30 September 2014
The London Design Festival 2014 was a highlight for the Maker Library Network and marked a significant turn towards public programming. Visiting Librarians from South Africa and Scotland joined forces with their London peers to run a series of pop-up events and activities across the city from the MLN Caravan .
GRAS Studio travelled from Scotland in the Maker Library Caravan, whilst Heath Nash, and Marc and Lyall from Thingking flew over from Cape Town. In London they were met by the core team and local librarians from Machines Room, FARM:Shop and Makerversity. GRAS Studio’s Stuart Falconer, Gunnar Groves-Raines and Matthew Bailey spent a mostly grey September day driving the caravan down the length of Britain from Edinburgh, stopping off only to collect waste materials to reuse and recycle at one of the forthcoming Maker Library Network workshops. Here we explore the daily activities of the busy MLN team during the festival.
On Day 1, GRAS Studio and Thingking parked the caravan outside the entrance to Africa Utopia at The Royal Festival Hall on London’s Southbank. They set up for a day of making, where they invited passers-by to get involved and make small, colourful wind-spinners to attach to a fence. Within the Africa Europe Festival nearby, Heath Nash ran a drop-in workshop where he demonstrated how to make lighting ‘stuff’ from various pieces of colourful waste. This ran alongside an exhibition of his work at the Shake The Dust’s African Design Showcase.
On Day 2, GRAS introduced the Southbank public to Himmeli sculptures, which are traditional Finnish Christmas decorations made by threading straws, to create geometrical structures. GRAS and Thingking worked with passers-by on creating various designs with coloured straws to hang on the increasingly colourful fence. Edinburgh-based coffee brand Artisan Roast was kind enough to give GRAS a load of coffee to bring down to London. The Maker Librarians kept themselves and all participants warm by giving out free coffee in Maker Library in hand-stamped cups.
We were also able to make new connections thanks to the help of Bare Conductive, with whom we created a USB-powered bookmark which uses conductive ink to light up a small LED.
On Day 3, the Maker Library Caravan made its way across town to The London College of Fashion Golden Lane Campus. We were met by Marloes ten Bhömer, the footwear designer, who uses a wide variety of processes, techniques and materials in her practice, many of which are only rarely used in the production of women’s shoes. Marloes ran a pattern-cutting course, encouraging participants to be experimental and challenge their preconceptions about shoes. Heath Nash joined in the footwear pattern-cutting fun, bringing his own exploratory spin on the proceedings.
Marloes later sat down in the caravan to talk us through her making process. Read the interview here.
On Day 4, the caravan made its way to Vyner Street, Hackney’s art hub, and set up camp outside Maker Library Machines Room. Local Maker Librarian Gareth Owen Lloyd showed the members around the gallery and workshops and introduced them to the vibrant neighbouring community of makers and designers. Together with the project core team, they ran the first internal Maker Library Network think-tank, during which they shared their successes and challenges, brainstorming possible improvements for the future of the programme. They later met some of the London Mentors for an informal celebration.
The last stop of the London Design Festival journey was the 100% Design Industry Trade Showcase at Earls Court. We set up outside the entrance for another busy day of making, with lots of interest and involvement from passers-by, design students, industry insiders and press. From the caravan, Heath Nash turned his hand to making some shoes, following Monday’s footwear pattern cutting course at London College of Fashion. Inside Earls Court, Thingking spent the day working on the ‘Maker Carrousel’, creating more wind-spinners for their indoor fence, this time using a 3D-printer.
The final day of the Maker Library Caravan tour for London Design Festival was spent at the 100% Design showcase. This time the caravan was brought inside the hall and set up in the Interiors Hub. This was the perfect space to fully display the expanding gallery. We had an array of art and design from various contributors such as a collection of unique new Scottish-inspired souvenirs commissioned by Creative Scotland and produced with Panel, as well as an amazing mechanical bird created from wire and cables by Ralph Borland. GRAS Studio experimented with the Finnish technique of Himmeli on a much larger scale, using long copper piping instead of the traditional paper straws, to build a beautiful sculpture.
At the Maker Carrousel, Maker Library Network Creative Director Daniel Charny led a lively panel discussion together with the British Council’s Sarah Mann, joined by Maker Librarians, makers, mentors and curious visitors.