Makers have big ideas about making. Make magazine’s about page says that, “at the heart of the Maker Movement is the understanding that making is uniquely human. As people learn to develop projects, they become … makers of change.”
That’s a big claim! Somebody that knits, or tinkers with computers, or grows a garden — somebody that makes — may be surprised to hear that their hobby is what makes them “uniquely human.” Any claims about what makes people uniquely human, or claims about the value of being a “maker of change” seems a far step from, say, learning how to work a woodburner in your spare time.
The thing that attracts people to making hobbies in the first place isn’t any big idea about being human. It’s the prospect of making something cool, or meaningful, or useful. Makers start with something they want to make.
Corey Gibson, library services specialist at the main branch of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, sees makers looking to make their big ideas real every day.
“Just today … a guy came in. His daughter was having a birthday, so he made a bunch of cake toppers for cupcakes that had her name on it,” he says.
The library’s Makerspace has all the tools makers of any sort need to make their own cool thing. They have every sort of printer — 3D, UV, laser, ink — a recording booth, computers loaded with creative software, book binding services, sewing machines, photography equipment and more. Gibson sees every sort of maker, pro and amateur alike, come through the space, and it’s his job to help bring their ideas to life.
“On the 3D printer, we printed pedals for somebody that was disabled, so they could go around and use their bike around the city,” he says. “On the laser engraver, we had a young lady come in who was making this clock. It was, like, 20 different pieces. She engraved each piece and assembled them into one huge clock.”
Anybody with a PLCHC library card can access the main branch’s Makerspace. You don’t have to attend any classes or get any special training. Just walk in. Specialists like Corey will walk you through the basics of whatever machine you’re interested in, then let you do your own thing. They’ll even provide you with the raw materials for a small fee (“You can make 100 stickers for 2 dollars!” he says).
Make magazine might be right. Making might make us uniquely human agents of change. Once you see what people with the right tools can do, however, you probably won’t need all that philosophizing. Makers make cool things, and you can make cool things too. We can figure out what makes us uniquely human later.
You can meet Corey Gibson, other specialists and a sampling of PLCHC making tools at Cincinnati Mini Maker Faire (CMMF). CMMF is a gathering of fascinating, curious people who enjoy learning and sharing what they do. You can attend CMMF at Union Terminal on April 13 – it’s free with Cincinnati Museum Center admission.