This week, I visited Dovecot Studios which has a wonderful new exhibition Selected, supported by Creative Scotland.

Making connections

How does craft practice connect to new forms of consumption, the rise of the creative city, digital process and hybrid practices? How can makers connect with audiences in new ways? Making connections is a half day symposium exploring the fast evolving nature of craft practices in the 21st century that uses Selected as a backdrop to discuss Scotland’s new craft.

I was invited to speak at the open session in the afternoon where a room of makers, designers, artisans and interested parties came together to talk future craft, making and manufacturing.  Not a small subject by any means and always an interesting multi-topic debate.

The fantastic Mike Press hosted, making it feel like an informal early Christmas party and less ‘conference’, stimulating debate across the afternoon, posing a series of questions around our values and the evolving maker movement that is building an entire new eco-system and opportunity for the way we produce both material objects and future designs.

My talk focused on the Maker Eco-system, which was part inspired by an image in Deloitte’s think piece on ‘A movement in the making’ but also because these days, it is hard to discuss any one issue/theme/product in isolation to the wider system it is part of, hence one of the reasons we’ve discussed systems thinking as part of our work in Service Design.

The Maker movement is now connected to new forms of manufacturing, production, education, technology, value chains, localism, globalism education and economics.  We are in a new industrial revolution that’s bigger than manufacture and materials, it’s a social revolution and it’s posing some big questions about what making and craft is.

There are many drivers of change which are reforming our connection with craft and making and there are now many discussions taking place about where craft fits within this larger movement, and how we challenge and embrace it at the same time.

Now with the opportunity to bypass art schools, apprenticeships and learn online – where does that leave the artisans who have been practicing for years, and what qualifys a maker?

And then there’s that question – ‘What is craft?’.  We did our best to steer away from the latter question throughout the day and focused more on the practice of making which I found to be a good move on Mike’s part – it can often stifle the conversation before even getting started on future action which was another core component of the day.  Come, listen and then take action.

I was asked to talk about consumer change, and this in turn links into making, manufacturing, production and more.  Coming from a service design perspective, I talked about the quest for authenticity and experiences beyond the product, that many service design geeks will relate back to Pine and Gilmour theories on moving to an Experience Economy.  And finally, I found a reason to intertwine my thesis on the quest for authenticity from my Bachelors degree which analysed the hipster movement, post modern music cultures and looked at some of my favourite music movements including 70s Punk, early 90s Rave and the good old 80s Hacienda study and rising of rave/house and drug culture from Chicago.

I doubt my thesis will ever see the light of day on the internet, it was never that well written but I’m very thankful to Dovecot for giving me the opportunity to revisit this knowledge and writing and share it!

I promised to put my slides online and provide links to the research, articles and papers I mentioned throughout. The links are not necessarily in order with the slides and the notes are rough but they will provide a snapshot of the thinking behind what I was presenting.  I hope it is useful and I’m always up for a conversation about projects related to any of the themes.  As I said at the start of my talk, making is in my DNA from early lego models of train networks to practising as a designer at the Glasgow School of Art I’ve always worked, used and iterated ideas with my hands and this method of working has informed the presentation I put together.

Thanks again to Dovecot for asking me to attend and talk – it was a pleasure and an enjoyable day!


Growing Up

Parents Lego Instructions

New Maker Spaces

Fab Foundation

Setting up a fab lab

MakLab – Fabrication Studio Scotland (Glasgow HQ, Dundee, Aberdeen)

Makerversity – Somserset house


Instructables – Knowledge online on making

Railway Model Maker, 3D printing railway models and shipping globally from Orkney

“The 3-D-printing industry isn’t revolutionary, it’s evolutionary,” said Andrew Left, a notable short seller and chief of Citron Research. “In a hot market like this, you get a good story. It just captures peoples’ imaginations, but in this case it also captures peoples’ dollars.”

3D printing is an eco-system – Alan Meckler, MediaBistro chariman and CEO

Art School, Smart School

“People in the past 100 years have regarded the artist as being a sort of disolute, beatnik, living in a world of his own, producing paintings that mean nothing to anybody and  living off public funds. Nothing could be farther from the truth.  The artist is a very Disciplined, sensible and active minded person”

“So lucky to be at an art school where they talked about Media, electronics and technology would change the language of society”

“Infinite number of ways to get to the same point”

“Develop yourself as a human being”

– BBC Radio 4

My fear on art schools becoming middle class and not accessible to the masses.  I worked about 3.5 days a week during art college to pay my way and still ended up with a massive overdraft and a bill I’m still paying.  It was tough but if it hadn’t been for free tuition there was no way I could have made it in.  Is the maker movement and access to online technology and information bypassing this – and does this then leave us the space that Art Schools afford to learn how to think through making over an extended period of time? (A blog post brewing on this)

Authentic Experiences and cool hunting (fake authenticity)

No Logo – Naomi Klein

Walmart ‘I am a factory’

Levis: Made and Crafted


‘Getting one’s hands dirty by making things’ (Frayling)

Christopher Frayling on Craftsmanship 

Why office work is bad for us | The case for working with your hands

Creative Review |  The Crafts issue

“…but the Japanese Selvedege denim and the skills of the highly experienced staff who cut and sew it are only part of the brand’s appeal”

“I realised that along with the jeans factory, we have to start another factoy – a content factory”

Hiut Denmin Co

“I love making shoes…I love the pyhsical process, touching the leather, having the tools in my hand. I feel I’m making something that has real meaning for people”

‘For Carre, shoemaking is problem solving”


“I find the process of making something can be quite similar across disciplines”

Jake Rusby, Rusby cycles (Sculptor turned bike maker)

“Our phones are simultaneously human and precision-crafted”


Maker Movements

“This is what we now call the maker movement, a term coined by Dale Dougherty of O’Reilly Media. In 2005 the technology publisher bet on it by launching not just Make magazine, a quarterly journal about DIY projects, but also, in 2006, a series of Maker Faires that became the first showcases for the movement. The exact definition of “makers” is a bit imprecise, but you can think of them as the web generation creating physical things rather than just pixels on screens. To use the terminology of the MIT Media Lab, they’re treating atoms like bits using the powerful tools of the software and information industries to revolutionise the way we make tangible objects.”

Wired | Maker Movement

“Of course, you don’t have to put your product through Crowdrooster if you choose to work from the Makerversity, nor must your idea originate from Makerversity for it to be placed on Crowdrooster — but there’s no denying that the combination of space, access to tools and funding resources could make this corner of London an exciting addition to the UK’s maker movement.”

Funding platforms connected to maker spaces (Makerversity and Crowdrooster)

“Finally, I know people who would even claim that they “made” products such as their custom Nike iD sneakers, even if that meant they personalized the colors and design online and had the production take place elsewhere.”

What is the Maker Movement? (Huffington Post)

 Adoption Curve of technology

 GE Garages – Open Maker Spaces

 A shift is happening – 3D printers in libraries |

 On the corporate giants catching up on the grassroots movements | GE Garges |

 Craft Beer Explosion – Brew Dog (the sucess) to smaller beer places like Pilot and Edinburgh Gin Company

 Tenents now in on the action

 We are still firmly in the honeymoon period with 3D printing

 These new one-man makers

 In the late 1970s, manufacturing made up close to a third of British GDP, yet now it is barely a tenth. Over the same period, employment in this sector fell from around 6.8 million to 2.5 million today

ETSY hits 1 billion dollors

 Technology is only one part of the story (RSA Maker movement) –

 Business Population Estimates – Graph rise in one man makers above and the ‘5 to 9ers’

Working Class – authentic connection

 “We are a lost generation, desperately clinging to anything that feels real”

“But after punk was plasticized and hip hop lost its impetus for social change, all of the formerly dominant streams of “counter-culture” have merged together.”

The American Apparel V-neck shirt, Pabst Blue Ribbon beer and Parliament cigarettes are symbols and icons of working or revolutionary classes that have been appropriated by hipsterdom and drained of meaning.

Adbusters: The end of Western Civilisation as we know it


DIY Revolution

Do it yourself – lost the artsy decoration to our homes brought into our lives by programmes such as changing rooms and begun to connect making with DIY

Makerhood – Lambeth 

Deloitte ‘A movement in the making’

Craftspeople, tinkerers, hobbyists, and inventors can all be considered makers. As Chris Anderson puts it, “We are all born makers.”

“Seed capital from crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter, cheap manufacturing hubs, international shipping, and e-commerce distribution services such as Etsy and Quirky help makers commercialize their creations.”

Linking production to manufacturing | Make Works

Big corporations are investing in software to open up manufacturing process

“Autodesk has invested in making its professional-grade design software available on desktops everywhere, and, with its acquisition of Instructables, the company places itself amid the amateur market, deeply engaging with makers at multiple levels.”

“With the groundswell of global participation, the maker movement on its own is interesting. As a precursor of a broader shift in the global economic landscape, it is doubly so.”

“The transfer of knowledge from the expert to the novice inspires more people to become involved and move from zero to maker.”

From Mass Manufacture to Niche Products

However, it is only a matter of time before large firms begin to feel the impact as multitudes of niche products collectively take market share away from generic incumbent products. Ignoring niche products won’t reverse the trend.

Ikea Hackers

Arts and Crafts – What is your movement?

The Arts and Crafts Movement formed into various crafts guilds to try to recreate the dignified working environment that existed in the medieval crafts guilds. They gave themselves names such as the Century Guild, the Guild of Saint George, the Art Workers Guild and the Guild of Handicraft.

The medieval crafts guilds were groups of artists, architects, and craftsmen who formed an alliance to maintain high standards of workmanship, regulate trade and competition, and protect the secrets of their crafts.

Their notions of good design were linked to their notions of a good society

Ruskin, Morris, and others proposed that it would be better for all if individual craftsmanship could be revived– the worker could then produce beautiful objects that exhibited the result of fine craftsmanship, as opposed to the shoddy products of mass production.

However,in time the English Arts and Crafts movement came to stress craftsmanship at the expense of mass market pricing. The result was exquisitely made and decorated pieces that could only be afforded by the very wealthy. Thus the idea of art for the people was lost, and only relatively few craftsman could be employed making these fine pieces.

RSA – Breaking the Mould

Since 2008 a remarkable 600,000 new microbusinesses have been created

Whereas 10 or 15 years ago businesses were able to rely on price, quality and availability to set themselves apart from the crowd, today many must compete on their ability to make customers ‘feel’ something, in the words of business guru Nicholas Lovell. By talking with buyers via social media, offering custom-made services and creating goods with authenticity and a personal connection, Etsy sellers show how these changing consumer demands can be met while simultaneously retaining a business model that generates a profit. – Nicholas Lovell (Breaking the mould)

New features in making

Lean shift of manufacturing – on demand

Specialised niche markets via Etsy

Feedback from clients

48% of etsy traders reccomended other services


Promote the importance of having a personal ‘brand’ from an early age – Educators should help young people develop a personal brand that enables them to stand out from the crowd – something that will become increasingly important as experiences, entertainment and services become more central to our economy. As part of this we should promote the idea of having a ‘Creative Year’ after studies, where young people engage in activities like starting a business or organising a movement where they can express themselves in a meaningful way. 37 percent agreed that emotional support and friendship from other sellers is important to them

Close to three quarters (71 percent) said providing customised products is an important part of their offer


Ebay to Etsy, Folksy, Not On The High Street and DaWanda

Through new online platforms it is now relatively simple to rent out driveways (JustPark), lease spare rooms (Airbnb), share garden tools (Streetbank), lend money to others (Zopa) and make money from unused time and talents (PeoplePerHour).

More authentic experiences and products – the story behind it

The Great British Bake Off and The Great British Sewing Bee

Three types of craft/maker community

Visionaries, Independents and Dabblers


“The ideas that animate the emerging economy are about service; empathy

and emotional intelligence; consumer voice; and providing things with

people rather than only to and for them.”

Pine and Gilmour – The Experience Economy

Vanilla Ink on offering experiences to customers 

Geoff Mulgan

73% said interacting with their buyers through social media increased sales and relationship with their buyers

THE Ikea Effect

“..the increase in valuation of self-made products”

Vat Moss threatens Micro business

The EU’s new VAT MOSS rule, which is due to come into force on January 1, will create a #VATMESS and strangle innovation, say the UK’s small business owners

Crafts Council | An Education manifesto for craft and making