Am I a Maker?
Recently, I was in the kitchen at work enjoying my calories and chatting with a friend/colleague whose PhD is in Making and portable Making. She’s doing a really cool thing at the minute building a portable Making Space (this is grossly butchered, I’m sure it’s much more nuanced and cool than just a “portable Maker Space” :-P). During the conversation she mentioned that people had donated bits of kit to the Space to add to its functionality, and I proffered to throw in one of my mini-blacksmith forges so that people could smith stuff. The conversation around that resulted in me being asked about my Making stuff, and then ultimately in being offered to co-produce a small booklet on my Making for her project.
The thing is, I haven’t ever really considered myself a Maker before. I’m not particular interested in electronics, except where I might want to string up some LEDs somewhere. I like to contribute upstream to FLOSS projects, but I do this a lot less often than I’d like. I don’t really get creative with 3D printing and laser cutting. I enjoy various crafts and associated crafts materials, but in my head being a ‘Maker’ has always been associated with a particular aesthetic. My colleague sent me her example booklet and the first page really intrigued me; she described her style of Making, and that gelled with something that one of my favourite Makers had recently said around styles as well.
For context, I had always known that my colleague was into knitting and after hearing her discuss it, I had always thought of it as part of her Making practice – but I had never considered this in terms of style. This got me thinking; if my practice intersected with Making, what is my style and how would I describe it? (Humanist btw).
For all this revelation, I still get confused when I ask myself the question about whether I am a Maker (Marxist ideals aside). My understanding of the aesthetic of Making has grown to include the things I described to her that I did. From conversations with others, mainly around the lab, and mainly concerned with the Newcastle Maker Space – I understand there to be a sense of exclusivity around some Maker Spaces. From these same conversations, I also understand that this is probably Cishet White-Male related… Another issue I have is that my skill in all of these practices is really malnourished and underdeveloped. I try to do too many things. I suppose that’s maybe in the spirit of Making, but that label has always implied (to me at least) a certain degree of comprehension as well as the playfulness. That a Maker can often think of how to achieve a goal; whereas I still haven’t really been able to flex those muscles to hack around a problemspace too often.
I don’t know where I’m going with this. I think maybe my discomfort comes from the taking of my own practices of exploring my humanity through creating things and playing, and just describing it as Making. Not that I have an issue with Making as a practice, I think that this stems from how I think of my Making ‘style’ as humanist. What I do is what just comes naturally to humans until it’s beaten out of them by society. I am a Human and I make stuff, small m. I think that, maybe, describing myself as a Maker would belie an arrogance around my practice that I just don’t possess. This is different for others of course, but making stuff (not Making) is inherently human; and I don’t like that the label of Maker would set me apart from the rest of my species other than a relatively small group… that Makes me sad.