Is there a creative project you’ve been day-dreaming about since you came to Prague? Perhaps there’s a chair you’ve been threatening to reupholster or a wobbly table that’s crying out to be fixed? Maybe you’re finally ready to bring those clothing designs to life? Then meet Hank Duke, the creative force behind ‘DIY Praha‘ – a pay-by-the-hour workshop and studio in Vinohrady, complete with tools and professional guidance. A unique concept and valuable resource, ideal for those of us who relocated to Prague without our tool kits, as well as for locals who perhaps don’t have the equipment or space to work from home.
Originally from the States, Hank arrived in the Czech Republic in 2008 after a stint in Sweden and, in his words “sort of got hooked on the place”. He says that the Scandinavian lifestyle gave him the original idea for the workshop which is an amalgam of the Swedish “gör det själv” (do it yourself) auto service bays, the “hacker space” office-design environments that were being developed in the early-mid 2000s and his desire to create a multi-purpose workshop for urban dwellers.
“I had most of the workshop’s tools in Sweden for the renovation and real estate projects I was working on there and the time seemed right to try starting something new” he says. After a bit of traditional bureaucracy and form-filling, DIY Praha opened its doors in the summer of 2012.
So how does it work? Hank explains that the agreement is basically the same as you would make with a sports facility like a tennis hall; the user books time for an activity and DIY Praha provides the equipment and space in which to do it. Generally speaking the cost increases as you use more of the workshop’s resources and decreases as you book the shop for longer periods of time.
The workshop has 5 main areas (garage, woodshop, metal shop, paint/finish room, and “soft-crafts” studio). Each space is equipped with relevant tools and machinery for most jobs, although the layout is designed deliberately to be flexible to suit your particular needs. The possible activities are wide-ranging and include furniture making and repair, carving and sculpture, auto repairs and home renovation and improvement projects. The team also offer a delivery and collection service for parts and completed projects.
I called in on a weekday afternoon to take a look around and see what sort of projects were taking place and met Kay who has been living in Prague for 5 years. Originally from Romania, he’s a graphic designer by trade and screen-printer in his spare time. He recalls “when I heard that Hank was opening a DIY workshop it was was clear to me that I’d have some projects to work on, since I love handcrafted work rather than hacking into a keyboard at office.” He added “it gives me a little balance in life, there is always something to help with, someone to chat to, new comers who need a helping hand, and of course you learn a lot with every single project you accomplish.”
In the metal working room we talked to Steve Josephson, an American theatre director who lives in Prague who was busy overseeing the construction of an elaborate piece of the scenery for his forthcoming English-language production of the musical RENT which returns this May at Divadlo Kalich. He told us “It’s always been difficult building the sets for our productions. Finding the space to do it is one thing, but having all the tools is another.”
He was full of praise for DIY Praha “the well-equipped facilities have been a godsend. Hank has always been more than amenable and enthusiastic in helping us fulfill our needs no matter whether it’s been – woodwork, painting or even supplying the welding equipment so we can make a Christmas tree out of bicycles. I don’t know how we would have been able to do it without him.”
Hank is pleased with how things are going so far, but is eager to develop the resource further this year by offering workshops and training sessions for people wishing to learn new skills in a safe and comfortable environment. He’s eager to hear from anyone who might be interested in holding a class or workshop on the premises (in Czech and/or English) to help take the concept to the next level.
If you think you’d like to get involved, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, visit www.facebook.com/diypraha, or just call in to the DIY Praha workshop at Jagellonska 17, Prague 3.
Prague’s DIY scene is growing; what will you make?
Photos, unless otherwise indicated, by Aaron Alexander.