With its walls in various hues of blue and panoramic paintings of serene ocean swells, Blue Mind Coworking puts members in the right frame of mind...
MASS Collective helps members make with materials and community
MASS Collective in Atlanta, Georgia just turned 10 years old. But nobody noticed.
The team and members were just too busy in the 7,000 square foot makerspace — fabricating, making, collaborating, creating, forming, destroying, constructing, and more.
We asked Founder and Executive Director Gabriella Mooney to share more about the organization and its mission. MASS Collective uses Coworks software to manage its makerspace and equipment.
“MASS Collective is built on inclusivity,” she said. “When I started, there was one other woman in the makerspace. There was one queer person. Very few people of color. My first initiative was to ask these communities, what do you need? How do we make a safe space for you? I reached out to communities and found a femme welding teacher, Hispanic artisans, black woodworkers. We held events with queer organizations and it just sort of snowballed.
But it’s not about diversity. It’s inclusion. And we identify people by their craft. If you're a woodworker, you're a woodworker. You’re not a black woodworker. You’re not a female woodworker.
I'm not necessarily the best person for this job. But I am the person most willing to listen to people who know what the hell they're talking about.”
“One characteristic in particular that I enjoy about our space is the wealth of knowledge that each member brings on any given day,” shared Ato Ribiero, in this interview with Rough Draft Atlanta. “MASS serves as a watering hole for a wide range of artists and makers of various backgrounds and on the most random days, I have worked alongside incredible makers that have contributed invaluable feedback, ideation solutions, and warm conversations. I cherish how familial our community has become over the years.”
Mooney gives every single prospective member tour herself to make sure each person is a good fit. Though she rarely has to turn anyone down these days, as the culture of MASS Collective is so strong, it’s clear up front about what the organization stands for and who they serve.
“We don't want to be an exclusive club. But in order to be a safe space, we have standards that people have to meet, with a code of conduct we call our MASS 10 Commandments. If the culture is strong, you don't have to do a lot of work to protect it — because it protects itself.”
Members at MASS Collective are from all walks of life, ages, backgrounds, and disciplines. Complete beginners work alongside folks who want to learn a new hobby as well as veteran craftspeople with 40 years of experience. There are even old-timer artisans and tool jockeys who just downsized their personal workshops and don’t have the space to tinker anymore.
“It really does run the gamut,” Mooney said. “We get people who are artists, we get people who are just making furniture, we get hobbyists, we get like experimental artists.”The makerspace has an apprenticeship program as an entry level way for people who can't afford to join. This helps them get in the door, undergo some training, and get access to the shop. Often those people either move into staff positions or become members.
And the same thing happens with the MASS classes — people will take a class or two, then they love it, then they'll get a membership. The attraction for apprentices and students is the same: the blend of an inclusive community with the high quality of equipment.
“I decided a while ago that it was important for us to be a production-level shop. We want people to be able to run their businesses out of here. And if they can't run their business out of here, then we're not really different from the other makerspaces.
“I want to fill a need,” Mooney explained, “because if it's a need someone else is filling, there’s no point in us doing it. Let’s support them. Take children’s classes, for example. Another local space called Decatur Makers does that, and they do it well. So I send people over there. But there wasn't a professional-level shop around and maintained at a professional level. That’s why we receive referrals for jobs. MASS itself no longer does any of that, but I refer them out to members.”
The work products that members create at MASS Collective is just as varied, unique, and creative as the community. Mooney shared examples.
“There is one artist named Jason. He's working with Fulton County Art Lab. He's a clothing designer, but he's also tech-focused. He’s creating clothing as well as the interactive window they are displayed in, where you can try them on virtually. And he’s building the whole thing here at MASS. It’s a first, where one artist integrates fiber, woodworking, and AR.
Another artist is one of our shop managers. Ato creates his pieces out of scrap from our shop. These insanely beautiful, African-inspired quilts in massive panels, all sustainably sourced.”
Mooney’s favorite example was a small project she herself led.
“I wanted to create something that used every discipline in the shop. I would get a bunch of people involved together just to see what would happen. So we built a small box and then we wired it with LEDs. And then we lasered the top of the box out of a mirror. Then we 3D scanned and 3D printed my ex-husband holding our baby.”
This is what anyone can do at MASS Collective — especially when people work together. And Mooney’s tireless work isn’t unnoticed, as she was awarded $20,000 by Intuit Quickbooks on their second annual Small Business Hero Day and was featured in the company’s advertorial in The New York Times.
But Mooney isn’t satisfied. MASS Collective will continue to make of itself something bigger, better, and stronger. As she told Shoutout Atlanta, “Our work will never be done, and we will be constantly adapting and learning and adjusting to meet the needs of our community and the expanding global community.”