Person with pink hair smiling behind "Be Nice or Leave"

Celebrating the Life and Legacy of Executive Director, Rachel “Crafty” Sadd

In the vibrant, creative, and ever-evolving story of Ace Makerspace, one name stands out as a consistent driving force behind its growth and success—Rachel “Crafty” Sadd, the dedicated Executive Director whose journey from passionate member to transformative leader has left an indelible mark on the community. On February 27th, 2024 Rachel passed away from secondary complications from cancer surrounded by her family, leaving behind an incredible legacy and her unwavering vision for Ace Makerspace as a welcoming place where making is for everyone.

“The core of what I love about Ace [over the past 14 years] has really stayed the same. The act of making is transformative. I’m not about a tool set, I’m about what communities and people get when they have access to these resources. People can escape life, gain job skills, start a business, be prosperous, take care of needs. There’s so much potential here and it excites me everyday”

Rachel joined the Ace Community back in 2011—Ace’s first year of existence. Originally from Santa Cruz, she was looking for more opportunities economically and culturally for herself and her family. She moved to the Bay Area where she found her people—scrappy people who make art. On a camping trip with her new friends she started talking about her side gig making costumes and wearables for Burning Man folks. As a single mother of two with a full time day job in tech she found the creative work extremely satisfying and could work at night. Hearing this story a new friend said, “you’ve got to see this laser that can cut fabric” and the rest was history.

“I fell in love with the possibilities and potential of Ace as a place where I could satisfy economic needs, be creative, make friends as an adult, and access things I couldn’t afford to access independently.”

She stepped into the Executive Director role at Ace Makerspace 7 years after joining the community. She was finishing her term on the Board of Directors (where she got the nickname “Crafty”) and was having a blast learning how to grow and manage a community when the previous executive director Rachel McConnell aka Dr. Shiny asked her if she’d be interested in stepping into the role…

I thought about it, went to the rest of the board and said, “I’m a raging feminist, unapologetically intersectional, full on. If I’m going to do this I’m bringing all of it to the role. I want to shift the culture, bring these resources to Oakland, and grow it. If you’d like me to take the role you need to be down.”

As a latina, Crafty knew first hand that learning in technical spaces like Ace Makerspace could be intimidating particularly for women, BIPOC, and members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community who historically have been marginalized in these fields. As a community builder and leader, she wanted to change that and developed a social contract for everyone who walked through doors based on transparency and respect. She also created a series of open source DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) Soft Skills Workshops for Makers; collaborated with local organizations on mutual aid projects including 500 Filters, Oakland Community PPE, and Lead to Life; and explicitly sought out diverse perspectives when creating new programs. Throughout her life she overcame many personal challenges, and brought her fighting spirit to everything she did at Ace.

Group of students, laser-cutter
Rachel was a passionate educator who loved to teach laser-cutting, art, and textiles workshops to students from all walks of life.
Three people smiling in an outdoor booth.
Rachel loved connecting with the east bay community and leading free art activities like button making at outreach events like Oakland First Fridays and Maker Faire.
Person smiling holding up red T-shirt.
She believed that building accessible and equitable programs required the participation of people with diverse perspectives, skill levels, and lived experiences. She enjoyed the whole process of program and class development from brainstorming to prototyping. Here she is making samples for a visible mending class in the Ace Textile’s studio.
Group of people with diy air scrubbers.
In response to catastrophic events like wild fires and Covid 19, she rallied the community around mutual aid projects like 500 Filters and Oakland PPE. She believed in using the unique resources at Ace Makerspace to help the broader community. Here she is with a group of volunteers standing with a large stack of DIY air scrubbers.
Large red and blue octopus mural
Outside of Ace she was an established artist with works on display throughout Oakland. She created this large octopus mural for a gas station several blocks from Ace Makerspace and exhibited her interactive Gift-O-Matic project at the Oakland Museum of California in 2019.