If you’re hoping to explore your creativity, create connections with your community, or finally get that side-hustle off the ground in 2023, Erin Hoard is on your side. As executive director of TinkerMill, she knows there’s no better place to start. 

Erin Hoard, Executive Director of TinkerMill (Courtesy Erin Hoard)

Located in Longmont, TinkerMill is the largest makerspace in The Rocky Mountain region, providing thousands of users access to a variety of tools, equipment, and resources for making, prototyping, and creating. The non-profit organization offers access to a wide range of tools and equipment, such as 3D printers, laser cutters, CNC mills, woodworking tools, and more. 

Since its inception 10 years ago, TinkerMill has helped launch more than 30 businesses, including LoveLevel, a sustainable jewelry company, says Hoard. Member accomplishments include designing installations for Meow Wolf and creating a COVID mask that won a prestigious innovation award, 

We caught up with Hoard to learn more about how you can take advantage of all the rich opportunities TinkerMill has to offer. 

Longmont Magazine: TinkerMill is an amazing facility with opportunities to explore so many different shops, including woodworking, textiles and sewing, metalwork, fabrication, stained glass, pottery, flameworking, 3D printing, and an electronics lab. What’s the best way to get started? 

Erin Hoard:Start by looking at our website, tinkermill.org. From there, you can click on any of the shops to learn more about what tools and supplies they offer. 

Next, come and check out the facility in person. We offer free tours every Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m., which you can sign up for online. Then, you’d go to our website to purchase a membership and attend an orientation session. Before you make a reservation to use a shop for the first time, you need to attend a shop-specific orientation, where one of our volunteers will show you around, go over safety precautions, and answer any questions. You’ll also be able to sign up for specific classes to help you get started with your first projects (and later, more advanced projects). All class details are listed under the “calendar” tab on our website. 

LM:What would you say to someone who feels they don’t have time for creativity? 

EH:  Of course, there are only so many hours in a day. But if you can carve out the time to come, you might be surprised to find it’s not just the items but the connections you make that are so valuable. For example, we have a lot of older guys that come here to make things. They used to tinker alone in their garages, but now they come here. Over time, they’ve built a community amongst themselves, and many of them have started bringing their wives, too and it’s really sweet to see. 

LM: I love that TinkerMill has classes in place to make sure the space is accessible for makers of all ability levels. Can you tell us more about what TinkerMill is doing to create an inclusive community? 

EH: For one thing, you do not need to be a member to take our classes. You can always take a class just to test the waters. We also offer a low-income membership meant for students and seniors. Meanwhile, it’s clear that TinkerMill doesn’t reflect the diversity of the greater Longmont community. In hopes of changing that, we’ve joined the Latino Chamber of Commerce and forging connections with that community, which is very entrepreneurial to begin with. 

I should also mention that TinkerMill has three rules: No politics, no religion, and no sleeping. That last one is mainly for safety, but we like to keep politics and religion off the table to keep the environment fun and welcoming.