A series of live conversations around Making in the time of Covid
Maker Assembly is hosting a new series of live conversations with makers, educators, producers, changemakers and community organisers engaged in creative responses to the pandemic.
As cultural and making spaces slowly reopen to the public, we aim to investigate with our guest speakers how the crisis changed the act of making and forced us to reassess labour, artistic and collaborative practices. From art funding to design education, open access workshops to event production, we will explore how maker communities have adapted to this new reality. We will also examine how ready the sector is for uncomfortable conversations about systemic racism and what cultural shift is required to create inclusive design spaces.
This year’s Festival
explore what maintenance means in complex and changing times, bringing together
new stories about creativity, craftsmanship, and the challenges of maintenance.
Maker Assembly is supporting this community-run event crated by volunteers and invites you to discover an exiting programme of talks on repair cultures, predictive maintenance, automation and care, urban systems, data, community infrastructure and many more.
We’re working with STEAMhouse on a series of co-produced events in Birmingham, that will run throughout 2019. Through these events we hope to support the growing community of makers at STEAMhouse, and provide an opportunity for a diverse group of designers, craftspeople, artists and technologists to learn, be inspired, and get to know each other.
STEAMhouse is a new centre for creative innovation and cultural production that brings artists, inventors, engineers, entrepreneurs and makers together, developed by Eastside Projects and Birmingham City University.
Makers are natural disruptors – modifying processes, developing tools and finding solutions to practical problems through the act of making. But how are we doing this in the 21st century? When makers identify a gap or opportunity what new solutions emerge?
We are delighted to welcome Triambak Saxena from Kniterate and Joseph Halligan from Turner Prizewinning architectural collective Assemble to Birmingham to talk through their work, and experiences, as makers making tools for makers.
Imagine if all our materials were nutrients. If there was no waste, but rather that our plastics and composites nourished living systems.
Materiom is an open platform that lets anyone contribute, use or adapt recipes for materials that learn from nature’s techniques for sourcing, building and breaking down the ingredients that make them up. Their mission is to enable everyone, everywhere to participate in the next generation of materials.
Multi-disciplinary designer-maker, and materials researcher Zoë Powell joins us to talk about materials that are regenerative by design and how designers, scientists, entrepreneurs, artists and citizens can use their open platform to work collectively on some of the greatest material challenges in the circular economy.
Professor Mel Woods, Chair in Creative Intelligence at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, joins us to talk about the GROW Observatory (GROW) and the potential of participatory culture, citizen sensing and citizen science. Grow Observatory is a Europewide project engaging thousands of growers, scientists and others passionate about the land. They are using Flower Power sensors to generate data on soil moisture, temperature and light, discovering together how to better manage soil and grow food whilst contributing to vital scientific, environmental monitoring.
With 2,500 sensors currently returning data, and several online MOOCs GROW is addressing the problem of amplifying scale, whilst supporting meaningful participation with citizens and grassroots organisations, as well as policy makers and scientists.
19 June – Reimagining Materials: Aeropowder and Studio Ilio
How can existing materials be transformed into something new? How can we use the valuable properties of waste materials to make something useful? What happens when we apply novel processes to the abundant materials that surround us?This month we welcome two makers who are working with overlooked materials in surprising ways: Ryan Robinson, from Aeropowder and Fabio Hendry, from Studio Ilio.
From human hair to chicken feathers, these designers are creating new materials, finishes and products and changing the way we think about the materials that surround us.
10 July – Making Histories: Thrifty Science and the Lucas Plan
Many of the questions makers are asking today have been asked before. How can we work more sustainably? How can we make a fairer world? This month, we invite two guests who can offer a new perspective on present day challenges by looking back to the past.
Simon Werrett shows us how, in the 17th and 18th centuries, scientific experimenters used the tools and materials readily available to them to make some of the most important scientific discoveries of the day. In this ‘thrifty’ approach to science, experimenters transformed their homes into laboratories as they recycled, repurposed, repaired, and reused their material possessions to learn about the natural world. What can small-scale experimental makers and technologists working today learn from these pioneers?
Adrian Smith tells the story of the Lucas Plan, the bold, utopian project forged in 1976 by workers from the failing Lucas Aerospace plant to re-organise their work to make ‘socially useful’ products. While their plan received a hostile response from management, their ideas lived on to inspire a new generation of utopian makers who want to manufacture a more just world.
From open source hardware to how-to videos, grassroots projects to cultural institutions, making increasingly happens in the ‘commons’.The commons are the things that we inherit and create jointly, and that will (hopefully) last for generations to come – they consists of gifts of nature such as air, oceans and wildlife as well as shared social creations such as libraries, public spaces, open source resources, scientific research and creative works.
Whether located in the makerspace or the museum, or accessible thanks to digital platforms and communities, these common goods are freely available to all and allow us to share knowledge and creativity to build a more equitable, accessible, and innovative world, transforming how we make with, and think about, the things that surround us.This month, we look at how makers can benefit from, and why we should contribute to – even defend – our commons.
Kat Braybrooke is a social scientist and designer whose work explores the politics of digitally-mediated spaces and practices, in particular the emerging relations between maker cultures and new modes of production.
Adrian McEwenis a geek and entrepreneur from Liverpool who makes, consults and writes on the Internet of Things. He’s also the co-founder of DoES Liverpool, a co-working and maker space. He has an interest in how we democratise access to the machinery of manufacturing, not least so he can use it himself; and how we smooth the path from one-off to mass-manufacture.
This month, in partnership with the Festival of Maintenance, we ask whether thinking and talking about innovation can lead us to neglect maintenance and maintainers and fail to recognise the potential for repair, reuse and recycling, those who keep things going and the often hidden work done in repair, custodianship, stewardship, tending and caring for the things that matter. Maintenance work can be routine or highly skilled and maintainers can be found in many contexts, including nature, software, infrastructure, communities, industry, information technology, arts and heritage and work across traditional disciplines of maintenance, repair and stewardship and new areas such as supporting digital products, sustaining open source software, and moderating online communities. They are involved in design for repair and reuse, local manufacturing, software and open hardware maintenance, remanufacturing, dataset stewardship, online and offline communities or the physical and digital commons.
Naomi Turner is one of the organisers of the Festival of Maintenance. In her day job, Naomi is a Product Manager at the Ministry of Justice, thinking about what the internet means for people in prison.She says, “I became involved in the festival partly as an outlet for my frustration about a culture that focuses on the shiny and new, especially when we barely care for what we already have.Many think that maintenance is unskilled, repetitive, ‘low’ work – indeed the opposite of innovation, but this simply isn’t true. My hope is that the Festival highlights how varied and undervalued maintenance is as an activity, and that it fosters new conversations about how we can better care for others around us, our communities and environment.”
Lauren Hutchinson is Managing Director of Oxford Hackspace, a core organizer for the UK Hackspace Foundation, a lifelong equality and minorities activist, geek herder, sign languages enthusiast and ASL community mod. Her background in minority law, post-colonial literature and translation helps shape her work as a leader in the maker community, and more recently she has studied radio, electronics, and boundaried empathy and connection between people.
She has lived all over the world, trying to learn how to care for people, and once nearly had to help deliver a baby during an AGM. She will talk about burnout, pressures and bullying in low emotional quotient communities, and share thoughts on what maintainers and volunteers can do to safeguard and heal their communities and themselves.
We are very much looking forward to our next gathering in Edinburgh, which will be a special edition of Maker Assembly, developed in collaboration with the British Council.
More than ever before, we will be expanding Maker Assembly’s reach to an international audience. We have invited makers, thinkers and doers from around the world, including representatives from the UK, South Africa, China, Nigeria, Turkey, Mexico and Ukraine, to participate in the day’s discussions and to share their knowledge, skills and experiences. In addition to the day’s sessions and activities, we will have the opportunity to hear more about the British Council’s Maker Library Network and Hello Shenzhen programmes.
As we have limited capacity, we ask for a £10 booking deposit that will be refunded on the day. Your ticket also includes a communal lunch and refreshments throughout the day.
About the British Council
The British Council is the United Kingdom’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We create friendly knowledge and understanding between the people of the UK and other countries. We do this by making a positive contribution to the UK and the countries we work with – changing lives by creating opportunities, building connections and engendering trust.
We work with over 100 countries across the world in the fields of arts and culture, English language, education and civil society. Each year we reach over 20 million people face-to-face and more than 500 million people online, via broadcasts and publications. Founded in 1934, we are a UK charity governed by Royal Charter and a UK public body.
Arts is a cornerstone of the British Council’s mission to create a friendly knowledge and understanding between the people of the UK and the wider world. We find new ways of connecting with and understanding each other through the arts, to develop stronger creative sectors around the world that are better connected with the UK.
We are very much looking forward to our next gathering in Manchester, in conjunction with the Crafts Council’s Make:Shift innovation conference.
Our Manchester event will explore international maker cultures and what the UK can learn from them; the relationship between making and manufacturing in the UK and the role of makerspaces within the sector, as well as Making and Humanitarian Relief, discussing the role making can play within responses to humanitarian challenges. We have some great speakers joining us, so watch this space for updates.
With Maker Assembly, we aim to bring people together to have a critical conversation about the cultures of making* – 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.
Session 1 – Learning from International Making Cultures
Thanks to support from the Comino Foundation, ticket prices are heavily subsidised. Your ticket also includes a communal lunch and refreshments during the day.
The current schedule, subject to change is:
Arrival and registration
Welcome address by Maker Assembly co-organisers Liz Corbin and Marc Barto
Welcome to MadLab by Asa Calow and Rachael Turner
Session 1 - Learning from International Making Cultures:
What can we in the UK learn from international making cultures? The session will hear from representatives of making cultures in Paris, Cape Town and Shenzhen, and explore the uniqueness of each culture as well as any common challenges and ambitions the varying perspectives might share.
Session 2 - Making and Humanitarian Relief:
How can we mobilise makers in our community to respond to humanitarian challenges? How can the use of digital platforms enable makers to collectively work on solutions? How can we make sure that what we design is needed and can be adapted by users locally?
Lunch & chats
Lunchtime Activity: The Incomplete and Crowdsourced History of UK Maker Culture
Session 3 - Making and Manufacturing:
What is the relationship between making and manufacturing in the UK? This session will explore manufacturing at all levels, from informal, collaborative, regional networked production, to indie, (re)distributed manufacturing, national networks, and how domestic activity relates with global supply chains.
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.
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.
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.
The current schedule, subject to change is:
Arrival, registration, refreshments
Session 1 – Activism: From historical maker movements to the present day, how has craft and making been used as a tool to promote change?
Lunch and lunchtime workshop
Session 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?
Session 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?
Finish sessions, and retreat to the Roco bar and roof terrace for those who want to continue the conversation
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.
Thanks to support from Comino Foundation, ticket prices are heavily subsidised. Your ticket also includes a communal lunch and refreshments during the day.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.