Coming Up: Exquisite Totes

yeah-tote-bagIllustration by Becky Simpson

Get in touch with your inner surrealist during Exquisite Totes, sponsored by Adobe Creative Cloud!

Becky Simpson, Illustrator and Adobe Creative Resident, has created different body parts for us to mix and match. And like the parlour game, Exquisite Corpse, you’ll grab a head, midriff, and some legs to screenprint a complete monster on your very own tote bag. This is a great chance to learn about the screenprinting process and meet other local designers. Not to worry if you don’t have experience, Kayrock will be here operating the screens and making the inky goodness happen.

Screen Shot 2015-09-08 at 4.15.30 PMImage from Kayrock Instagram 

As an Adobe Creative Resident, Becky is focusing her year long exploration on the creative process. While we enjoy some refreshments, Becky will share what inspired her and the steps she took to create the Exquisite Totes components.

Screen Shot 2015-09-08 at 4.50.17 PMBecky Simpson- image by Half Orange Photography

Never heard of Exquisite Corpse? Among the Surrealist techniques, Exquisite Corpse was a collaborative collage of words or images. Based on an old parlour game, it was played by several people, each of whom would draw something on a piece of paper, fold the paper to conceal their section, and pass it on to the next player. The result is an assemblage or creature that’s made of multiple ‘stripes’ that have very little relationship to each other beyond sharing common lines. Some lovely, crazy things emerge:


$10 buys you your new fave tote, drinks & snacks, and an evening spent playing, learning, and making with us! Get your tickets here.

Makeshift Brooklyn Will Close in Late October 2015


The Brooklyn location of Makeshift Society will close at the end of October. You can skip to the end if you’re a member and wondering about your membership; otherwise, please read on.

Running coworking spaces was never the plan. I mean, how could it be? It didn’t exist as a category 10 years ago (and in the eyes of the SBA and various tax authorities is still unclassifiable). Nevertheless, in 2012, with the support of friends, we took a giant leap of faith and opened Makeshift Society in San Francisco, a space for creative entrepreneurs to meet, to work, to take a nap, to hold a class, and to open themselves up to the messiness and randomness that is working around others when you are your own boss.

For us, the mission came first, and the label afterwards. It’s only three years later and it feels like everybody has heard of coworking. This industry has grown tremendously fast because it’s tied to real estate, and that industry ultimately has a huge effect on how cities and communities are shaped.

The funny thing is that we aren’t really interested in the real estate. For all that we value good design and great environments, we’re interested in people. They always have been, and always will be, the life of cities. Because the mission comes first, we strive to do things our way, and find people who jive with that. Bryan summed up our feels well in a blog post:

Makeshift is a trojan horse… It is a coworking space and a community, but it’s about providing people in the creative fields with new pathways to independence by giving them the resources, agency, and accountability they need to excel.

And so in 2014, we opened a second Makeshift in a gorgeous old industrial building in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. We felt the timing was right, the neighborhood was full of creative types, and people would want to work near where they lived. Using our experience of what works in San Francisco we tried the same thing in Brooklyn, only bigger! Lots of communal tables. A sane, low-pressure mood. A “pleasantly productive place to work”, as a member recently put it.


What we underestimated, though, is what people wanted. People want offices! They want a space with a door on it. Based on our own experiences collectively freelancing for decades, that didn’t really make sense to us. The last thing we wanted was to leave the loneliness of home and go into a tiny private cubicle. The shape of what people want in Brooklyn does not match our research and our best guess. Makeshift Society in San Francisco was thriving almost immediately, but Brooklyn has struggled to hit critical mass even after a year and a half.

How do we feel? Sad, of course, but also grateful. We’ve met so many friends, partners, neighbors and co-conspirators in NYC. We’ve held book launches and workshops and straight-up celebrations — even a magic show. The people flowing through the Brooklyn space have struck business relationships, spawned collaborations, and found plenty of mutual support. We’re proud of what we’ve done, and want to see it continue in some fashion.


We are not entirely sure what to do next; we have ideas, certainly, but no clear answers. We need your help. It hasn’t been easy for us to know when to put on a brave face and act like things are going according to plan, and when to reveal our own struggles, knowing that being open with one’s vulnerabilities is what makes a community strong. We made some mistakes when we opened the Brooklyn space, regarding elements of the business, but we DON’T think our original mission is a mistake, nor the community that has formed around the space.

We’ve tried our best to do something for people, and what we’ve learned is that we need to go back to our roots a bit — to the idea of a society that’s right there in our name — and ask for your help in shaping the future of Makeshift. We’re open to your ideas, and we’re listening to you.

Makeshift Brooklyn is looking for a solution, and hopefully you can help us. Perhaps you’re a medium-sized startup that wants to move into a turnkey space in Williamsburg. Maybe you’re a coworking space looking to expand into Brooklyn. Or you have the organizing bug and want to make Makeshift a cooperative of sorts, while maintaining our mission.

We’d love to hear what you think. Email us at or catch Bryan or Rena live via Skype. We’ll be holding office hours to talk all things Makeshift. Rena will be available by Skype (username: rena_tom) every Wednesday from August 5 – Oct 14 at noon-1pm PST and Bryan will be available weekly to meet in person at Makeshift Brooklyn.

If we don’t find a solution, we’ll gently wind things down toward the end of October. Rena will fly out from the West coast, not to mourn but to celebrate and give thanks to the umpteen people who have made Makeshift Society Brooklyn into the quirky, awesome community that it is today.


A spread from our recent feature in Metropolis Magazine with excellent photos by Mark Wickens.

If you’re a Brooklyn member and have questions about what this means, we’ve done our best to compile a FAQ. If there’s something else you’re curious about, follow the instructions at the bottom of the FAQ and we’ll get your specific questions answered too.

Oh! Some final things you should know: Makeshift SF is happy and healthy and turning three (!) this fall.

And even though these will be our last months, we’re still cooking up great partnerships and events in Brooklyn with our friends James Victore, Kelli Anderson, Sha Hwang, Elana Schlenker, the kind folk behind the Adobe Creative Residency, and more surprise guests to come. Stay tuned.

– Rena and Bryan

Posted by on August 4, 2015 and tagged with: Brooklyn

Member Spotlight: Laura Palotie

For this edition of our Member Spotlight we chatted with literary agent, journalist and editor Laura Palotie. Born and raised in Helsinki, Finland, Laura moved to the U.S. as a teenager, and has since studied writing and journalism and worked in writing, content marketing and editing on both sides of the pond. She’s passionate about sharing great stories that break down cultural barriers. Laura works as the New York-based agent of Elina Ahlback Literary Agency, headquartered in Helsinki. A Brooklyn member since day one, Laura was our steadfast cheerleader as we got the space up and running. We love hearing about her trips back to Helsinki and all the fun books that land on her desk. Thanks for spoiling us rotten with Finnish chocolate, Laura!

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What does a typical day look like for you? 

Because I’m in touch with publishers in both Europe and the U.S., as well as with our Helsinki office, my days begin relatively early; I’m typically handling correspondence starting at 7 or 7:30. Throughout the day I work on our agency’s newsletters and other English-language materials, meet and keep in touch with publishers, and work on contracts and other elements of the publication process: we represent Finnish authors, illustrators and publishers in international markets as well as several U.S. publishers and agencies in the Nordic markets, so I’m always busy! In the evenings and weekends I’ll often work on journalistic or editing projects at home: I contribute to Finnair’s English-language inflight magazine, Blue Wings, as well as a medical news publication in Finland, among other outlets: most recently I had an article published in Breaking Character, the theater industry publication of Samuel French.

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image by Kira Simon Kennedy

What do you love most about what you do?

As a literary agent, I love having the opportunity to bring fantastic books to new markets. A terrific translated book, whether it be a literary novel or a picture book, makes the world feel more accessible. We work with outstanding, imaginative authors in all genres, and playing a part in the process that helps them gain more fans worldwide is an honor. The best part of my job is calling an author and telling them that their book is going to be published in a new language. Overall, whether is be as an agent, a writer or an editor, I love bringing compelling stories to new audiences.

Supinen_Mantelimaa_cover-WSOY       Mörkövahti-kansi

What projects are you excited about right now? a favorite book that has landed on your desk recently?

We have a terrific middle-grade novel called “Monster Nanny” (“Mörkövahti”) by author Tuutikki Tolonen, which is a mix of “Mary Poppins” and “Where the Wild Things Are” set in contemporary Finland. It’s just as quirky and charming as it sounds, and it has already sold in Germany, Spain and Estonia (the Finnish edition is coming out in August). In the adult fiction realm we have “Jingle Land” (“Mantelimaa”) by Miina Supinen, about a sinister theme park where it’s always holiday season. To complement the intriguing Tim Burton-esque premise, the story is told in a very realistic way with relatable, richly drawn characters.

What do you miss about living in Helsinki? and what do you love about living in Brooklyn?

In addition to my family, friends and godchildren, I miss the bike lanes, gorgeous light in summers and the abundance of nature — and yes, the free health care system! In Brooklyn I absolutely love the diversity (in friends, food and experiences) and energy. It feels like everyone here is on a crazy shared adventure together.

Any funny stories about your first adventures in NY?

I first moved here in 2006 for grad school, and lived in Soho in a tiny, slightly decrepit apartment. I remember stepping outside and finding more options for designer shoes I couldn’t afford than for bagels (Brooklyn suits me much better in that realm). The most ridiculous moment for me was probably noticing a giant mouse devouring a bag of chips in the kitchen, and calling my dad in panic. Not sure how he could have helped me from 5000 miles away in Helsinki.

makeshift bk 68

image by Kira Simon Kennedy

What’s your favorite thing about working from Makeshift?

It’s a place full of people who are totally passionate about their respective projects (whether it be in design, marketing or writing). It’s a great place to focus, but also the perfect environment to chat with like-minded folks.

Where’s your favorite spot in the neighborhood to grab a bite or a drink?

I’m very much into Sweetgreen for lunch, and as an after-work spot my absolute favorite is the Pinkerton Wine Bar. It’s cozy and not too loud, so it’s great for catching up with a friend or for sitting down with a book, and the wines and cheeses are delicious.

Member Spotlight: Fabian G. Tabibian


Meet fine artist, experience director, and makeshift member Fabian Tabibian! A true New Yorker, Fabian was born on 196th and Broadway, raised in Queens, schooled in the Bronx and the city, and lives in Brooklyn. Originally, Fabian was focused on a degree in Econ, but a minor in Studio Art took him on a detour from MBA applications to the MFA program at Hunter College. He’s been focusing oh his studio art practice ever since.

We caught up with Fabian to find out about his work, his fave neighborhood hangouts, and the unique way he memorized the boroughs as a child.


Walk us through a day in the life of Fabian.

I’m up around 6am and start on the things I want to get done for me by 9am: Stretch, meditate, give gratitude, write, read, make breakfast and lunch, and some kind of fitness activity. When I do this, I feel like the rest of the day is a bonus.

I work three-days a week for an amazing amazing digital education start-up ( as Experience Director. I’m usually focused on one main project for an extended period. The work is big thinking and sweating the details at the same time.

The other two days (and the weekend), I’m focused on my studio work. Since I work predominantly with digital media, I can work most any place — I make work on my laptop when desk bound, on an iPad when standing and walking around (usually at my studio in Greenpoint) or even on my iPhone when riding the subway. I try to steal extra time whenever and however I can to make new things.  I use the studio space to print large works, look at works side-by-side, studio visits, and to crank music loudly.


What kind of projects are you working on right now?

Current design work is top-secret at the moment. Current artworks are digital abstractions that connect with painting more than photography. The source or starting images for these works are found by hacking my computer and seeing what files the internet has left behind from a days worth of use (thank you, internet!)

What’s your favorite thing about working from Makeshift?

The vibe! It feels like working at an arts library — which is one of my favorite places to make work!


Where’s your favorite spot in the neighborhood to wind down after work?

The backyard at Spuyten Duyvil with a book in-hand, or Roebling Sporting Club if a good game is on.

Share a funny childhood memory with us.

I remember learning about all the neighborhoods in the Boroughs by the infamous murders that occurred at each locale — this is more funny weird than funny haha. It’s a much safer town now!


Do you have some life advice you’d you like to share?

I sometimes snip quotes, this was today’s find:

“…it is always better to do something one feels good about than something that may make us materially comfortable but emotionally miserable. Such decisions arenotoriously difficult and require great honesty with oneself.” — Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Thanks Fabian! If you ever see him walking around Williamsburg, be sure to say hi and ask him for a good book recommendation.

Member Spotlight: Matt Beale and Cory Forsyth

This Member Spotlight post features the newest small team to join Makeshift Society. Say hello to Matt Beale and Cory Forsyth, the duo behind 201-Created.  Long time friends, Matt and Cory quit their full time jobs in 2012 and started their own company.

We caught up with them to find out what they’re working on, why they work from our space, and how they’re doing their part to contribute to the whole point of the internet: sharing cat pictures.


How did you two start working together?

Cory: We’ve been friends through the Ruby (programming language) and NYC technology community for many years. I think we first got to know each other when a company I had started (called, no longer around) hosted programmer happy hours in our offices in Dumbo. Over the years Matt and I collaborated on some small side projects and stayed in touch. In 2012 we started talking about wanting to work together in earnest as freelancers. It took about 6 months to find the right opportunity, when neither of us had a full-time job any longer, to join forces. We’ve been working together and slowly growing and formalizing our company ever since.  We hired our first full-time employee this June!

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Can you tell us about any interesting projects you’ve been working on lately?

Matt: Absolutely. This summer we’re working with Bustle’s great tech team here in Williamsburg. Most of the work will be on their content editing experience, using HTML5 and JavaScript to improve the collaboration between authors and editors. The code will be largely open source. We work hard to find clients ready to leverage community as much as code, and use our active roles in the JavaScript and OSS world as part of our pitch.

Some other recent work has been on the Nest store, and with our friends at Aptible. On the side, we’re constantly contributing to Ember.js and other projects. We try to balance technical contributions with community ones, and besides commits we also published a community survey and raised over a thousand dollars with our first Coding for Causes program.

Cory: In the spring we worked on a project with conservationists in east Africa to build an interface for them to upload photos of lions that then uses facial recognition software to help them track the lions as they move through different regions. It’s been said that the internet was built to enable sharing of cat pictures; we’re trying to do our part.


What do you enjoy about working from makeshift?

Cory: The pleasant atmosphere is great for working. It’s not quiet as a tomb, but not distractingly loud either. Makeshift has all the productivity benefits of a coffee shop without the drawbacks. Well, it doesn’t have coffee, but that’s actually a benefit too. There are plenty of great cafés around the space that are easy to walk to. One of my favorite things about Makeshift’s space is that it really encourages creativity by making it easy to get up and move around. The location is a big, airy, bright area right on street level, on a nice quiet street, which makes it very easy to get up and get out for a quick walk outside to clear one’s head. A quick afternoon walk around the block to pick up a coffee and maybe a cookie is a great way to reinvigorate my creativity in the afternoon. Other co-working spaces that I’ve worked at are on high floors and I have to pack up my computer in my backpack before I can get outside, which makes it subtly harder to get up and move around. At Makeshift I can just get up, walk around, and get right back to work.

Matt:For my afternoon americano a favorite spot is Parlor Coffee’s popup, inside the Person of Interest barber shop. Another favorite close by is Oslo Coffee Roasters on Roebling.

Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 3.53.58 PMSometimes we have coffee!

What’s a philosophy you live by?

Matt:We believe writing software is a creative practice, and strive to make the most of the few million lines each we will each write in a career. This means a continued investment in learning, constant collaboration with the open source community, and plenty of time off to recharge!

Cory:The best type of work also has an element of play in it. I’m happiest and feel most productive when I’m learning while I’m working.

Be sure to stop by on sunny mornings to say hi to Matt and Cory. And ask Matt for some awesome music recommendations!