Makerspaces - Discovering and Encouraging a Passion: The Story of LTForge (A Case Study)

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SERIES PART 3: A CASE STUDY By Pierre Theriot, Jr., AIA, A4LE


As parents, we strive to provide the best for our children. We do our very best to steer and encourage them to find their passion and be successful. But in the end, it’s up to them to decide what they want to do with their lives. As demonstrated in our previous articles, the fundamental goal of the makerspace movement is to provide opportunities for students to explore subjects that interest them with the hope that it will guide them to discover their own passion and eventual success. In many cases, passion is found outside the classroom. The challenge for parents is to recognize it and support it!

The question is, will you be ready? • Will you give them the tools and resources to develop and succeed? • Are you able to assess the value of their passion and see the potential? • Will you let them make their own Makerspace?

These are questions that I personally had to address. My son, now 16 years old, who discovered his passion in three short years, has developed his interest in functional art into a legitimate, profitable business, and he just can’t get enough. He is a bladesmith! He makes knives of all shapes and sizes.


From the very beginning, he was so determined to succeed, so I decided to be cautiously present and let him see what would come of it. To everyone’s surprise, in nearly his first attempt, he made a beautiful knife. My wife and I were so surprised, we began to proudly post images on social media, and he received lots of attention. So much so that people started asking where they could buy his work. It was then when I realized that this was special, and we would support his endeavors. As he began to create an interface with the public, his social confidence increased exponentially. • He had less reluctance to speak assertively. • He developed momentum and a sense of accomplishment. • He was empowered to learn more. • He had an intense period of self-guided research. • He found new techniques and processes that could allow for more experimentation.

There was a lot of trial and error, but he relished in it. As Daniel Pink, New York Times bestselling author, said, “Make Excellent Mistakes.” So, although there were hiccups, as soon as one project was complete, he was on to the next, always trying to do better than before.


While knives were in production, they sold quickly. His sales became so frequent that he was never able to build up an inventory. It was at this point that it was decided the business needed to grow. It just so happened that his cousin Trace, who was also very hands-on, began to develop his craft for knife making. Once the team was established, they formed LTForge. Until then, they had been roughly making do using the tools available. They learned many lessons of a successful business: • You must spend money to make money. • You’re only as good as the tools you use. • Investment in new and better tools is necessary to grow.

The workshop was divided into two spaces, the handle-making shop and the forge. Because there was limited space, there was a constant evolution in the layout to facilitate the most efficient means of production.

They created their own Makerspace, and it was authentic. THE BUSINESS

As the business developed within the makerspace, the effort resulted in the following: • A partnership that was predominantly centered around a collaboration between forging, woodworking, and finishing • The realization of the need to manage money • The creation of business accounting • Obtaining a Tax ID number • The development of a company brand with a logo, business cards, social media accounts, and portfolio • Borrowing funds to acquire larger equipment and repaying the loan

All these aspects were tremendous learning opportunities for two passionate teenagers borne out of the activity within their makerspace.


Throughout their experience, the makerspace has evolved. Having a limited amount of space has required constant “creative” re-organization. However, in general, lessons were learned:




All work surfaces should be at a standing height to allow for frequent movement back and forth from various tools to the project.

Provide dust collection systems and natural ventilation.

Provide large doors that can be opened to the outside. Some work should be done outdoors.


Have labeled fire extinguishers in every work area.

Organize tool types. Ex: drills with drill bits, hand tools in one consolidated location, saws with saw blades, etc. Make them easily visible.

3 Provide lots of task lighting at each tool station as well as natural light when possible.

4 Quick access to power outlets is critical—minimum of 2 outlets per every 36” of counter space.

6 7 Have a cabinet for personal protective equipment (PPE) such as safety glasses, gloves, face shields, dust masks, etc.

8 Access to compressed air is almost as important as electrical power.

9 Provide areas in the makerspace to display past & current projects to reference for future projects.

11 Be flexible. Be willing to reorganize the whole space when you see an opportunity to be more efficient.

12 Provide a clean space for digital tools for internet research. YouTube is a powerful resource. Install a computer or smart TV with Wi-Fi connectivity

13 Make sure space is properly ventilated if using tools that suspend particles in the air.

H/S EXPERIENCE As human beings, we spend our personal and professional time within the built environment. As Architects, we are privileged to create spaces where people can gather, live, learn, work, eat, sleep, and worship. Therefore, it is incumbent that we design spaces that enhance the quality of life and nurture a greater passion for living. Our design approach is influenced by the environment, culture, and community in which architecture exists. To take it further... We Design for Life. H/S KNOWLEDGE COMMUNITY A portion of the education discussed herein is a “learning by doing” approach. This kinesthetic learning path allows individuals to deepen their understanding of what, why, and how. An environment that supports this effort increases learning and awareness. Such spaces are generally known as “makerspaces.” H/S supports this type of learning environment. Stay tuned for our upcoming issue, where we delve more deeply into makerspace environments. Should you have a project that embraces immersion and makerspaces, contact H/S for further information. In part 4 of Makerspaces, we will look at furniture within a Makerspace. So stay tuned for more!

As a parent and mentor, there are valuable lessons to be learned: • • • •

Let them find their passion. Support their endeavors. Give them the resources to get started and then guide them to a point where they’re able to earn their own success. Teach them to love their work.

This is the essence of the Makerspace Movement. Because, as my son told me,

“Dad, it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey.”


Pierre Theriot is a principal at Holly & Smith Architects. He is a member of the Louisiana Chapter of the Association for Learning Environments (A4LE) and Design Director for Holly & Smith Architects.