This is the second part of the article on makers in Bangkok (see part 1 here). I was quite lucky that the 2 spaces I found were pretty close to my hotel in the east part of Bangkok. One that I missed but will try to meet next time I’m in Bangkok is fablab@school.
Makerspace Bangkok is an initiative from John, from the Netherlands, who has been living in Thailand for more than 10 years. He couldn’t find any place to make his own stuff, so decided to start the place in December 2013. Most shops are not very helpful when it comes to prototyping. Like Sophie, who currently is working on her industrial design university project there, told us that most shops operate the machines and if anything goes wrong, they put the culprit on your file and make you pay again. What the space offers to Sophie is a real designer perspective. According to John, designers have to go through the prototyping stage, otherwise, they don’t know how to make good designs, without production knowledge they just produce drawings.
The small “tube” house in this south east residential area of Bangkok has a real spirit of makers. John invested in quite a good deal of equipment and definitely knows his stuff when it comes to putting them into use. On the ground floor, heavy machines like CNC, laser cut, woodworking, lathe and mill. On the first floor will soon be a leather working area, the second floor has working tables for electronics and 3D printing. On the third floor a kitchenette and eating/relaxing area that is used for meetups and presentations , and on the top floor a rooftop for working with smelly things that need ventilation and an area for experimenting with aquaponics.
His idea with this space is also to foster innovation in Bangkok. He noticed quite wisely that people tend to think that security lies in having a safe job like being a civil servant, while real safety lies in knowledge. That’s why he left his previous job and that’s how he taught himself programming. He wants to encourage people to do the same and fight for themselves, for the knowledge they have to gain.
He started the space with a 500 baht (20$) monthly membership program. But it didn’t work out. His analysis is that people in Bangkok are very busy with their work and have no free time (not much holidays) or when having free time they like to spend with friends and family… Now he really wants to target people with real prototyping projects. They are difficult to reach and social networks doesn’t seem to help here. Facebook just produces noise, but no transformation. Meetup is a bit more qualitative. John believes more in word of mouth.
Johns says the place isn’t quite a makerspace, but a prototype space. The space provides digital fabrication services, and coaching from him or other members. Currently the space is closed, open only after appointment, until he manages to sort out the administrative paperwork, but he hopes to reopen soon with a focus on workshops: courses where people can take home what they’ve been working on, and access to the space at certain days of the week, e.g. Mondays for electronics, Tuesdays for 3d printing, etc.
His piece of advice for Fablab Saigon? Know who you are targeting and don’t try to on board people who are not real doers!