A year ago, Jenny Feinberg began a social experiment connecting creative freelancers while they work. Instead of sitting alone in cafes, her company Makespace brings them together to bounce around ideas, share work or simply enjoy the company.
“We hope to transform the culture of San Francisco to a stronger sense of belonging so it’s not just transactional,” Feinberg said. “To focus on creative work that’s not exclusively surrounding tech.”
To celebrate their one hundredth event, Feinberg and Meg Mansfield threw a celebration on a rainy Sunday at Sunnyside’s lush, little-known Sunnyside Conservatory, a historic structure on Monterey Boulevard.
Attendees enjoyed a yoga class, jazz brunch with local band Night Animals, music from local performer Nina Grae, art and collage-making stations and plenty of bean bag chairs and rugs for lounging.
Lounging is a big part of Makespace. As a barefoot man approached the steps, one of the members mentioned he was a professional cuddler. At times, the event felt like one big sleepover.
“Makespace has a different energy to it. The events are a lot more interactive” than your average coworking meetup, said musician Jay Costa of Night Animals, who first heard about the group online.
With a background in politics and community organizing, Feinberg started reaching out to local freelance writers and artists to assess their needs. A big believer in art through community action, she saw a lack of affordable and friendly common spaces to foster creativity and “wanted to resolve the situation on my own.”
Many Makespace coworking events take place at the “Creative Palace”, an empty home on the Castro-Noe Valley border or other underutilized spaces, like restaurants during lunch hours. People pay a $22 fee for some events and a suggested donation for others. They can spend the whole day working. Snacks or potluck dinners are often provided.
Cost is a big factor in a city where rents eat up most people’s earnings.
“If you don’t spend $700 a month for a co-working space” options are few, Feinberg said as she stood in front of the conservatory handing out colorful cards bearing the words “You belong here”.
Set up with quiet areas for introverts and more social ones for extroverts, Makespace members don’t have to do creative work—it’s fine to do your taxes, plan a trip or catch up on work emails. Most are San Francisco transplants in their 20s and 30s, some with full-time, professional careers. For those with multiples jobs, from freelance writer to yoga instructor, coworking events can be a break from the isolated world of working alone.
“It definitely matches what I was looking for,” Mara Herrera said. She became involved with the group after attending a speech Feinberg gave on personal passions.
For Herrera, Makespace was a natural fit. As the founder of My Life’s Simple Pleasures, she organizes pop-up events to help people showcase their passions. Her last event, an Italian dinner in an art gallery, was hosted by a computer engineer with a passion for cooking.
Susan Lin, a web designer and freelance illustrator, joined Makespace to foster her art practice. Lin has displayed and sold her work through connections she made at Makespace.
“I’ve kept coming back because it’s been both a great place to work on my art as well as my day job,” she said. “I didn’t feel discriminated working on either of those two disciplines.”
MakeSpace organizers Jenny Feinberg and Meg Mansfield.