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Second Proposal

Page history last edited by Anna Delaney 10 years, 8 months ago

Proposal II

History Group

Due: October 30th 2009



Our Episode Pitch:


 Name three things that sparked Maker Culture. LEGO, PlayDoh and McGyver probably weren't the first things that came to mind. But, toys and popular culture played an enormous role in the development of Maker Culture as a modern movement against corporate consumer life.


This entire makerculture project is focused on makerculture in the here and now.


But where did these makers come from?


In this episode we'll explore Maker Culture's shift from a necessity of life, into a lifestyle choice. Hundreds of years ago, if you weren't a maker you would be dead. People made their own clothes, their own food, and their own toys.


Yet today, thanks to modern technology, many people in our society are capable of abandoning the maker culture and embrace a consumer culture of buying 'things' from China instead of making them themselves.


But, as we have found in this project, they have not. In fact, the maker movement is growing rapidly.




We'll show just how deep Maker Culture goes. The motivations for makers can be as varied as the things they make; some do it because they have a life-long love for LEGO or for blowing up chemistry sets, and others became Makers for the sake of the planet and the health of their kids.  Maker Culture from necessity to choice, that's our focus.


Research to Date:

We are going to spend a lot of energy looking into the idea of Mennonites as makers. The Mennonites' relations with food and the history behind their farming traditions relate very closely to makerculture history, and in fact best resemble human culture just before the launch of our ultra-modern society. We are taking a road-trip to St. Jacobs, a well known mennonite community just outside of Waterloo, to jump head-first into the maker culture ethic.


During the course of our research, another thing that jumped out to us was that everyone has their own story to tell. There are general over-arching themes that link these makers together, but each one is as unique as the things they make.


Some, like Gaynor Evanov, do it for economic reasons. Her husband lost his job as a construction plumber fifteen years ago and he was too old to be re-trained in a new profession. So, they started the fudge business.


Others, like Etty van Dyken and her bees wax candles, started making because of their concern for the environment.


So it is clear that everyone might have a slightly different motivation or reason as to why they decided to become makers. They all have a different background in their lives, and it is our goal to discuss these stories and try and understand how they all came to the same conclusion in life; that they wanted to become "makers".


To begin our research into the history of makerculture we familiarized ourselves with the notions of what a maker does. We got a general sense of what makerculture is by reading websites tagged on Delicious about the varying subsets of makerculture. This allowed us to understand that it is a far reaching mindshare that has many deeply historical roots.


This is a broad topic so for the purposes of our project we decided to narrow our research down to toys, food, apparel and carpentry. We feel that these four topics are the four 'pillars' of human life; they all play an intricate role in the development of humans from their youngest years to their old age. We chose the three essential's of life which are food, clothing, and shelter (carpentry) because they are essential for the health and well-being of us as a species.


Lee Valley Tools in particular has printed Shop Notes, an annual collection of advice on jigs, fixtures, methods of work, processes and projects. The earlier issues had more emphasis on metalworking than woodworking but the focus was always on small shop practice. As years went by, the contents shifted more and more to woodworking and handyman projects. There is a Lee Valley store in London so it would be very enlightening to travel there and videotape a session of them instructing a class on how to build a specific project, and the same goes for the DIY workshops at Home Hardware.


These books also link closely to the old Popular Mechanics books of the 1950's and 1960's, which were chock full of DIY projects from how to fix a book shelf, to how to build a soap-box derby racer.


Finally, we chose to focus on toys for one important reason. We believe that toys like LEGO, chemistry sets, and wooden blocks are in fact one of the catalysts for what made makers want to be makers. Through a series of interviews with self-proclaimed DIY'ers, it turns out this unique outlook on consumerism, and life in general for that matter, is a lifelong obsession. From the information gathered, thus far, it appears that the DIY gene is just as prominent, if not more so, throughout the childhood and adolescent years. The penchant to explore, understand and even alter every day objects was nurtured, primarlily, at a very early age by playing with a number of basic, yet potentially complex, toys - Lego, Tinkertoys and Knex just to name a few.


That is why we have chosen these four broad categories of study within our larger topic of 'history'.




One of our largest assumptions that is guiding this project is that the majority of makers today were influenced by their childhood. Either through the toys they played with, or the jobs their mother and fathers had, or the things they watched on television or in their own communities, we think that the makers childhood played a critical role in the formation of their desire to be 'makers' even if it took decades for that desire to manifest itself in their lives and in their jobs.


Our overarching assumption is that makers have been around for centuries. We are going to touch on the ancient makerculture history, but only briefly then move on.


We branch out from this assumption by analyzing four different streams of the history of makerculture.  We also assume that makerculture began out of necessity, and has transformed into a way of life in opposition to a society where everything can be purchased pre-made.


Another assumption of ours is that in the current economic recession more people may resort to this new mindshare of makerculture as an alternative way of saving money. The assuptions for the carpentry / crafts section, is that these skills are passed down from one generation to the next. Initially it would have started as a necessity; instead of buying new chairs, tables, or even xmas gifts, people would have made them. It can even go further back than that, in that wood was a necessary tool that everyone needed to know how to work with. From building a log cabin on the frontier, to elderly men sitting on their front porches carving a lion into an old piece of wood with their trusty knife, wood working has been a part of our culture for centuries.  


The same goes for metalworking, and other crafts such as pottery or knitting (which ties into the clothing portion of our discussion). People did it because they had to.


In our written portion, we anticipate that our findings for each section will vary differently, thus proving our assumption - that people do this for many different reasons - as correct.



Possible Interview Subjects:

We have included a comprehensive list of people we have already contacted, or people we plan to contact, in our contact diary section at the bottom of this page.



Media Choices:

For this piece, we have several ideas.


One, for the podcast we think it would be a good idea to follow a blacksmith or a carpenter in the creation of something. Either a blacksmith making a horseshoe or some other tool, we think that would provide some texture and flesh into our podcast. We could begin with the blacksmith heating the iron or the metal and describing how it was he decided to become a maker.


Then, a little later in the podcast we could return to the blacksmith as he is hammering out the iron into whatever it is he is making. At this point it would be our preference to have him describe what it is that he is doing to us in detail; the literal nuts and bolts of his operation.


Finally, as a way on of concluding our broadcast, we could have him place the hot metal into a bucket of water to cool it off, and describe what he sees for the future of his business. For example, even though there are machines and devices available to make nails, horseshoes, etc. cheaper, does he foresee a future for his business and for the DIY movement altogether?? Is he worried?? Etc.


A second idea we have, and this one could be included on the blog or on the rabble.ca website, is to go to a Lee Valley tool seminar and follow the creation of an object from beginning to end. Nov. 7th there is a workshop for how to frame and matte your own photo and we think this could add a good personal dimension to the piece as we follow someone who may not be your typical maker, and may have never MADE anything before, and we trace their journey from noobie, to maker. We follow the development of their project from beginning, to end.


Throughout these two pieces, we would intersperse other interviews and pieces of audio that could highlight the growth of the maker culture. An example of this would be the audio piece we put together from the trip to the London Arts and Crafts show; a simple discussion with people explaining their motivations for becoming makers, and their own personal history. The driving force of this piece will be people telling us their stories in their OWN words.


For the video portion of the piece, a compilation of our interviews that were done at the St. Jacobs market, as well as in town and in the LEGO store, could form the crux of the video. People telling us, in their own words, why they do what they do and how they do it.


Finally, for the 2,000 word essay portion of the paper we could describe our final findings and interpretations of our assumptions and if we were right, and in our individual sections (clothing, food, toys, carpentry) we will use anecdotal evidence to prove - or disprove - our assumptions.



Focus, Scope, Angle of Piece

Food, carpentry, clothing, and toys will be the main area subjects of our historical analysis. We believe that food and carpentry (which includes things like metal working, pottery, etc.) were essential tasks ever since humans evolved from their primate ancestors, and that these form the basics of life as we know it today. Clothing emerged slowly (and still is evolving today), but it also played an important role in the development of modern humans. Finally, toys will be the final aspect of our study and for a very specific reason. Maker culture has emerged today as a dominant rejection of the consumer culture and the growth of the DIY ethic, yet this emergence has to have emerged from somewhere, and we believe that the current maker culture ethic and spirit is deeply rooted in the toys of yesterday. LEGO, chemistry kits, tinker toys, etc. were all an important catalyst in helping the makers of today realize their love for creation, and their passion for making.

We realize the importance of not dwelling on the 'ancient' past of makerculture and will make sure we maintain a more modern focus of what inspired today's makers to do what they do, and how they do.



Next Steps

We have begun to fully immerse ourselves in the maker culture, and the trip to St. Jacobs and Detroit/Cleveland (Rust Belt Road Trip) will be a critical portion of this work. We have conducted several interviews with makers that have reaffirmed our belief that each maker has a different story about how and why they became makers. We've done a lot of theoretical research and analysis, but now is the time to get out there and pound the pavement, make contacts, and find out what really drove people to become makers. They didn't just decide one day to pick up a chisel or pottery wheel and start making stuff; what were the precursors and the catalysts for their decision to enter this world of "makers"?

The emergence and development of Maker Culture as a choice, rather than a necessity.



Contact Diary:


David J. Perdue

22-year-old University Student at Liberty University, Virginia U.S.A.

Author of The Unofficial LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT Inventor's Guide (No Starch Press, 2007) and Competitive MINDSTORMS (Apress, 2004)

(512) 638-3082

Interviewed David on Friday November 13, 2009


Cam Waldbauer. He was Geoff Turners boss for years in the Special Effects Industry, and he's got stories about blowing things up when he was a kid.

Contacted; still waiting for a reply.

Interview Today, Nov. 3, at 5 pm EST.


Marie Sharpe

Head of costume department of the Arts and Culture Centre in St. John’s Newfoundland.

(709) 895 2762

Interviewed Marie on Friday November 6, 2009.


Jackie Vass

Jacqueline's Inc.'

Interviewed in person at St. Jacob's Farmer's Market on Saturday October 31, 2009.


Angus Burns

White Wolf and Friends

Interviewed in person at St. Jacob's Farmer's Market on Saturday October 31, 2009.


Noreen Awan

Butter Cream Cupcakes

Interviewed in person at St. Jacob's Farmer's Market on Saturday October 31, 2009.


Wilf Damstra

Lee Valley Tools, London.

Matting and Framing Workshop Leader.

Workshop: Saturday, November 7th 2009

(519) 659-7981



Grand River Garment Co.

Marlis _____ (unknown last name)

Manager of Moccasins, leather and sheepskin garments, deerskin gloves and mittens, authentic Indian crafts. St. Jacobs

Tel: 519-664-2155

Contacted; Interview Saturday, October 31 4 pm.


Massimo Banzi

The "Maker-God" of Europe. Creator of Tinker.it, and co-founder of the Arduino Project - an open-source electronics prototyping platform.

Contacted; Skype Interview Scheduled for Next Week (Novemer 6th or 7th)



Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino

Industrial and interaction designer, and CEO of Tinker.it

Skype interview scheduled for Tuesday, November 3, 2009 (9:00 a.m.)


+44 (0) 7500 904 728

Skype: alexandrasonsino


Darin White

Director of Kwartzlab Society Inc. - A Kitcherner Waterloo-based group of DIY enthusiasts

Interviewed Darin on 10/03/20099 at MiniSoOnCon2009 in Hamilton, Ont. 


Paul Brodeur

Co-founder of Protospace - A Calgary-based hackerspace

Interviewed Paul on 10/03/2009 at MiniSoOnCon2009 in Hamilton, Ont. 


Mark Pavlidis

Mobile Developer at Shortcovers - currently working on the iPhone eBook reader

Interviewed Mark on 10/03/2009 at MiniSoOnCon2009 in Hamilton, Ont. 


Rob Martin - Blacksmith.

Thak Blacksmithing, Floradale Ontario

(519) 669-0721

Contacted: Awaiting reply


Becky Wisdom

ReadyMade Magazine - Instructions for Everyday Life (DIY Magazine)

(212) 551-7189


Contacted: Awaiting confirmation for Interview time


Gil Warren

London community garden activist. He grows his own vegetables and herbs in a community garden in downtown London.

(519) 645-3108

Contacted, Awaiting Confirmation for interview


Walter Hachborn, Home Hardware

Phone #: 519-664-2252

"The original" Home Hardware store.

Tel: 519-664-2905

Contacted; interview Saturday October 31 2009


The Maple Syrup Museum

(519) 664-1232


Robert A. Brown GLASS AND METAL STUDIO. St. Jacobs


Tel: 519-664-1435

Contacted; Interview October 31st.


Etty van Dyken

The Wicked Bee Candles


Telephone:(519) 535 2649

Interviewed at the Arts and Crafts Fair, London


Maureen Compton

Sweetgrass Soaps

Interviewed at the Arts and Crafts Fair, London


Sandi Hewish

Sandi's Kitchen

Gourmet Preserves

Interviewed at the Arts and Crafts Fair, London


Gaynor Evanov

Oh! Fudge

Interviewed at the Arts and Crafts Fair, London


Mccall Pattern Company

New York (Headquarters)

(800) 782-0323

Contacted: will return our call when they find a "suitable" person for interview

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