The Mission of Rachel "Crafty" Sadd

Rachel's mission was to remake Ace Makerspace to be inclusive of the larger community.

Rachel Sadd prototyping a project for a "Cozy Things" Sewing Workshop (photo via Ace Makerspace)

Welcome to issue #4 of Make Things, a weekly newsletter for the Maker community by Dale Dougherty. This newsletter lives on the web at

Table of Contents

The Mission of Rachel “Crafty” Saad of Oakland’s Ace Makerspace

At Make, we were sad to learn about the loss of Rachel “Crafty” Sadd, Executive Director of Ace Makerspace in North Oakland, who passed away in February of secondary complications from cancer. I reached out to Kent Jenkins, who served as an advisor to Ace Makerspace, and asked him to write about Rachel and her makerspace mission, which can be an inspiration as well as an aspiration for any makerspace.

Including the larger community in the space

by Kent Jenkins

I met Rachel after her first life threatening illness, and she was clearly on a mission. A mission that didn’t involve any self-pity, with a method that never let anyone feel invalidated because of their circumstance, identity, or ability. That’s the first thing you need to know about Rachel: She never did anything without first considering the people involved.

My experience of being with Rachel was consistent, whether sitting across from her at a clean, brightly lit Ace work table or staring at each other through a Zoom frame. 1) Check in; 2) Define the problems or the opportunities, no sugar coating allowed; 3) Make sure we actually understand what’s being said, peeling away the buzz words, revealing the heart of the matter; 4) Imagine solutions…get right to what can be done now and what could be done better in the future. Rachel appreciated the value of time. She didn’t want to waste her's or anyone else’s.

To be a friend to Rachel pretty much meant becoming a friend to Ace. She was beyond passionate about her corner of the maker community and the people in it. She was experienced in how to run teams and manage individuals. For Rachel, the idea of a makerspace as a subsidized tool library for experienced users was privileged and unethical. A non-profit makerspace had to not only build a welcoming and educating community within, it had to make the larger community it served more resilient. This meant making beginners feel welcome. This meant being transparent in how the space was run. This meant mutual aid projects, like COVID masks for delivery drivers and air purifiers for smoked out residents. This meant an ongoing effort to have Ace’s membership look like the people of North Oakland and beyond...doing whatever was needed to make membership accessible to that geographical community. 

The world according to Rachel, a standard of how we treat one another while we make together, is the world I want to live in. There’s magic in shared spaces of creation and recreation, as long as everyone feels safe and a sense of belonging. Rachel knew how to build that world. She had the rare ability to turn lofty goals into concrete, actionable steps. She could articulate the magic and how to get it. She inspired like minded people, some of them are trying to fill the void at Ace created by her passing. I think they’ll do it. Rachel’s world lives on.

Ace Makerspace Celebrating Rachel

Ace Makerspace also recently published “Celebrating the Life and Legacy of Executive Director, Rachel ‘Crafty’ Sadd” by Jacqueline Rossiter. Here is an excerpt:

On a camping trip with her new friends, (Rachel) started talking about her side gig making costumes and wearables for Burning Man folks. As a single mother of two with a full time day job in tech, she found the creative work extremely satisfying and could work at night. Hearing this story a new friend said, “you’ve got to see this laser that can cut fabric” and the rest was history.

“I fell in love with the possibilities and potential of Ace as a place where I could satisfy economic needs, be creative, make friends as an adult, and access things I couldn’t afford to access independently.”

— Rachel “Crafty” Sadd

A GoFundme fundraiser was set up by Rachel's family to help cover her expenses, realize her unfinished mural project, and start a scholarship at Ace in her name. The GoFundMe page also contains a link to RSVP for her celebration of life later this month.

The DIY Air Filter Project

During Covid, Rachel participated in several sessions of the Plan C series. She also shared the work that Ace Makerspace did to develop the 500 Filters projects, a DIY Air Filter project, an air filter strapped to a box fan. The DIY Air Filter was also useful for coping with the smoke from wildfire in California. Ace Makerspace made and distributed 500 of these fans during Covid. In 2021, the project appeared in Make: Magazine (Vol 79, page 110).

In this selfie, Rachel was working on the 500 Filters Mutual Aid collaboration with Homies Empowerment.

Makerspaces as Civic Labs

I gave a talk at a fundraising event for Public Invention, Robert Read’s organization that grew out of the response to Covid. Its mission is “Invent in Public, For the Public.” It has continued development on a number of complex projects.

In my talk, which you can view in the video below, I make the case that makerspaces should be viewed as a public resource, as labs for public invention and civic engagement. Unfortunately, few makerspaces receive public funding yet they can take on a civic mission.

Here’s some of that talk:

The movie Godzilla Minus One is a remake of the original 1959 Japanese monster movie, set in Tokyo after World War 2 had ended. With Godzilla rampaging through the city, the government is in disarray and the military has been disbanded.  To fight the monster, a group of citizens gather in a town-hall meeting knowing they are going to have to figure out something on their own. A tossled-hair engineer Kenji Noda gets up in front of the group and says that he has a plan to destroy Godzilla at sea. It probably doesn’t matter what his plan is but the group, which needs a plan, decides to try his.

This civic response reminded me of what I called Plan C during Covid four years ago. Small groups of makers used their knowledge and skills to manufacture PPE in their own local community for their own medical workers. 

So, going forward, what have we learned? 

The civic response of makers during Covid suggests that makerspaces could be an important part of our public infrastructure, a place where cooperation can produce results for a local community. “A makerspace shouldn’t be thought of as an amenity,” said Torres. “Makerspaces are essential because they enable community resiliency.”

The civic response is crucial. Capacity building is crucial. Flexibility in all forms is crucial. 

Makerspaces are a public resource, whether they are funded publicly or not, and few are. They are physical locations in communities; they are community-based organizations that can provide training, shared workspace with tools, and generalized expertise.  They are interdisciplinary. 

I can see how makerspaces can be tapped for research and development.  Let them tackle low priority work, projects that larger organizations can’t get to.  I’ve always thought that communities and government agencies should try to make public the problems that need to be solved – writing a specification for the problem itself and being open to whomever shows up to address it.

I’d like to leave you with a vision, something we might work toward.  That vision is organizing a network of makerspaces that can function as civic labs. They can be smaller with less overhead and bureaucracy. They can be connected to larger institutions and corporations because many of them have members who also work in such kinds of organizations.

Open Source Medical Supplies and Public Invention are very important to creating and maintaining a public R&D ecosystem. They can coordinate work across the network and help to raise the visibility of both the problems and the solvers. They might have ongoing relationships with a number of makerspaces.  We should think of how to distribute the work in an open manner – allowing teams from different places to work together and contribute to a larger cause. 

I was talking to Tom Igoe recently, a professor at ITP at NYU and a founding member of the Arduino team.  He said his own motto was “to build projects, not platforms.”   Makerspaces are a place to incubate projects, work that has a beginning and an end. Public Invention and OSMS might function as platforms.

We need funders to adapt. How can we get funders comfortable funding projects at makerspaces, in the way they are comfortable funding projects at universities or research institutions?  Funding projects in makerspaces also helps to support the makerspace itself.

I know two things. One is makerspaces and their member makers could be part of a long-term strategy for solving all kinds of problems.  Two is we have plenty of problems. Godzilla is coming.

LA Maker Faire

This Saturday, April 6, is the Los Angeles Maker Faire at the Los Angeles Historical Park. I will be there and I look forward to seeing makers and my friends from the LA Public Library, who organize the event along with “City of STEM.” Check out the schedule and list of makers on the Los Angeles Maker Faire website.

One of the makers I want to meet is Cal Poly Pomona student Ayden Wardell and his jetfan go-kart.

Here’s Ayden’s compelling bio:

I am an 18 year-old maker who is studying mechanical engineering at Cal Poly Pomona. Whenever I get time in between my classes, I enjoy working on my engineering projects and showing what's possible in a garage workshop. I am interested in many kinds of maker hobbies such as model rocketry and remote control aircraft, and with 3D printing and lathe machining, I have developed several experimental propulsion systems. However, my biggest projects have always been go-karts. From when I was around 10 years old, I have been building all kinds of go-karts, with some of the early ones not even having motors. As I learned from each go-kart model, I made improvements in structure and propulsion. Now, I have powerful electric motors and even an electric Jetfan on my latest go-Kart. Being a maker has taught me many basic skills of engineering which is why I continue to pursue my interests and learn much more in my college engineering classes.

Maker Break for Dreamers and Doers

Ben Jones, the director of the Ground Floor Makerspace at the University of Cincinnati, realized that the makerspace would be empty during spring break so he came up with the idea of Maker Break. Maker Break offers intensive programs for faculty and students that lead to certification for using the tools in the makerspace. The makerspace is used by students for capstone projects but also for their own personal projects, and Maker Break offers an opportunity for a deep dive into the makerspace and its equipment.

A UC News article, “Spring break renaissance: Makerspace becomes haven for innovation,” explained: “With a more than 168% increase in attendance from Maker Break’s first year, Jones noted 112 faculty and students attending over 175 times with more than 40 of those members being seniors finishing capstone projects. Now in its third year, Jones saw another 9% increase.”

This has never been just a pit stop. It's a sanctuary for the dreamers and the doers.

Ben Jones

We all need a maker break now and then.

I’d love to hear from you if you have ideas, projects or news items about the maker community. Email me - [email protected].