GO MAKE SOMETHING: The Maker Movement

GO MAKE SOMETHING: The Maker Movement

At a party recently, a bunch of old guys – artists, tinkerers and generally handy dudes of a certain age – were reminiscing about high school shop class.

They found it amazing that forty and fifty years ago it was not considered unusual for a bunch of silly-assed, overly amped kids to be dealing with hands-on fooling around using massive, old, industrial-strength power tools.

In fact, they agreed, shop class was the go-to class for all the worker-dude guys who were not academically inclined.

All those assorted spinning wheels, sharp cutting edges, power cords, burning and smoking things, flying sparks, mounds of debris and such were a natural part of the shop class landscape.

“Jim’s Wood Turning” by William Warby via Flickr [CC BY-21.0]
Every one of the guys remembered that their shop teacher was missing at least a couple of fingers.  Every one of them remembered the safety lectures.

Mostly, though, they remembered how shop class got them fascinated with the joy of Making Something.  Collectively they mourned the passing of this rite of passage.

IT’S A-L-I-V-E!!!

Those old dudes were sounding “Taps” too early, it seems.  The joy of Making has taken the world by storm again.  It’s even got its own Movement now.  Do-It-Yourself lives!

This “Maker Movement” is a convergence of traditional artisans, computer hackers, independent inventors, designers, tinkerers and other (often manic) crafty sorts who toil away in their cluttered workrooms and closet-offices making cool stuff that sometimes solve everyday problems, big and small, and sometimes is just for fun.

“Time to Clean Up the Workbench” by Kent Landerholm via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
The first stirrings of the Movement in 2005 was spurred on by the vision and enthusiasm of the editors of Make: magazine, a publication that was born out of founder Dale Dougherty’s conviction that Making is a very good thing to do.

Before the magazine was a year old, it had become a nexus and a gathering place for a tech-influenced, grassroots, DIY community that spread and sprawled out like a kudzu vine.  The magazine dubbed  them “Makers.”

“I think the magic of [the magazine] was simply that we connected a lot of different groups that were making things but saw themselves as doing something separate,” Dougherty has said.

According to him, the artisans and artists saw themselves as different than the people who do robotics or electronics.  There was a sense of disconnection among all of these creative folks.  A knitter, a musician and a guy who builds a drone might not be able to feel like they belong to the same tribe, for example.

“To some degree calling them all makers kind of allowed for a flourishing of some different people coming together and seeing commonalities,” he said.


The Makers also spurred the magazine editors on to put together the first Maker Faire, a festival celebrating the innovation and self-reliance of the folks who do-it-yourself.

The first Maker Faire happened in San Mateo, about 20 miles from San Francisco.  It was billed as the “Greatest Show (and Tell) on Earth.”

The idea was to get all kinds of people of all ages and backgrounds to come together and show what they were making and share what they were learning with other people.  It was also all about experimenting, playing, and having fun connecting with other people.

The first Faire was a grand success, stirring the imaginations of jaded consumers numbed by the overabundance of generic, mass-produced goods.  It spawned what has since became a worldwide network of fancy flagship Faires in major cities that involve thousands of people as well as more down-home, independently produced mini-faires.

At these events, curious participants of all ages can experience the inventions of the Makers firsthand.  The spectators are invited to join in the parade and fun is had by all.

This 2012 YouTube video, “Inspiring a Maker Movement” was published by CNN and features Dale Dougherty talking about the very fundamental human need to make stuff.  You’ll also get a taste of what it’s like to be at a Maker Faire.

As Dougherty points out, it isn’t all high-tech, although 3D printers, digital manufacturing, drones and robots are all glittery highlights at the big international Faires.   New forms of arts, entertainment, crafts, food experiments, and every other kind of human creativity is fodder for exploration.

  • You can learn to build your own smartphone or make your own toys.
  • You might be able to print out a pair of shoes.
  • Maybe you’ll make your own jewelry or a handbag for mom or learn how to cook up something new.
  • You might learn how to crochet.
  • You might even learn how to home-automate your house with just a few simple measures.
  • You could learn how to pickle, can, and preserve fruits and vegetables and check out the latest advances in bee-keeping, composting and growing your own food.
  • You might learn how to write better instructions.

Checking out all that’s new in the world of making things could lead you to the start of a new interest, hobby or vocation.

At the Faires, open-source learning, contemporary design and powerful personal technology rule.  The strategy is to provide interested people with the right tools and the inspiration and opportunity to use them.  Creativity and a lot of imagination-sparking ensues.

to check out the Faire schedules and locations. It truly is mind-boggling!


Makers make stuff.  They want to know how they can do this thing or that.  They want to know how other people have solved a problem they are facing.

Magazines (like Make: magazine) as well as books, podcasts and YouTube videos for do-it-yourselfers have grown exponentially as more and more people become interested in being a Maker of one sort or another.

Hobbyists, enthusiasts, and those who’ve gained a certain mastery in some form of Making might be encouraged to give demonstrations, classes or workshops that attract others who want to explore new ways of Making too.

“Mike Soroka demonstrates glassworking ” (Artisan’s Asylum Open House, 2012) by Chris Devers via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Then there are the MakerSpaces that welcome a diverse group of builders, hackers, and hobbyists who share resources and knowledge.  Hundreds have cropped up in the past decade or so in the United States.

Some are housed in existing community centers such as libraries, museums or youth centers.  Others are sponsored by companies and organizations at conference centers.  All of them focus on the love of Making.

This YouTube video put together by TheMakerSpace earlier this year explains further:

MakerSpaces have taken off in all kinds of directions.  There are community-based spaces, spaces for kids, and spaces for explorers of all kinds.

“Maker[Space]Ship” by San Jose Public Library via Flickr [CC BY-SA-2.0]

“makers space” by jenny cu via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]

“Makers + Spaces” by Sharon Vanderkaay via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]

Here’s another YouTube video, by Intel (yes, those guys) showing off their “Ultimate MakerSpace,” at the company’s Intel Developer Forum in 2014.

Both the dedicated and dabbler Makers have fueled the growth of companies that produce the materials and tools that people use to make (or fix) stuff.  Sales of arts and crafts supplies and parts for all kinds of machines and electronic equipment are booming as well.

People who get involved in Making often find something that they feel is worth exploring further, that gives them great pleasure.  Some of them turn their new-found passion into a life-long hobby.  Others become entrepreneurial and turn their creations into a business of their own.

Besides distributing their creations to traditional brick-and-mortar stores or participating in venues like street fairs and festivals, many Makers sell their creations online to people all over the world by making their own websites or by using Craigslist, eBay, or Etsy to sell their own cool stuff.

The connections just keep multiplying.

More than one observer of economic and business trends have commented on the Maker Movement.  It has gotten wide and deep.

The general consensus seems to be that it is a very good thing to encourage folks to ponder on problems and figure out how to make their own solutions rather than just going out and buying another doo-dad put together by someone else.

After all, it is the people who make things who have the potential to change the world.


Matthew Crawford, a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville and the author of SHOP CLASS AS SOULCRAFT:  An Inquiry Into the Value of Work, has this thought:  “I think [the Maker Movement] is tapping into a really basic fact about us as human beings.  From infancy we learn about the world by manipulating it, by sort of poking it and seeing how it pokes back.”

My own feeling is that each of us carries a little spark of the Creative within us.  It’s a good thing, I think, to go play with that.

Here’s a poem:


What do I want?

Peace and freedom,

Friendship and love…

What all humanity says it wants.




Or maybe it is encoded

In the cells of this body

That carries the primal spark

Which comes from the eternal flame

That burns at the heart

Of our ancestral home.


Work and play bring us together,

More than the sum of our parts,

The synergy fueled by the love

In the hearts of each of us.


I am small,

No more substantial

Than a wispy-haired seed,

But the stones are my brothers,

The stars, our cousins,

And the winds carry whispers

And echoes of the life that

Is, has-been and will-be,

And the waters of river and sea

Comfort and cradle and carry us all,

In circles and cycles and serpentine spirals,

Backwards and forwards,

To our beginnings

And our ends….

by Netta Kanoho

Header photo:  Hexapod robot (Maker Faire Somerville) by Chris Devers via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if you’d drop a comment or note below and tell me your thoughts.





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16 thoughts on “GO MAKE SOMETHING: The Maker Movement

  1. Awesome and informative blog. Where I went to high school, Shop class was a requirement for the guys and Home Economics was a required class for girls.
    We are all makers in one sense or another and it’s very popular now for DIYers, raising chickens etc etc.
    Love the idea about the faires and there’s one coming near me later this month that I just think I may check out.

    1. You go, Karen!

      Thanks for the visit.  Please do come again.

  2. An informative article on making stuffs with our own capabilities. Many folks these days are into this category of Do it Yourself as a hobby, and some are also making a good profit out of it too. These all can be found on tutorials in website like youtube, so it makes sense this interest has it’s rise of consumers wanting something unique in the market. Is a good motivation step as being a passion and making stuffs that works for daily usage.

    1. Hey andyz:

      Thanks for the follow and for sharing your thoughts.  I do appreciate it.  Please do come again.

    1. Hey Steve:

      You are welcome. You guys are doing great work! Thanks for the visit and your comment.

      Please do come again….

  3. Sujandar Mahesan says:

    I love your website. Your articles pursue ton of information for the outside world and trust me personally I have leaned a lot of new things including about technology, markets, productions in your websites. I have gained a lot of knowledge from your articles.

    Thank you so much for sharing this article with us.

    1. Welcome back, Sujander.  I do appreciate your taking the time to comment on the post.

      Please do come again.

  4. Christina says:

    Oh yes, you make me miss shop class. It wasn’t just for boys! I loved that class. (And if I recall, our teacher WAS missing a finger or two. I think that’s a requirement to be a shop teacher.) 

    The Maker’s Faire seems to be really neat. I’d love to go to one! I used to work with someone who made things for the Faire. It’s so interesting what people can come up with and it really makes you wonder how far we can go…

    Your poem is seriously beautiful! Thank you for that. 🙂 

    1. Thanks for the visit and for sharing your thoughts, Christina.  Shop certainly was grand fun for us girls!  (Some of the guys tried Home Ec, but I think it was mostly the call of food and the chance to meet more girls…but, that’s another story.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post and thank you for your kind words.  I hope you get to one of the Maker Faires as well.

      Please do come again!

  5. Seun Afotanju says:

    I guess this topic speaks about bringing a group of people together undermining what their craft work or ability is to come together and try to make use of the same environment in doing their various work with the idea of learning from one another playing and having fun and enjoy the experience and inventions.

    1. Thanks for your visit and for sharing our thoughts, Seun.  I do appreciate it.  

      Please do come again….

  6. Hi Netta! I’ve found your post quite fascinating actually. I may be too young, early twenties, but I’ve never heard of shop class. In my opinion, that class might have real helpful when it comes to fix stuff. And you made this article more enjoyable with you writing. Have you ever tried to make something on your own?

    1. Thanks for your visit, Renato.  Shop class is a thing of the past, unfortunately.  Probably it’s ’cause of all the possibilities for disasters when kids meet machines.  Head games are fun, but playing with stuff using your hands is funner, I say.

      I’m an artist who plays with paper and, lately, with assemblage (just because it’s cool to do mash-ups — even when they don’t work so well).  I also construct poems and this blog thing too.  Thanks for asking!

      I do highly recommend fooling around and playing with the world.  It is never boring when you do that.

      Please do come again.

  7. phranell86 says:

    I would really love to make something outstanding. Recently, I had an idea to create a handheld device that could help save time when women make their hair. I don’t really know how the device would look like, but I know it would be very useful. Knowing there is an art fair, is really interesting. I’ll have to do some research to find out if there is any one of such fairs coming up around my area soon. Maybe I could get some inspiration to create something that will be useful to the world. And thanks for those youtube videos. They got me really fired up

    1. Thanks for the visit and for sharing your thoughts, phranell86.  That’s cool that the post helped to spark your idea!  

      Please do come again….

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