Curating Maker Cultures

Plymouth College of Art in association with Dr Ares Kalandides managing director of INPOLIS economic development consultants in Berlin.

This is essentially a development workshop that explores the complex task of how we might best facilitate (‘curate’ and cultivate) creative clusters, or ‘communities’ of makers. As stated in the main ‘Aims & Themes’ text, a decisive factor concerning the theme of ‘crafting a sustainable Modernity’ and of promoting ‘a maker aesthetics of production and consumption’ are the networks (physical and digital) that help bring individual makers into constellations of maker groups that together can become mutually supportive maker culture sub-systems, thus establishing maker ecologies, with the potential to become maker economies. These cultural clusters not only allow for rich social and learning exchanges between participants, but also sometimes generate extra jobs to be undertaken within the ‘community’, as well as helping to develop audiences and consumers.[i]

Broadly speaking, Ares Kalandides see’s three levels to participation in such initiatives: 1) knowledge and information; 2) decision-making; 3) sharing in value creation. The first is the most common – and maybe easiest form of participation. Its principle is that knowledge is shared, not something exclusively held by experts. The second is more complex, as it’s the principle of democracy: everybody affected by a decision should somehow have a say in it. And finally the third one is the one we always forget: if there is any value created through such processes, this former always needs to be shared in some way. Full participation includes all three.[ii]

Taking this tri-partite schema as a departure point, this workshop therefore asks what might be the common and/or exceptional circumstances that dictate the success and difficulties facing such initiatives. For example, the 2015 edition of Making Futures featured keynote addresses that looked closely at the semi-rural/suburban north Californian ‘FIbreshed’ movement - a localised regenerative textile economy which brings together non GMO farmers with textile producers, designers and makers, and retail outlets. In this edition we are turning towards an urban European model based on the Berlin ‘alternative culture’ of auteur makers. It might be that each of these examples of maker-based clusters represents niche propositions entirely unique to their own immediate participants, contexts and social underpinning. However, is this entirely the case? Or might there be important generic factors, ‘lessons’ even, that can be learned and exchanged across formats that attempt to generate and sustain different maker ecologies?

We invite abstract submissions from anyone involved in helping to establish such creative communities - be they principally urban or rural, informed by a strong social enterprise element, or environmental agenda, or directed mainly to economic entrepreneurship, or mixtures of all.  We ask that they come prepared to identify the key factors behind the successes and difficulties faced by the initiatives they are associated with and the extent to which these points can be created, or addressed, afresh. These might include, to give but several examples: imaginative leadership; access to affordable spaces, materials and equipment; local or national business start-up and support policies and agencies; strong senses of place; suitable creative practitioners and/or micro enterprises; appropriate audiences for the work, etc.  

Note that we intentionally adopt a broad definition of creative maker cultures – from contemporary artists who might be based in the sub-cultural music and fine arts scenes, to contemporary craftspeople, to designer-makers, to technology orientated maker-lab participants. We do so because although often possessing distinct motivations, these creative ‘scenes’ not only often interact, collaborate, learn from, and support one another (intentionally or otherwise), but the collective agency of their efforts frequently operates to create and strengthen audiences whose cultural and life-style interests also overlap.

This fourth workshop ostensibly shares substantial interests with Workshop 3: Making Leaders (Innovation & Change). Depending on how the submissions received approach their subjects, we reserve the right to combine these workshops to the benefit of the majority of the potential audience.

[i] See CREATe, London, Berlin, Milan’ Phase 1, Prof. Angela McRobbie, Dr Dan Strutt, Carolina Bandinelli and Dr Bettina Springer; especially Chapter 2, ‘Berlin Findings’, page 22.

[ii] Ares Kalandides, “The problem with participation in urban development” on the Institute of Place Management blog at: