THOMASTON — Within a nondescript, low slung building next to Flagship Theater, festive balloons decorate the Midcoast Collaborative sign; otherwise, it’s easy to miss it, tucked away next to an old-fashioned bridal shop. Inside, however, there is some serious creative energy taking place. It’s where eight local men and women use the industrial space as a workshop and office, sharing resources, equipment, and even ideas on each other’s work.
“There’s no boss, everyone is an equal member of the collective. It’s actually a tenant association,” said MidCoLab member Isabella Pierson, a designer and a builder of modern wood furniture.
The building used to be a brake service garage with office space, which everyone can use. The back of the building is informally partitioned into smaller hives — each bay is set up differently depending on the person’s interests.
Whereas Jill Caldwell, a fine art painter and Stefanie Mojonnier, a graphic designer, printmaker and photographer, might have cans of paint, canvases or art supplies in their sections, Isabella Pierson’s space contains woodworking tools and various projects in production.
Other members include Andy White, a sculptor, fabricator, metal worker; Casey Hufnagel, a builder, timber framer, and concrete fabricator; Seth Bournival, a builder and cabinetmaker; Trisha Badger: Managing Director of the World Ocean Observatory, and Zander Shaw, an architect.
Further down the storage area of the building, it looks like shop class in high school all over again.
“Everyone brought their own machines,” said Isabella, pointing to the various woodworking and metalworking machines situated in the area. “That’s my band saw. That drill press over there, Andy and I bought together. The table saw is on loan from a friend. Because nobody could afford to buy all of this stuff and keep it in one place, this is how we’re able to pool together all of our equipment and share it.”
Each member pays insurance and an equal amount to cover the rent, whether they use the MidCoLab every week or just occasionally for individual projects. It also serves as a storage space for stuff that might not fit in the garage or shed.”We have an agreement drawn up that says how we behave in the space and with each other, what happens if equipment needs to be fixed, and everyone gets a vote,” said Isabella. “It is becoming much more popular to have co-working spaces, and also for high-tech stuff where people can’t afford to buy big equipment on their own.”
Rockland seems to be at the heart of the Maker-Designer-Artist collaborative scene with two other incarnations of this concept in existence. A woodworking collaborative exists in the former Bicknell Manufacturing Co. on Lime Street in Rockland, and the other, the Steel House, a center for design, technology, and education opened on Main Street in 2014.
As a collective, MidCoLab has been around about three years, and just this past summer, formally opened their space up to the public with an open house with all members participating. “We’re just now getting traction,” said Isabella. “Ninety-nine percent of the time you get more back than what you put in. For example, one of us will be working and need some kind of tool. Another person will walk by and say, ‘I happen to have that tool and you can use it.’”
Being around creative people for a length of time lends to an exchange of ideas and advice that strengthen one another’s projects.
“We’re all trying to make a living,” said Bella. “The amazing thing is we just happen to have a great group of people who are interested in seeing everyone’s success.”
The sharing of space and equipment naturally leads to collaboration on commissioned projects as well.
“Casey was hired to build a timber frame on an island last summer, so he hired Andy and I to help him cut the frames for that. We did all the work for that here and then hauled all of the materials out to the island.”
The collaborative is currently working on figuring out a way to open the space up to entrepreneurs who just want a short-term lease for specific projects. MidCoLab is also accepting applications from creative individuals seeking shared work space. There are currently desk spaces available in a communal workshop/office environment.
For more information, visit: facebook.com/midcolab
Kay Stephens can be reached at email@example.com