We had the chance to sit down with Erin Rodgers one of the makers behind Site 3’s Site Bee Popup Shop, a Queen West storefront dedicated to showcasing and selling products from local Toronto makers, open from May 25th-July25th. The team at Site Bee has been hosting a series of events and workshops to generate awareness around making in the city; Erin shared with us some of the initial vision for the shop and what they’ve learned along the way.

Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you became a maker?

I come from a family of crafters and DIY enthusiasts, but the “maker world proper” is new to me. As far back as I can remember I’ve loved creating things myself. As a child I remember being absolutely incensed when boys got to make a bunch of cool things like wooden derby cars and I didn’t. Guess I showed them!

You’re one of a group of makers running the Site Bee Popup. Can you tell us a bit about the initial inspiration behind starting the Popup? What were you looking to achieve? What were the goals starting out?

All the credit for the inspiration has to go to the amazing Hillary Predko and Lindy Wilkins. They saw a chance to create a space to expose the p

ublic to the incredible work makers do.

We were hoping to have a space to show beautiful work AND have a chance to spread the “maker gospel” by teaching new skills on our Wednesday night “Skill Bees”. We’ve taught everything from making soft circuits to cement casting and had an incredible time doing it.

Our goals were to both sell our own work and the work of our talented peers and engage with the local community through workshops and parties.

From your perspective, what was the most successful event you held? Why do you think it was a success?

That is a really tough question. I loved having “Stay Golden: A Golden Girls Party” at the space as we were able to have a fun party that celebrates a show that was, for me, a real cultural icon, but still do it in a very DIY way. We were able to bring a bunch of strangers together to create through DIY activities, eat some delicious snacks (thanks Apiecalypse Now), laugh a lot, and start some new friendships. That is the maker world for me. Creating, celebrating, and making wonderful friends.

Did anything surprise and/or inspire you from your experiences managing the space?

Oh, everyday I was surprised and inspired. I’ll let you in on a secret, if you create something beautiful and creative with your best friends, magic happens. We’ve had so many amazing people walk in those doors both as customers and attendees at events and “Bees”. Honestly, if I told you all the conversations I’ve had with strangers about art and community and how to make the world a better place in the past few weeks you’d think I was making it up. It all happened. It’s the power of this kind of work.

Also, just being around the collective of people who made this shop happen has been so inspiring. Suddenly I’m full of a million ideas I would never have come up with if I hadn’t been in this incubator of creativity. Hillary Predko, Lindy Wilkins, Lauren Archer, Lyndsay McColl and Elijia Montgomery are all wonderful artists and amazing friends.

Did you come up against any barriers or issues? What were the major lessons from your experience?

Summer can be tough. We’ve had so many people come in that were sad that they missed an event or didn’t get to see the shop earlier because they were out of the city. Having something that lasts for two months is exciting and fun, but it can be tough to get the word out as much as you’d like, especially as there’s so much going on

Do you have any advice for a maker/brand interested in running a popup shop?
DO IT!!! It’s a wonderful way to get a feeling for what your “market” is looking for. I learned so much from customers. Also, I learned a ton about design and display from the other folks in our collective.

I also think that events at your shop are a great way to get more public attention AND have a lot of fun with people. Connecting with people really helps to build your brand and more importantly to keep you in touch with why you do this work in the first place: for people to enjoy it!

How would you describe the maker community in Toronto?

Inspired and inspiring. It’s people that love what they do and are always looking for a way to create something new, interesting, fun, silly etc. Site 3 has taught me a lot about how working together can create amazing things.

Also, I never cease to be inspired by the drive Site 3 has to introduce the maker world to people who haven’t been exposed to it before. The open shop night for Women and the LGBTQ community is one of my favourite things in the city.

How can people interact with SIte Bee before it closes on the 25th? What do you have planned?

We have a “Coding Bee” on the 23rd which I can’t wait until! We’re also having a zine party for the amazing magazine for teen girls and Trans teens Shameless Magazine on July 20th and while that will likely have passed once this article is posted, you could donate money to Shameless and then it’ll be like you were there!

Also, just drop on in. There is so much incredible work at Site Bee.

What plans do you as an individual and as a member of Site 3 have for the future? What can we expect to see coming from Site 3 next?

Right now I’m working on some specialized bags and utility belts for my work as an event planner with my company Keener Events.

I’m also part of a group that is building a parts washer in conjunction with the amazing folks at Charlie’s Freewheels. It’s a team of adults from Site 3 and Charlie’s and teens who have taken courses at Charlie’s. We meet every Monday evening and work on it. I’d say we’re all working on it together, but it’s mostly the teens coming up with brilliant ideas and putting it together and the adults supervising. Such an incredible group! I look forward to Mondays all week.