Making Matters event at the RSA

Our very own Liz Corbin spoke at this event held by the RSA in collaboration with the Comino Foundation to discuss: “why access to making is important for everyone; how we risk losing the chance for young people to learn through making; and what the RSA, Comino and others are doing to challenge that.”.

The full video is below. Liz is on at about 10 minutes, and gives a good overview of what we’re trying to do through Maker Assembly.

Also see this companion piece on the RSA site by Comino trustees David Perry and José Chambers: “Does Making Really Matter?”:

How can we make science and engineering come alive for more young people and for more communities? Engineers need good theoretical understanding, but do they also need hands-on experience? David Perry and José Chambers of the Comino Foundation, which has been asking these kinds of questions over many years, explore the growth of makerspaces and the kinds of experiences that should be on offer, both in schools and communities, if we are to be sure of having enough engineers in the future.

Maker Assembly Manchester in review

This is a guest post by David Perry of the Comino Foundation. Thanks to David for sharing his thoughts.


Maker Assembly’s progenitor was the first gathering of makers from around England in April 2014, also at MadLab, sponsored by the Comino Foundation and run by Nat Hunter, then of the RSA.

This one started with an introduction from Liz Corbin of UCL who spoke of why we make, its situation in communities and how she was hoping for a ‘critical conversation’ – which was highly likely. Notably, the participants were almost precisely balanced in gender.

This was a day of contextualisation and community expansion with the first session’s theme being Learning from International Making Cultures including speakers from South Africa, France and Shenzhen, China. The first, Craig Dunlop talked about the extreme inequalities in South African society continuing so many years after the end of apartheid. He had recently benefited from a residency in the Machines Room in Shoreditch giving him clarity through distance. Addressing local needs in Cape Town meant drawing in local unemployed and using their skills to establish their makerspace commenting that as most then went on to employment they would not continue to be makers.

Justyna Swat then described the fun, hard work, confusion and emerging success of POC21 a five week 50 people venture in an almost empty French chateau and its grounds, exploring community building through social negotiation and taking responsibility and being disruptive but creative, eg changing attitudes to climate change through music. Whilst referring to ‘the beauty of dirt and imperfection’ she also admitted to the way that the need to take hold of emerging situations led them to accept the necessity of managing the event.

David Li from Shenzhen examined that unique city’s culture of making: the problems and opportunities of open source; the long tail of niche products based on a commitment to ‘deliver to needs’. He called electronics ‘the folk art of Shenzhen and described the eco-system of component supply and transactions that is its life-blood being based on a community of trust and facilitation with no boss to see things through. Surprisingly he called this a ‘trouble free production platform’ though small businesses often amount to no more than a two minute video and a web page! He contrasted this scenario to the likes of Foxconn making huge numbers of products for the likes of Apple Corp.

The second session, entitled Making and Humanitarian Relief was led by Laura James of Field Ready who are developing a different approach to aid utilising hyper-local manufacturing as far as possible: in the location where the aid products are needed. She identified these as ‘developments forced by circumstances’ describing those involved as ‘humanitarian makers’. After seeing a number of sample products, small groups then discussed how the organisation might progress, contributing ideas which Laura said were valuable and would be carried forward.

Lunchtime, and while shovelling in quantities of MadLab’s enviable hot food, people added events to The Incomplete and Crowdsourced History of UK Maker Culture in timeline format, which consecutive Maker Assemblies are compiling.

The afternoon’s Making and Manufacturing session chaired by James Tooze from the RCA’s Redistributed Manufacturing project started with Alan Meron discussing informal making/repairing events, noting that Sweden has removed vat from repairs and referring to Fixperts 1:1 design projects with a 1000 people now having been involved. But how to scale this up?

Ruth Claxton from MakeWorks, Birmingham, a hybrid space with provision for arts, crafts and engineering in ‘the City of a Thousand Trades’, described their venture to link manufacturers, suppliers and fabricators to help the scaling up of makerspace innovations, also referring to the online directory of Scottish making and manufacturing resources. Both aim to facilitate access to specialist manufacturing provision beyond the capability of makerspaces improving on the capacity of the Web plus ad hoc chats with people.

The irony of reduced choice resulting from higher volumes of production was commented on.

Adrian McEwan considered how to design to accommodate scaling up to manufacturing and suggested that more sophisticated approaches to resourcing manufacturing capability than touring local industrial estates was needed! He introduced us to the RCA project’s indie manufacturing site.

Paul Sohi from Autodesk showed their Fusion 360 product which is free to startups while staying below a given turnover limit and showed us Ikea’s Space 10 innovation and a Kickstarter approach for a Morphy Richards desktop vacuum former.

The afternoon’s final session was The Role of Making in a Wider Civic Infrastructure (no small horizons here!), a keynote by Laura Billings of the Lambeth OpenWorks project showed how in suburban West Norwood a high level of local participation was achieved through six months preparation, a year of action and six months finishing-off. Hundreds of items a week were repaired or made with a lot of emphasis on bartering. But this revealed how unfamiliar people are with participatory activities.

A great day – and thanks to the organisers for all their work in setting it up.

– David Perry

New speakers announced for Sheffield Maker Assembly

Still from Faceless Migrants by Design unlikely futures
Still from Faceless Migrants by Design unlikely futures

Sheffield Maker Assembly is just 3 weeks away, and we have announced our final speakers. Joining the line-up are:

Jon Flint, a designer at Anglo-Indian design practice, Superflux. He has worked on a variety of projects around drones, air quality and Graphene. He has an interest in the public perception of new technologies, trying to understand perspectives through hands-on workshops or inventive methods.

Clementine Blakemore, an architectural designer whose practice focuses on the relationship between design, production and place. Alongside a position as Designer in Residence at the Design Museum, and teaching at the AA School of Architecture, she is currently working on a range of small-scale projects in the UK.

Liam Healy, from the collaborative art and design group Design unlikely futures, which emerged from Goldsmiths via the Calais ‘Jungle’ while the members worked as volunteer builders in the camp. Their aim is to collaboratively design alternative futures for capturing the social, political and physical fabric of the site, and to document the camp as a space, a community, and a population locked in transit.


The day will be themed around 3 sessions:

Activism: From historical maker movements to the present day, how has craft and making been used as a tool to promote change?

Consequence: What can we do to make an impact in the world beyond ourselves as makers? How can making operate in the worlds of art, business and design?

Home: How can people use making on the largest scale to take control of their communities? How does building together change our relationships to each other?

There are a few tickets remaining. Get yours here.

Sheffield, 31 August 2016

Kibbo-Kift
Kindred of the Kibbo Kift: Gleemote, 1929. Stanley Dixon Collection, thanks to Gill Dixon. Photo: Angus McBean.

Maker Assembly is coming to Sheffield this August. We bring people together to have a critical conversation about the cultures of making 1 – its meaning, politics, history and future. We encourage everyone to participate by combining short talks with contributions from the attendees. Maker Assembly is peer-to-peer, informal and conversational.

Update – September 2016: Thanks to everyone who came along; it was a great event, and we enjoyed meeting and talking with so many interesting makers. You can see some pictures from the day, kindly taken by Dan Sumption, over on Flickr.

Speakers

Akiko Kobayashi, architect and now facilitator of community-led building projects. She works with groups to communicate their vision and gain practical skills, and also has hands-on construction experience, most recently as part of the Tiree Noust Boathouse and Wikihouse v4.2 live build projects.

Annebella Pollen, author of Kindred of the Kibbo Kift, a beautiful book on the esoteric mid-war group of pacifists and woodcrafters, who set out to create a revolutionary movement through craft, propaganda, ritual and outdoor living.

Clementine Blakemore, an architectural designer whose practice focuses on the relationship between design, production and place. Alongside a position as Designer in Residence at the Design Museum, and teaching at the AA School of Architecture, she is currently working on a range of small-scale projects in the UK.

Heather Corcoran, a curator and cultural producer with a specialism in art, design and technology. She leads outreach for Kickstarter in the UK and Europe, with a focus on the design & technology communities. Previously, she was Executive Director of Rhizome, the influential digital art nonprofit based at the New Museum, New York.

Huw Wahl, who recently made a film about Action Space, the radical artists’ group that operated in London and Sheffield in the 1960s and ’70s, and set out to champion the role of creative experience in the transformation of society, becoming famous for their giant inflatable structures.

Jon Flint, a designer at Anglo-Indian design practice, Superflux. He has worked on a variety of projects around drones, air quality and Graphene. He has an interest in the public perception of new technologies, trying to understand perspectives through hands-on workshops or inventive methods.

Liam Healy, from the collaborative art and design group Design unlikely futures, which emerged from Goldsmiths via the Calais ‘Jungle’ while the members worked as volunteer builders in the camp. Their aim is to collaboratively design alternative futures for capturing the social, political and physical fabric of the site, and to document the camp as a space, a community, and a population locked in transit.

Sarah Corbett, the founder of Craftivist Collective, a global social enterprise using craft a tool for slow, gentle & intriguing activism.

Tom Tobia, developer of products, spaces and businesses that encourage people to make things, not least Makerversity, the makers’ coworking incubator.

Schedule

The current schedule, subject to change is:

09.30Arrival, registration, refreshments
10.00Session 1 – Activism: From historical maker movements to the present day, how has craft and making been used as a tool to promote change?
12.00Lunch and lunchtime workshop
13.30Session 2 – Consequence: What can we do to make an impact in the world beyond ourselves as makers? How can making operate in the worlds of art, business and design?
15.15Break
16.00Session 3 – Home: How can people use making on the largest scale to take control of their communities? How does building together change our relationships to each other?
17.30Finish sessions, and retreat to the Roco bar and roof terrace for those who want to continue the conversation
21.30Close

Venue

We’ll be holding Maker Assembly in the beautiful new Roco Creative Co-op, with its friendly event space, well-stocked bar, deleicious food and always-sunny roof terrace. This event coincides with the launch of their new maker space, providing the kit and tools for designers and makers to prototype and test their ideas and micro-manufacture their products.

Tickets

Thanks to support from Comino Foundation, ticket prices are heavily subsidised. Your ticket also includes a communal lunch and refreshments during the day.

Eventbrite - Maker Assembly Sheffield August 2016

Footnote: What do we mean by “making”?
We’re talking about people who craft, design, manufacture, tinker with, engineer, fabricate, and repair physical things. Art, craft, electronics, textiles, products, robots. Hi-tech and low-tech, amateur and professional, young and old, with digital tools or by hand. Historical perspectives, what’s happening here and now, and how things might change in the future. We aim to be diverse and inclusive. If what you make, or how you see yourself, is a little bit on the fringes, you’re doubly welcome. (←Back)

Maker Assembly Sheffield — Save the Date

We now have a confirmed date for our next event in Sheffield: Wednesday 31st August 2016. Mark it in your diaries now!

We also have a great venue, thanks to our friends at Roco, with a beautiful and friendly events space, outdoor courtyard and café bar (see pics below).

We are planning the event now; if you’re interested in speaking, please get in touch. You can find out some of the ideas we’re interested in by looking at the follow-up from our planning meetup in April, or checking out our London or Belfast events.

Sign up to our mailing list or follow us on Twitter for updates.

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Follow-up from our Sheffield meetup

Photo by Tamar Millen
Photo by Tamar Millen

On Wednesday 20 April, we gathered in the bar of the Roco in Sheffield to talk about what a Maker Assembly in Sheffield could look like. Here are my notes from the event. If you’d like to make suggestions for the event, comments are open on this post, so please add your thoughts below.


I said I’d follow up with some theme ideas that seemed to come out of the sessions. It’s impossible to capture or synthesise everyone’s ideas, but hopefully this will include something of interest to most of you.

Date

Current planned date, still TBC, is Wednesday 31st August. Please pencil it in.

Speakers

Do you have something to share about the topic below. If so, let us know

Themes

1. Scaling up, sustainability, economic impact

Questions about a ‘maker city’. Does it maker sense for Sheffield to brand itself based on its past?
Moving from being a small-scale maker to a larger scale manufacturer, running a maker business.
Local, national, international impact. Is bigger better?

2. Amateurism

(Maybe the opposite agenda to the above)
Should we resist the path of the ‘hardware startup’, the urge to turn everything into economic activity, jobs, etc.
The importance of free experimentation vs prescribed work
Innovation is not equivalent to ‘new products’ but ‘new thinking’
How can we learn from the failings of previous tech movements (especially the web, and Silicon Valley utopianism)

3. Diversity

In people, their experience, what they make.
In gender, ethnicity, sexuality, physical or social needs
Self-identifying as a maker, or not

4. Alternative his/herstories

C-base mythology (and other self-authored maker myths?)
The O’Reilly brand of Maker (TM)

5. Performance

Music (who was the accordian player mentioned?)
A making performance

6. Some other topics which we mentioned, but only briefly

Hi-tech/lowtech/trailing edge tech
Open Source
Adaptive design/prosthetics/hacking the body
Education, and engagement (new makers). I feel this is more the territory of STEM groups and/or Maker Faire.

Other agendas

Some things came up which we might be able to address through activities, stalls or other features at the event:

1. Connecting up

Attending and talking to others is a good start, but maybe we could have a ‘would like to meet’ wall at the event, or a ‘I can give/I can get’ noticeboard, or some other way of surfacing connections. Lightning talks (3 mins to say what you do and don’t do) – but we would need to be careful this doesn’t become a ‘me and my cool project showcase).
 
If you’re interested in helping facilitate this, please get in touch.

2. Diversity of attendees

A lot of people don’t use twitter, or don’t identify as makers, or just don’t feel like this event could be for them. We need help communicating about the event to more diverse communities, and figuring out how to reach them. We may need help designing the event format so people with different needs can enjoy it. If you can help with this, please get in touch.
Thanks to everyone who came along and shared their ideas.

Belfast, March 2016

Our friends at Farset Labs in Belfast organised a Maker Assembly there on 16th March 2016. More event details at their site: https://getinvited.to/farsetlabs/makerassemblyni/

Maker Assembly Belfast
Maker Assembly Belfast

Session 1: Making & Peace Building

Kicking off Maker Assembly NI is a session about the politics and nuances of community-facing digital fabrication projects. It will look at how maker cultures are emerging at the grassroots and how local organisations are contributing to the peace-building project currently underway in Northern Ireland. It hopes to reveal how the idea of ‘critical making’ can be adjusted to suit the specificities of different contexts.

Speakers

  • Adam Wallace & Eamon Durey, Fab Labs NI
  • John Peto, Nerve Centre

Session 2: Speculative Making: New Contexts and Futures

As the idea of digital making beds down—and practices become more visible and accessible—what new trajectories are emerging and how are speculative futures being framed? This session hopes to reveal the supports we might need to maintain a critical forecast of making and maker culture.

Speakers

  • Nora O’Murchu, University of Limerick
  • Kat Braybrooke, University of Sussex

Session 3: Governance, Sustainability & Maker Networks

How are maker networks nurtured and sustained? And how ‘critical’ are the governance strategies of the physical spaces and networked platforms that mediate maker networks?

This session hopes to somewhat unravel the entanglements of people, places, and things, to better understand how maker culture is being facilitated.

Speakers

  • Javier Burón, Fab Lab Limerick & University of Limerick
  • Hannah Stewart, Royal College of Art, Future Makerspaces Project

Session 4: Critics of the world, create!

Final session was a making exercise, inspired by the Sarah Kember and Joanna Zylinska’s (2012) Creative Media Manifesto and Garnet Hertz’s Critical Making zine series.


 

Our thanks to Andre Bolster, Pip Shea and all at Farset Labs for putting on a great event. If you’re interested in holding a Maker Assembly in your makerspace, library or other institution, please get in touch.

Book table at Maker Assembly
Book table at Maker Assembly Belfast