Making Futures Journal
Local Connection Through Making: From Personal to Collective Exploration
“You are here”, insist the arrows on maps and guides. How many of us really are? One way to find ourselves is to walk the map, to think about how the land around us is being and has been used. Looking at land through non-expert eyes, we can learn a lot about our own assumptions and about the places we live and pass through." (p.125)
Considering this context, the research project wanted to explore the possibilities of making in cities of the twenty first century and how making practices can be a tool of connection between people, materials and a place, to regenerate these relations.
As a way to structure the work for the master’s project, the investigation started from a first-person perspective, through an auto-ethnography exploration. This process was then structured in three stages: Understanding, Making and Sharing. With the conclusion of the master’s project and a continued interest around the subjects inquired, it evolved into a continuous independent research project, expanding into a collective exploration, with the proposition of workshops. The concept for these activities is based on the interaction of craft practices with digital tools, mediated by craftspeople and designers. A first iteration took place at Maker Faire Barcelona 2019 event, in collaboration with Jan Madrenas, a Catalan ceramist, and the designer Barbara Drozdek. By understanding participants’ perception, it was possible to improve the proposition and conceptualize different formats of workshops that can be iterated in the future. This paper presents the different phases of the research project, going from the various stages deployed during the master’s project, the personal exploration, to the experience of doing the workshop, a collective exploration.
Personal Exploration: Auto-Ethnography
As pointed previously, the research started as part of a master’s degree and involved the exploration of a new city, Barcelona, in Spain. The displacement from one culture to another brings multiple possibilities as well as challenges. The dimension of such experience can be understood in this passage from the book Migrancy, culture, identity by Iain Chambers (1994):
To come from elsewhere, from “there” and not “here,” and hence to be simultaneously “inside” and “outside” the situation at hand, is to live at the intersections of histories and memories, experiencing both their preliminary dispersal and their subsequent translation into new, more extensive, arrangements along emerging routes. (p.6)
Parallel to the situated experience of exploring a specific craft in a specific territory, references from different projects touching on topics related to the research were analyzed. Lina Bo Bardi, a late Italian architect based in Brazil, had lifelong research around material culture in the country, ranging from craftsmanship to popular art. The architect immersed herself in the local culture, exploring this universe in her architectural work and has curated the iconic exhibition ‘A Mão do Povo Brasileiro’ (1969/2016), which translates as ‘The Hand of Brazilian People’, showing the diversity and deep expression of local communities. Atelier NL, a Dutch studio, is researching natural raw materials from different regions in the Netherlands and also from around the world. With the project ‘Earth Alchemy Factory’ they invite people to learn about these materials through making. They developed workshops, lectures, archives, and material libraries to bring design, education, and production into one system. In their own words: ‘we believe that understanding natural material transformation encourages more sustainable cultural evolution’ (Sterk & van Ryswyck, n.d.). The designer Andrea de Chirico (2015) developed the project ‘Superlocal’ which intends to create a global network for local manufacturing, stimulating people to search for resources and labor locally, helping their economies and craft traditions and encouraging new manufacturing mentalities. ‘A factory as it might be’ was an architectural installation by Assemble, Granby Workshop, Will Shannon & collaborators (2017), which consisted of a setup of a model factory, equipped with clay and an industrial extruder. The idea was to explore the concept of an itinerant production, by transferring the experimental production approach of Granby Workshop, located in Liverpool, to A/D/O in New York, where the installation occurred. All these examples articulate a place-based approach, bringing people to reflect and co-create in a given context.