Free service in Porthmadog helps businesses and individuals hone their creative skills
An unusual free service for businesses and individuals is making good use of an empty high street shop and helping people to learn new hands-on creative skills.
Ffiws, part of Arloesi Gwynedd Wledig, launched in September 2019 and occupies a former bookmaker’s shop on Porthmadog High Street. Partly funded by Gwynedd Council’s ARFOR fund, with the remaining funding coming via the LEADER programme, Ffiws provides a dedicated ‘Makerspace’ enabling users to try their hand at exciting creative processes including 3D printing, sublimation printing and heat pressing, laser cutting and engraving, vinyl cutting, and woodworking using a CNC router.
Project coordinator Rhys Gwilym runs the service on behalf of Arloesi Gwynedd Wledig, while three freelance technicians have been hired to provide the training and oversee visitors’ use of the equipment. To date, some 300 people have used the service.
The service is open to all, regardless of age, experience and employment status. It’s been a game-changing experience for many small craft business owners who want to try out potentially expensive equipment before taking the plunge and buying their own machines.
But Ffiws is also used by hobbyists, retirees, students and the generally craft-curious to produce items such as printed mugs and bags, wooden signs and coasters, and decorative self-adhesive vinyl designs.
While users are free to sell whatever they produce at Ffiws, Rhys Gwilym stresses that Ffiws is not the place to go if you want to produce items on an industrial scale. Crafting blanks, such as mugs, bags and vinyl sheets, are provided on an ‘honesty box’ basis. A price list above the honesty box informs users of the approximate cost of the materials, helping users to calculate how much they should donate towards the running costs of the service.
Rhys explains: “One of the main objectives that we have is that it’s accessible to all regardless of age and background. It’s an open space for people to learn more about the equipment and learn new skills. A Makerspace is a concept that’s quite new to a rural county like Gwynedd, and while we’ve had all types of people coming in, we do try to encourage businesses to make the most of what we have on offer.”
Anyone wishing to use the Ffiws Makerspace needs to complete an induction session for each piece of equipment before starting production. Once an induction session has been completed for a piece of equipment, the user can book further sessions – which will be supervised by one of the technicians – to use the machines to make items to keep or sell.
Beyond providing access to the equipment, Arloesi Gwynedd Wledig can provide further support to service users through its business support package, which was introduced this year. For example, if a small business owner completes a Ffiws induction session and goes on to buy their own similar equipment, Arloesi Gwynedd Wledig can fund one of the technicians to go into the business owner’s workshop to help them get the machine set up and in production.
The Ffiws project is due to end in April 2023, when the LEADER programme comes to an end in Gwynedd. But Rhys hopes that after the project ends it will be carried on within the community, perhaps in local libraries or community centres.
To find out more about Ffiws, please visit - www.arloesigwyneddwledig.cymru/en/prosiectau/ffiws/