Published on August 29th, 2012 | by Alicia Coombes2
Mothership Hackermoms Create Art, Not Just Babies
The Mothership Hackermoms have created a child-friendly artist’s dream on Adeline Street in Oakland: the room is furnished with a long table covered with various projects, a squishy leather couch and subversive art on the walls. A dresser’s dummy sporting a vintage lacy bra greets you at the door with a sign that asks guests to “Stuff our donation bra!” A small door at the end of the room opens up to a parallel room almost as large as the main one and is filled with toys and the accoutrements for kid-friendly arts and crafts.
The Mothership Hackerspace opened in April of this year, marking the latest rite of growth for a small group of “hackermoms” in Oakland. The group began with an email from founder Sho Sho Smith to a few women she had met through another hackerspace, a community-built and run space where people come together to build, make, tinker and learn, usually with a creative “hacker” twist. The focus of any particular hackerspace is usually dictated by the membership, but can often involve technological or dangerous equipment for soldering or circuitry, making them generally adults only.
Before deciding to open the space, Smith had just given birth to her second child and her husband was in cancer treatment.
“I really needed a large creative life and understanding community to replenish my energy of the terribly draining effects of caring for two young children and a husband with cancer,” Smith said. “As a result, I was a better mother, caregiver and individual because I had this life of my own where I could build something in the midst of potential death and destruction. Good news: he just beat cancer.”
The group grew from there, meeting in living rooms for the first nine months or so. Sometimes the women would pool their money to hire childcare, sometimes their kids would play with each other under supervision from the older kids, and often their kids would do their own projects alongside their moms. Soon, the women were looking to find their own space to keep equipment and branch out. They now have about 20 paying members, who have access to the space 24/7. Many members have Etsy accounts to sell Hackermom Art such as “booby” hats (knitted beanies that make breastfeeding kids look “anatomically correct”), linocut prints and “O-BAM!-a” superhero onesies. They also offer workshops to the community in all sorts of creative pursuits, from screenprinting to sport hooping to terrarium gardening to pallet-gate building.
Founding member Samantha Matalone Cook makes it clear that the women built this space for their specific needs, and that while this may seem exclusive, they do not apologize for building a space with their own desires in mind.
“There is possibly a finite number of families interested enough in what we do to join us,” Cook said, “but that is true of any group. So, like in motherhood, we make it work.”
Many of the members, in fact, still belong to the original group in which they met. Right now, their membership only includes women, but they do not specifically forbid male or non-mothers from using the space. Still, the nature of the group remains true to the fact that there are children playing and learning alongside the adults.
“I’d love to see a hackerspace in every neighborhood and in every school,” Cook said. “Ours in particular brings back the village for women. I have seen the incredible benefit in our space among the women with infants and young children. The mental break, the time to focus on oneself in the flurry of hormones and constant feedings and feeling overwhelmed has too many benefits to mention. You walk in to MSHM and everyone understands.”
Visit www.mothership.hackermoms.org to find out more about the Hackermoms, their art, and workshops.