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Central Point is for makers

At a blocked-off corner in downtown Central Point, an elementary school’s booth provided a glimpse of greater do-it-yourself possibilities.

Stocked with machined garden decorations, handmade soaps and laser-cut wooden key hangers, among the most remarkable traits of Jewett Elementary School’s “Made in Southern Oregon” booth was how easily it could have been confused with the works of many of the dozens of other artists and artisans lining Pine Street.

The new “Made in Southern Oregon” event brought a crowd estimated at close to 1,000 people to downtown Central Point Saturday, drawing attention to about 70 vendor booths — minus “a couple” vendors that didn’t show because of weather concerns, according to City of Central Point Recreation Coordinator Nikki Petersen. The event, which city officials hope to hold yearly, showcased a revitalized and more pedestrian-friendly downtown while kicking off summer events for the city’s Parks & Recreation department.

Each item at Jewett’s booth was made by students from kindergarten through fifth grade as part of the elementary school’s new Maker’s Lab.

“They use everything, from drills to jigsaws — pretty much all of it,” Stead said.

Stead showed off a camp stool made by fifth-graders, which Stead showed could hold a grownup, yet fold to a compact size from the center.

The stool was more than a shop project, according to Tess Siemer, Jewett’s vice principal. Each student made their own stool ahead of “outdoor school” slated for next month, but they also learned the math and science behind the stool’s construction.

“If our kids can do this, think of their potential by high school and beyond,” Siemer said.

Jewett students will be able to foster those skills at the new CraterWorks MakerSpace, which also celebrated its grand opening Saturday. Leigh Blair, general manager of the nonprofit facility converted from the old Crater Iron warehouse, described it as a “library of equipment.”

The rocking sounds of Vancouver, Washington band DND7 highlighted the creative, free-form space — one part workshop, one part meeting space, another part computer lab all mixed with warehouse amounts of space and wide doors.

CraterWorks managing partner Taneea Browning envisioned people creating everything from hand-held 3D-printed inventions to oversize laser-cut metal pieces.

Browning was particularly excited about a program the nonprofit offers small businesses. For $375 a month, a business owner gets their own 10-foot by 10-foot space plus access to the space’s saws and welders, advanced computers and other equipment.

She also hopes that people with wood, metals, electronics or any other experience can get involved to share their knowledge. As an example, she learned while applying for a business license that a city employee had an extensive background working with metals.

“People who have these skills are just hiding in the background,” Browning said.

Saying she doesn’t have a “30-second elevator pitch,” Browning said the ambitious project can be hard to explain before people see the space for themselves.

“It inspires people to do different things,” Browning said. “I don’t think even they know what it is yet.”

Find more information about the space at CraterWorks.org.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTCrimeBeat.

Pine Street was blocked off Saturday in downtown Central Point for the ‘Made in Southern Oregon’ fair. Mail Tribune photo by Andy Atkinson