Alan Shelton’s been getting his hands dirty for years—and not just because he’s a maker, building motorcycles, architectural and artistic structures, and more. Shelton, who was awarded Forsyth Tech’s Gov. Robert Scott Leadership Award in 2015, has volunteered for such organizations as New Winston Museum, StoryLine, and Habitat for Humanity.
Together with other volunteers and makers, he’s working to create MIXXER: a 501(c3) nonprofit that will provide tools, space, and resources for members to make things. (So far, welding, woodworking, and 3D printing are in the mix.) It’ll be a big step for Winston-Salem, since the maker movement, which is sweeping the nation, could have a significant impact on the local economy. At press time, MIXXER was close to securing a building and finalizing its fundraising strategy, all of which has Shelton optimistic about the future.
1. What inspired you to start MIXXER?
“I’ve been inventing and creating for a long time, yet I’ve struggled to find the resources to take ideas to the next level. Some of the best times of my life were spent working with friends on cars, motorcycles, or some new contraption. Then one day it just hit me: I should focus on building with my community, and the tools and shop space wouldn’t have to be based on my limited means. There are a lot of people in the same situation. We should work together and crowd-source our ambitions.”
2. What’s MIXXER up to right now?
“There’s still a lot of work to do, but it’s all coming together. We’ve developed an outline for what we need to do; now we’re creating a comprehensive plan that will keep MIXXER running smoothly. I recently wrote a business plan for the project, and our team is putting the finishing touches on our fundraising strategy. We’ll soon be inviting expert makers in the community to design the studios, and we’ll give people the chance to do some of the construction. The beauty of this strategy is that it fits perfectly with what MIXXER is all about: people working together to create things that are important to them. In this case, they’ll be creating a place where they will design and build the things they enjoy.”
3. What projects are you working on?
“As part of my work at MIXXER, I’m participating in a lot of event planning for community art and innovation projects, like Maker Faire, STEAM Education promotion, and some public art projects. I’m also leading a team of architecture and interior-design students from Salem College and Forsyth Tech to design and build the stage set for TEDx WakeForestU – 2016. In between both of those is my design/build business, which has been picking up lately.”
4. Any tips for someone who wants to take up a hobby such as welding or woodworking?
“Take a class at a community college or a place like Sawtooth, or find a friend who can teach you. There are downsides to both scenarios. Classes can leave you thirsting for more access than they can provide, and you could wear out your welcome with your friend. At MIXXER, members will dictate what equipment we have based on their interest, and it is our mission to help people explore on their own terms.”
5. What makes Winston-Salem special?
“I love the people the most. There are great people all over the world, but there’s something about this city’s shared pride that I’m drawn to. Winston-Salem has the right mix of small town and urban culture that I like. We have all of these refurbished buildings and this new life in downtown. We’re off to a great start in modernizing to keep up with our evolving culture.”