“How cool is this?!” I just kept repeating to myself as Simone and I drove from our home to Amstelveen, all within a 25 km radius of Amsterdam. Too bad our own car, a 20 year old pink Toyota Starlet, was in the repair shop. We parked the undefined-color car that we’d borrowed in front of an old police building. The building is now occupied by Marc Barteling. Marc is the creator of the website WhyILoveThisBook.com, a site that contains one-minute videos of book reviews by passionate book readers.

Marc is a passionate book reader himself. And he has a mobile workspace. He has a camper. Or motorhome. Or whatever the correct English word for it is. It’s a studio on wheels where people join him and tell stories about their favorite book.

“How cool is this?!” I repeated to myself.

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We met Niki at the beginning of her work day, 6 p.m., at the alley entrance to the old brick building within which her Mobius Cycle studio lives. We followed our gracious host several floors up a winding, dusty staircase—photographer Daniel looking at the beautiful light coming through the old windows and fashion-challenged me admiring her dreadlocks—all the way up to the wide and open door of the floor she works on. The floor holds many work spaces, she explained, including Mobius Cycle. Where her work space ended and the others’ work spaces began wasn’t entirely clear. We would eventually come to understand this as simply an extension of Niki herself…

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Fisher and Sean (called the amazingly-energetic-20-something duo, or AE20D, by my collective name-giving brain) told me that we should talk to Martina of Swift Industries, because she and her husband Jason have created a soul-satisfying work space for themselves designing and making bike bags and accessories in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood.

A few days later, Daniel and I pulled up in front of a deep gray (concrete?) old warehouse building that was kind of ugly and not very inviting from a distance. But we’ve learned that it’s pointless to judge a space by its cover, like people, and, well, books. And as we walked up toward the building, we began to see interesting architectural details emerge—the building’s lovely features doing a pretty good job at overcoming their painfully uniform and gray paint job for those close enough to notice.

We weren’t exactly sure where to enter the building at first, and then–after we found the door–whether to knock or just go in. But we were fresh off our time with Haulin’ Colin, and I wasn’t feeling at all worried this time. Colin had taught us a new truth: makers rock, especially creative-every-day, bikes and bike-related accessories, makers. Thanks to Colin, we’d fallen a little in love with Martina before we’d even met, and I couldn’t wait to meet her. I bounced up the gray steps with a big grin on my face. A little initial awkwardness would not stop Daniel and I—the amazingly-energetic-for-40-somethings duo.

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Martina gave us a tour of their entire building–within which Swift Industries is one of many small hand-craft-related businesses–before showing us their space and answering our questions about the space. The conversation and some images from the tour follow. Click here for the interview. Martina: The warehouse was bought about 2 years ago by two… Read more »

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My neighbor, friend, and coworker Fisher thought immediately of Colin’s bike-centered fabrication and machine shop when I told him I was looking for self-created, soul-satisfying work spaces, and he was generous enough to introduce us via email.

Two weeks later, Daniel and I were walking toward the Equinox building–where Colin’s shop lives–in the most industrial part of Seattle’s industrial arts Georgetown neighborhood. With every step we took, I felt more out of my element. We passed a guy working on a pickup truck engine. Then a few more guys drinking beer at a cobbled-together table. Would there be any other women in the space? Then the walk down several long, dusty hallways. Metal vehicle parts and metal art hung at random on old nails, hooks.

I took a deep breath. Would I have anything in common with the man at the end of this hallway? And would he trust a woman whose fingernails suddenly felt ridiculously, obnoxiously, and actually arrogantly clean?

Still wishing I’d just left the afternoon’s gardening clothes and dirt on, I stepped through Colin’s door: shop 109.

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