Normally, makers (artists, entrepreneurs and enthusiasts) are found working away on any given day at Mixxer, an 8,000square-foot community makerspace in downtown Winston-Salem. But the building has been closed due to COVID-19 since mid-March, causing about 50 Mixxer members to lend a hand.
They began working from home using their own equipment to produce over 9,000 pieces of personal protective equipment accessories, including 600+ laser-cut face shields, 300 face masks, 3D buckles (hold masks off ears), and more. Lyndon Bray and his son, Sullivan Anderson Bray, as well as several other members and volunteers, haven’t let the rain stop the donations delivered to frontline medical workers in Winston-Salem, Kernersville, Greensboro, High Point, Asheboro, Raleigh, Durham and Whiteville.
Now, Mixxer needs help from the community and hopes to recoup lost revenues spent on materials with “A Make Sale” online auction from June 20-27. Items donated by Mixxer members include hand-crafted jewelry, paintings, furniture, lamps, home goods, photography and more by over 30 enthusiasts and professional artists, makers, craftspeople and sewists, according to community manager Elaine Lamson. She gives credit to local member and artist, Nicole Uzzell, who formed a Mixxer member fundraising committee, and donated the first piece of work.
J. Alan Shelton founded Mixxer in 2014 and has served as executive director since 2017.
Shelton told YES! Weekly that Mixxer had about eight people using 3D printers at home (some purchased specifically for this project). He said, “you would have to spend a million dollars to purchase every piece of equipment at Mixxer, but for $50 a month, you have access to all of it, and all you have to do is be safe, and be nice.” He said that when expensive plastic ($150 per 4-foot by 8-foot sheet) was no longer available for the face shields, they switched to punching holes in purchased book report covers that were not as high-quality, but would prevent droplets from hitting you in the face. He said they had to continue to adapt with materials they could find.
Shelton said Mixxer’s members wouldn’t normally have anything in common other than living in the same community, but they share a common bond in their desire to create, learn, and support each other. He said a member who is a doctor at Baptist, contacted him with an idea he didn’t know what to do with. He told Shelton that since COVID-19 dies at 50 degrees Celsius, he thought it would help sick people to breathe heated air, but you couldn’t expect someone who is running a fever to sit inside a sauna. It took another IT tech guy, and two electrical engineers to make a “Micro-Sauna” (just recently peer-reviewed, see link). This prototype allows someone to breathe heated air (80-90 degrees Celsius) safely. He said it could easily be improved upon, but they don’t plan to patent, so everyone in the medically qualified fields may make them.
“Mixxer is kind of like a gym, but instead of working out on fitness equipment, you work out your ideas using tools and technology you might not have at home,” Lamson said. “Mixxer provides laser cutters, 3D printers, a full metal shop including welding equipment and iron forges, a complete woodworking shop including lathes and a Computer Numerical Control machine, a computer lab for designing, with both dirty and clean workspaces where you can spread out and create. Usually, people can receive this hands-on training by local artists and instructors on all of the equipment, by purchasing a one-day, multiple-day, monthly pass, or by becoming members through individual and family memberships.”
Shelton said area college and high school interns would develop a virtual expo to replace their monthly ConnExpos, a formula for making how-to videos for both members and non-members to use, along with new programming opportunities. Shelton said they have been working late every day to get the building ready for when it is safe to return.
“We’re being extra cautious,” he said. “We care about the people who come here. We’re here to serve the community, and being a good citizen is a part of what we do. Our mission is to make technology, tools and community accessible to anyone. I’ve seen someone take a weird idea they couldn’t figure out, and soon had five people working on it in a collaborative spirit. It has exceeded my expectations. Mixxer makes it easier for people to do things for themselves, and if they can’t get a job, they can come here and make things they need. It’s so important to make it accessible to everyone, and when we have a few thousand success stories, that will be my success story.”
Wanna bid and buy?
June 20-27, “A Make Sale” online art auction at www.wsmixxer.org, Mixxer, 1375 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr., Winston-Salem, (336) 265-7362.
ALL PUBLIC ACTIVITIES POSTPONED UNTIL ITS SAFE TO REOPEN.