U.S. high schools and junior high schools used to offer shop classes to give students hands-on experience with craftsmanship. Lick-Wilmerding is one of the last high schools in the United States that offers—and requires—technical art classes as part of its curriculum. Skills like welding, fusing and working with materials provides exposure to “creative expression in an academic setting,” says Narimon Farhangi ’14. Max Ozer-Staton ’16 expresses his appreciation for the seemingly outdated course offering: “I see a chair at my house and I think, wow, I could make that in wood shop at school… I can really appreciate those aspects of how hard someone worked to make that chair, knowing how to myself.”
Other students find the shops to be a supporting alternative to the chaos of academia. Lily Koch ’16 says, “People are super obsessed with academics and getting into a hard college… the shops offer this whole creative side of what else you can do in your life.” While shop classes have been cut back in almost all U.S. high schools due to university entrance requirements, Lick has sustained a highly advanced community of “makers,” from woodworking chair designers to unique jewelers.
The annual Maker Faire, located in San Mateo, California, is a widely successful result of this local perspective. Perhaps the most popular event surrounding the movement, the Faire focuses on innovative, sustainable, locally-sourced, well-designed and functional art. The goal of the first Maker Faire in 2006—launched by MAKE magazine—was to “celebrate arts, crafts, engineering, science projects and DIY mindset” (via Maker Media). After eight years of success, the Maker Faire has spread to New York, Detroit, Austin and Rome.
Another collaborative community even closer to home is the Makeshift Society. The community of freelancers consists of artists, copywriters, photographers, bloggers, accountants, PR consultants, brand consultants, retailers, community managers, event planners, web designers and more—all from the Bay Area. The Society’s coworking space—called the “Clubhouse”—provides endless supplies like light boxes, drafting tables, sewing machines, cameras and other essentials. Another benefit of being a member is their Google Group, set up as a forum for creative questions, advice and community—mainly for members not in close proximity to their Hayes Valley location. Their office space, located at 235 Gough Street in San Francisco, was established in September of last year by Rena Tom, former owner of Rare Device. Along with providing the space, supplies and information for members, Makeshift Society hosts classes and events at the Clubhouse for the public.
Memberships are given to all who apply, with monthly or yearly fees depending on the type of membership (“supporting,” “salon” and “access”).
Tom and her team are planning to open a Brooklyn office in Williamsburg, funded through Kickstarter, by 2014. The goal was to reach $30,000 in funds by October 30. With 447 backers, they have exceeded their goal with a total of $31,905.
Another Kickstarter backed by the Makeshift Society is a campaign for a documentary about the global maker movement and “its impact on society, culture and economy in the U.S.” (kickstarter.com). The film will be called Maker (of course). Its Kickstarter campaign has already doubled its goal in funds, having almost 800 backers. The goal of Maker is to spread awareness about hands-on production, innovative design and sustainable thinking.
While the maker movement and its emphasis on the importance of hands-on skills and old-fashioned production seems outdated next to the high-tech innovations being created today, the movement is rather modern. The progressiveness is based on the accessibility of today’s world: people are able to indulge and delve into their hobbies more so than ever as their curiosity wanders on the Internet. For makers at Lick, curiosity can be found right in the center of our campus, in the shop pit.