more reasons to think carefully about making

Materials Library

The Materials Library at the Institute of Making

There are disadvantages to reading the many excellent online newsletters I’ve written about here. You get interesting ideas, as in the first part of Tim Maly’s essay on artists making a living, but also uncomfortable truths about who is really exploited in making products – the second part. (See also a recent New York Times article on start-ups contracting homeless people.)

swatch watchwatchI originally loved Swatches because of their elegant production processes: I don’t know that these are still sustainable, let alone Swiss. But they are still interesting and inventive, like this recent ‘self-assembly’ watch – although it’s playing with making, rather than real making. I suspect, though, that a self-assembly swatch may be one of the first useful and interesting things made by 3D printers – I saw faberdashery (great name!) printing a watch casing at the new FabLab in London.
woolI know it’s not practical in every field, but some of the most traceable making I know is in knitting. I often buy wool direct from Iceland – there are fantastic colours and varieties available. This used to be traceable enough for me, but I recently came across Deborah Robson’s Independent Stitch blog, where she visits the Iceladic Istex factory and describes its working in depth. I’ve worked in factories before (aero-engines), and if human judgement is an important part of the process (like at Istex) the work can be interesting and enjoyable: the workers and their brains are important, treated well, and part of the common enterprise.

It’s not always the case, of course, especially in textiles. Here it’s me doing the 20 hours of knitting that would be completely uneconomic commercially, but which is to me, a pleasure. A strange paradox.

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