being helped by Creative Director Suzanne Shade, Interior Designer & Director of Outreach Victoria Smith and an advisory board (of which I’m proud to be a part) and partner/sponsor group that will help make all these creative goals come to life.

I wanted to write about Makeshift this morning not only to congratulate Rena, Suzanne and Victoria on such an amazing new venture, but also in the hopes that this idea inspires other people in different cities to create the same. I’ve been toying with doing something similar in our office in Brooklyn, but I’d really love to see people in cities across the country working together to connect their local communities. These sorts of connections made in person are long lasting and powerful. They give you the strength and support to work through tough times and build friendships that can exist and thrive beyond computer screens. I hope those of you in the SF area will consider joining Makeshift Society, and to anyone out there thinking of doing something similar, please do. I will always use D*S as a platform to support and promote these types of groups because I think they are the key to taking all of the incredible art, business and community ideas floating around to the next level. Here’s to connecting in person and seeing ideas come to life. xo, grace

Victoria made this collage to give us an idea of what the Makeshift Society clubhouse will look like when it opens this fall!

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  • 1) i love that you said sf and not san fran
    2) i love face to face interaction
    3) i love you promoting awesome projects


  • Wonderful idea! Makes me think of quilting bees and barn raisings when people were isolated by rural life and chores (I know, not a perfect analogy), but now we isolate our corporeal selves behind the computer.

  • This is so awesome. Congrats to all of you on this exciting & innovative adventure!

  • Love this! Must be something in the air. Several woman artists and small business owners here in Memphis have been discussing that we want something like this. Would love to know how they got it started.

  • In my opinion nothing can replace human contact. There’s something to be said about being face to face with other people and discussing your ideas. It can have a profound impact on your life. I have recently experienced this myself so I can totally relate!

  • Rena! It’s happening!! I’m so happy watching this unfold, and can’t wait to see it in person. Here’s to the power of in-person; I believe face time and making personal connections are invaluable to creativity and productivity. Congratulations on making it happen!

  • Wow! Not only inspiring but this post and Makeshift really remind me how joyful in-person experiences are. Definitely going to put out some feelers here in my neighborhood :) Thanks for the kick!

  • Hear, hear! This looks like it is going to be amazing and makes me wish I still lived in the Bay Area. Kudos to the founders!

  • This is so very cool and would join in a heartbeat if I still lived in San Francisco! Does anyone know of anything similar to this in the LA area? It’s such a great idea and I didn’t realize how much I’ve been needing to join a creative community like this until I read this post!

    PS – I absolutely agree with the importance of in-person interaction! It always feels so good when I make it happen.

  • The Writer’s Block in Denver is a co-working community for writers — with workspace set up on the garden level of a former church (members like to ask each other “if you will be at church tomorrow”). I so wish there was a space like this near me — but this post makes me wonder why I can’t be the one to make it happen!

    Here’s some info on The Writer’s Block: http://www.sharicaudron.com/287.html

  • So amazing. I just moved from NYC to LA, and it would be so fantastic if there was something similar here, to experience some in-person community and meet new people. Here’s hoping — or maybe I’ll just make one!

  • YEAH! Makers in Seattle is totally doing the same thing up here. Plus, we’ve got a local blogger group (Seattle Bloggers Unite) with a private Facebook page and monthly meetups. I am SO supportive of anything brings us all face to face — IRL is the future of the blogging community.

    Here’s a link to the FB page if any Seattleites want to join: http://www.facebook.com/groups/seattle.bloggers.unite/

  • thanks Grace, and thanks everybody for your sweet comments. i want to check out Makers now! it’s my dream to see this spread – i’d love to open something up in LA and NYC someday. meanwhile, i encourage everyone to start their own meetup – it’s all about the people, really, and not so much the space, though of course we are going to make ours as good-lookin’ as possible :)

  • YES! If you’re in Seattle I highly recommend joining Seattle Bloggers Unite! It’s a supportive community that encourages growth by sharing ideas and learning from others.

  • Amazing stuff! I live in Chicago and have been scheming to create something similar here for crafting/diy-ing/photography/blogging. If any fellow creative Chicagoans read this and are interested, feel free to Email me: efidag@gmail.com

  • Ingenious! You go girls! Maybe you could develop a model for the rest of us to utilize in our areas. I am an artist working alone in my studio daily, often screaming for the companionship of human beings in the art world. Let’s face it, dogs, music and husbands , drop-by-friends are all wonderful necessities but an actual ‘go-to-place’ where other creative types are gathered for inspiration can not be underestimated to fulfill our potential. And to keep our sanity!

  • These coworking, networking, space-sharing places are popping up in communities across the US – not just in the “usual” metropolitan cities.
    Shreveport, Louisiana has Cohabitat (Cohab), so if you think this is something that your city or town can’t do or sustain — think again!

  • Brilliant idea! Sometimes there is nothing like looking at a fellow creative person across the room for a second opinion…even if you don’t end up agreeing with them, lol. I wish you success and hope you start one in LA. :)

  • This is such a great idea!! It’d be great if you reach to other people across the country with similar ideas. All the best!

  • Rebekka – The Brick Factory opened in Nashville This year. It’s a coworking space for artists. It’s just opened this past spring and Neing a member has allowed me to start making furniture again after a long break.

    Check it out here: http://www.brickfactorynashville.com/

  • Love this concept! Great idea on starting chapters in our different cities! Personal interactions are so important to our creative minds! Just visited the Renegade Craft fair in Los Angles yesterday and thought something similar. I felt so inspired by everyone I met. We need this make shift society in Los angles too!

  • I love that this is a space focused on making & creating. Yay, for that! I live in SF and have tried five co-working spaces in the last few years and the problem fro me was that all the co-workers were almost exclusively in tech. I now have an awesome little space of my own, but I just put in an application to become a salon member at Makeshift so that I can get involved an be part of a creative community. This is such a great idea!

  • LOVE hearing about this! I relocated to Brooklyn from the Bay Area about a year ago and have been *craving* for something like this here. Luckily, I’ve been fortunate enough to meet a fellow lady entrepreneur and we get together for drinks and discussions whenever we have a chance. It is INCREDIBLY helpful! We are always brainstorming new ideas and giving each other feedback that I don’t think we could ever really get online.

    We often talk about starting some sort of meet up group similar to this all the time! Would love to make it happen, but where to start?!?

  • Rena – Can you tell me where the colorful area rug is from in your collage? I love it!

  • Can’t wait!! I too work in my stuido all day and sometimes just need another creative soul to bounce ideas off of or just to be amongst other makers. After hearing Grace’s interview with the founder of 3rd Ward, I wondered if we didn’t have something like that here in Northern Cal; a divine and inspirational resource for fostering creative mojo. Thanks for enlightening us about Makeshift Society!

  • it’s so exciting to see commenters here signing up for Makeshift Society! we are going to have some fun :) the rug is from Blu Dot, this or the next collection i think. it’s on our wish list.

  • Just took a look at the Makeshift Society website. Looks like the fantastic community space I have been dreaming of – classes and events, consultations with experts, clubhouse shared amenities – including bikes(!). I may have to move or be inspired to create the same thing here. THANK you for your inspiration! (Signed – longing in Toronto)