What is a Maker?

I am. You are.

Ask five people this question and you will get answers that will be vastly different from the other. Some will immediately think in terms of computer hardware robots, metal pieces and pipes, computers, Arduinos, 3d printers, drill presses to soldering irons and saws while others shift towards printing supplies, jewelry making, and others art installations in architecture. The point is – there’s no wrong answer. We are all makers. If you can think of something to make, you are a maker, no matter how crazy it sounds. Remember Sid from Toy Story? He was a Maker (OK, he was a breaker first!) and you know what? Given some direction and inspiration instead of being ignored that creativity is the stuff that maker spaces encourage young, old and everyone in between to just create without a good reason. Create because you can. Create because inspiration hits you and you have a plan. Create because you do not have a plan.

I received my love for creating honestly. As the daughter of a mechanic and a self-taught artist it’s no wonder I see beauty in industrial things. It wasn’t until I had friends who received art degrees that I realized that my mother had completed every type of genre of art installation throughout my childhood by being a hacker. Self-taught by going to the library, researching the subject and doing it. She took classes, subscribed to art journals, read so many books and spoke to other ‘makers’. We didn’t call them that back then. She just lived it. I thought my life was one big arts and crafts festival. She lived the maker motto. She shared her knowledge and she sought learned from those who knew their craft. When they held Summer in the City, this country girl was probably the only country girl in the city who was forced to make friends with girls who were unlike me while my mom volunteered her time to teach art. She was a Girl Scout leader, VBS and Sunday School teacher. We watched MakerFaireher and sometimes helped and other times it spilled through and became a part of our lives. Batik, stained glass, typography, calligraphy, silk screen, quilting, weaving on a giant loom, basket weaving, 3d sculptures, painting, sewing, quilting, origami, quilling, tapestry, lace making, print making, paper sculptures, and the list goes on. My mom was Pinterest and people would come to her for the great ideas. In first grade – my invites to my birthday party consisted of a balloon inserted into a card the recipients had to blow up to read for the invitation. Yeh, I’ll bet that’s on Pinterest now, but Alice thought it up first!

I received that love for typography, letters and fonts from her. She loved the way she signed her name as did I and I was so jealous that I couldn’t get my cursive A’s to look as beautiful as her A’s that almost resembled an O. She knew I loved letters so in fourth grade I came home to a work station in my room with a home made silk screening press she came up with and for the next few days she silk screened all of the pink plain wallpaper with the same square of several awesome fonts I loved with the letter ‘A’ and ‘Andrea’ on it. Then hung the wall paper.

She is a Maker.

My dad worked at General Motors and worked on cars, welded, created and fixed them. He actually created parts for a Cavalier that did not exist to keep that thing going for me. He is a Maker. I did not realize that other people actually had to call people to fix things in their homes until I was married. The only thing we ever called to have fixed in our house was the television set because it had a magical tube in it. Everything else my dad knew how to fix. Still to this day I think it’s hilarious that he would reverse our furnace in the summer so it would blow air so it would feel like air conditioning. Who knew? It still makes me laugh when I think about hearing my ex say to me when we were newlyweds, “You know, I’m not your Dad, I can’t make the Eiffel tower out of toothpicks.” It makes me appreciate that generation now more than ever though because I forget that he didn’t always just know how to do those things. He had to learn.

That is why maker spaces like libraries and learning centers and mentors are so important to have in your life. As a single mom, I am grateful to have worked in a male dominated industry recently with oil field workers and mechanics and to have couple friends who aren’t afraid to send over their husbands to not just help me with an issue but to teach me so that I can do something myself the next time. I have received my share of great advice from guys at work on stuff that I’m working on for things I’m creating because they are industrial-type crafts. You would be surprised at the creativity and how their eyes light up when you talk shop with non-traditional ways of using electrical components or when you ask an electrician if you can have the stuff they are throwing away for a craft. They immediately want to know what you are doing with it. I’ve had some of the best suggestions for a purse come from dudes.

It’s the same in maker spaces. Collaboration of ideas are shared frequently and with excitement. I encourage you to purpose to make something today or help mentor a student with a project. Make it in your own space for now. Life is filled with so many things to do, people to see, obligations to fulfill. When I look back at the generations before me- my father’s dad, my Papa was a woodworking maker, my mother’s mom, my grandmother was also a seamstress and crafter. What will your ‘maker’ legacy be to the next generation?