Saturday, 12 May 2012

thoughts on making

rubbing the image onto the block

This post is about the importance of making.

A no-brainer for those who make, and no doubt also for many who have art/design/craft/making blogs of some kind or other. You already know how valuable the act of making is.

But it's interesting to see how all the wonder and goodness and beauty that makers know comes from making is now starting to be recognised in broader society. People are starting to sit up and take notice of making and makers. Which is a great thing because it doesn't seem so long ago that craft and other making type domains were looked down upon and seen as, well, kind of quaint, but not much more than that. And the thing I'm also noticing is the boundary between art/design and making generally is blurring. And I, for one, am very happy about that blurred boundary.

David Guantlett's book 'Making is Connecting' is one that pulls ideas about the value and place of making together along with a dash of history for good measure. It's quite a good read and for an academic (he's Prof of Media & Communications at the Uni of Westminster), David writes in a very accessible way.

Yesterday Lindy Osborne, an architect and academic, was live tweeting (@LindyOsborne) from the 2012 Experience Conference - a national architecture conference in Brisbane. Two of her tweets caught my eye:

'Students take note: 'The hand is the most important method of learning.' Murcutt wisdom.'


'Murcutt keeps focussing on importance of 'making' in his discussions with Wang Shu. Wish every QUT archi student was here.  '

Her enthusiastic references to Murcutt were from Glenn Murcutt, also an architect, who was hosting one of the sessions at the conference. I was intrigued and also elated to hear an architect valuing making and work done by the hand as a way to learn given how digitally savvy that industry has become. 

And every time I watch an episode of Grand Designs lately there is a story about somebody needing to make with their hands, the result often being they give up indoor day jobs to work onsite building their dream houses. Long gone are the days when it was somewhat shameful to work with our hands and more desirable to do 'clean work' indoors, most often behind a computer. Tradies are valued quite highly these days for the skills and practical handwork they can do. And why shouldn't they be?

So makers of all kinds. It feels like the wheels are turning our way. Do you feel it too?


  1. Absolutely. I feel it too. I think it's part of a larger change that is happening. A shift toward wanting to be more connected with like minded people (or ANY people), a shift of focus from money and all the things that money brings to an enjoyment of a simpler life.

    And it's not just about the end product, it's about the process of making and the sharing of skills. I organised an event for work (my sustainability education job) based around sustainable fashion and skilled makers/crafters sharing their skills. Participants could do do a few mini workshops across the evening, learning things like knitting, refashioning clothing, jewellery repair, etc. it was outrageously popular and we could not cater for all of the people who turned up (it was a free event). Everyone (even those who only watched) was so excited, people were connecting with each other, you could see the pride and satisfaction on people's faces as they looked at their finished product. And it was people of all ages, genders, cultural backgrounds. It was one of the most satisfying things I have ever done for work.

    Another point worth noting regarding the changing perception of this type of thing - it was picked up and promoted by some hip Melbourne online publications who usually promote things like fancy new restaurants opening, retail fashion sales and other 'hands off' events. We were very surprised.

    1. That is the *best* story Belinda! How fabulous that you were able to organise that through your work. And I think you're right, the fact that those hip publications promoted that event shows how this kind of thinking is spreading.

      And yes, I agree, the process is a huge part of why people make. And why they'll continue to.

  2. Yes absolutely.I make drawings. And I am a part of a drawing group. I think 15 years ago if I sat in a park and drew, it would have been considered 'quaint'. Today I am surprised to see families bringing their children to draw rather than taking them to an amusement park. There are also so many youngsters drawing all the time that it inspires me to draw more too.
    I also agree with Belinda, there is a shift of focus from money to the simpler joys of life.

    1. Priya - I know what you mean about drawing in public and people thinking it's quaint. But what you say about that changing is very heartening!

      It's an interesting cultural thing too I think. In Japan children draw all the time because of the strong manga culture there. Even really tiny kids. I was really amazed by the confidence young adults had with their drawing ability because of this. In Australia so many adults think they can't draw and are reluctant to try. But perhaps that's going to change too because of all this interest in making.

  3. I work for a very progressive local government under a great manager who allows us to do pretty much anything as long as we can demonstrate that it is likely to result in good sustainability outcomes. This means that we can put on free community events that the community actually want to come to and enjoy (unlike many government initiatives which tend to bore anyone who has even the slightest interest in/knowledge of pop culture). And we consistently achieve our sustainability goals. So everyone wins.

  4. I was reading through an interview with Milton Glaser just now and while I dread shoving links at people, I would like to suggest the link here because he talks about what you talk in your post and also touches on what we are articulating in the comments here. It is an interesting read.

    1. A great read Priya! Thanks for sharing the link. I love it when he says: "And people who make things are on the side of Eros". Yeah.

  5. You are so right! I hadn't brought it to the front of my brain yet, but as I read I could not help but agree. Well thought and well put!

  6. Great post...I totally agree!! In the past I was a bit shy to admit that I make things but now I am very proud to tell everyone... there is definately a better understanding these days though there are still lots of people who's eye glaze over when you start talking about anything to do with making! Quite funny really! But I now realised after years of hiding... it's what makes me happy! :)

  7. I studied furniture and graphic design at University of Tasmania. You were expected to hand draw your designs from concept to prototype, to hand build your own models and prototypes, to build your own jigs and molds and even build your own equipment if necessary.

    Due to the remote location local suppliers and manufacturers were not varied or abundant so you were forced to source materials that were at hand, often choosing unconventional materials and making them work for you.

    It was a little scary sometimes, defintely exciting and so goddam empowering as a designer/maker to be able to have an idea and work it through all the stages to a prototype.
    Since then I have been able to tackle many different design projects varied in scale and materials.
    I am able to visualise the processes required to take an idea and make it happen. This does not happen when design is concepted and evolved within the computer environment.
    Because of my early training I have found that I can quickly sketch up and process ideas to see if they will work or not as a finished design or product.

    It never fails to impress a client when you can take a pen to journal right in front of them to visualise an idea. It allows you to be spontaneous as a designer there is no lag time. You also have better control of the ip showing a potential designer rough sketches in a journal is far better protection than sending them electronic mockups of ideas before they have signed on the dotted line.

    If there are any design students out there resisting journal work embrace it accept it as part and parcel of your identity you dont have to be a brilliant artist just be able to translate your ideas into visually. Trust me you will be a far better designer/maker for it.

    OK enough said....thanks for opportunity to voice my thoughts on this topic.


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  8. correction I meant potential client not potential designer..... in the second to last paragraph.

    oh dear another correction I must type slower!
    second to last sentence able to translate your ideas visually...


    1. Everything you say rings true to me in a range of creative fields. It just goes to show the power of something from the hand (and heart).
      Thanks for sharing your experience and thoughts.