Bre Pettis and his hacker friends in Brooklyn created MakerBot, a robot that makes anything. Really. MakerBot is a 3D printer. Through trial and error they slowly built the machine, solving one problem and moving on to the next, as they appeared. Then, they presented it at SXSW, and sold more than they were ready for.
For, and with, MakerBot, they created Thingiverse, a site where one finds CAD files to print all sorts of things (see the end of this post). MakerBot and Thingiverse are based on open source models, so everything is shared and improved by everybody, including the designs and specs of their printers.
Bre’s talk above — part of CreativeMorning/NYC — was somewhat moving, for me at least, a crafter and a maker myself. He goes into our internal perceptions of what making things ourselves is about, and silently leaves us thinking about how that is different from designing something, say, in the computer, and have somebody else take it from there.
That made me think about the future. My husband actually told me the other day that the future generations will be much more makers than designers-only. This isn’t saying people won’t design. Designing is thinking analytically about anything before you do it, and it has its benefits. I don’t think we will want to give up that skill. But we might choose to balance that with more trial and error prototyping, or even start building the thing right off the bat, if desired or necessary (definitely a lot of fun!). I can see the seeds of that in the way innovation is taking place currently, in the shape of rapid prototyping as well as designers getting their hands dirty more and more with related disciplines (as printmaking, art, robotics, etc). Makers spaces are sprouting all over (like ALT Space, next to my print shop).
It’s useless trying to understand why things go in this or that direction most of the time, but Bre’s talk makes me think if the digital life we live is finally showing one of its side effects (something that might have started with the industrial revolution??): both to lose touch with material things and to be far removed from all parts of a process. You know what I’m talking about: having most of our experiences coming to us through a digital device (like a computer) for the most part, or being highly specialized workers.
For example, as a printmaker myself, I always wondered if Letterpress would be a fad. But now I think it may be actually part of something deeper. I think it is true that we miss touching things and making things. Mainly because the more sensorial an experience is, the richer it is. We did it for a long time since times immemorial, building artefacts and such.
But if things go more in a direction of “maker” than “digital”, that doesn’t mean digital will disappear. That’s an important tool and we own it as a civilization — i.e.: one still needs CAD files to print 3D objects using MakerBot (which is a bot). Overall, I think we’re looking for a balance, as we yearn to recoup our ability to own the full process of making anything and using more our senses to do so.
One can even stretch that and ponder: is the civilized world going more artistic in wanting their activities to be more sensorial?
Bre Pettis (below) grew up in Seattle. Later he moved to NYC where he found a crowd eager to make things happen with him.
Below: Adapter to combine toys such as Legos and the BRIO Wooden Train Track.
Below: Ring to hold you SD card if you walk around pocketless.
Below: Screwless heart gear: the gears screw all around, “breaking” the heart and then putting it together. ohhh….