This coming weekend, the Festival of Curiosity will once again descend on Dublin—and among the curiosities it offers lie the handmade projects at Dublin Maker in Merrion Square on Saturday 23rd July. A rising movement in recent years, making promotes the a self-enterprising kind of inventiveness and creativity. Whether that’s more traditional ceramics, massive virus-shaped origami, laser-wielding robots, or a complex cuckoo clock that mimics a variety of Irish articles and will respond to any tweets you send with a Twitter post of its own, there is a make to suit the most peculiar of interests. I caught up with two of the organisers, Orlaith Ross and David McKeown, to talk about what’s going down, and why everyone should show up.
So you two are co-organising Dublin Maker at Dublin Festival of Curiosity—what drew you to working with this program and this festival?
David: We set it up five years ago as a way to create an event that would allow makers—people in their sheds, in their bedrooms, community groups—to have an event where they could show off to a wider public. There was a need for this, so we decided that we’d try to run this event.
Orlaith: And I think making and creating and kind of exhibiting things is really important for people who are amateurs, to have the ability to showcase their work; it’s a really cool mix of activities.
So what is the philosophy of Making?
D: So the Make Movement is about people understanding how their devices work, being able to make things themselves, improve things they own, [that’s] the philosophy of it. And you know, a lot of creativity and invention, some of that happens in big companies with massive futures departments, but a lot of it happens in people’s ideas at home.
So our event and the Make Movement is encouraging people, and making sure that people, when they create stuff, share their ideas and plans. The idea is that we can inspire the next generation of people, and then they’ll go and make things themselves.
There is such a huge range of people and crafts and hobbies on display here—what ties it all together?
D: I guess the general theme is kind of inventiveness and creativity. We have a real mix of new and old, so we do have robotics, electronics, laser cutters, and 3D printers, that kind of thing. But we also have wood-turning, lathe, ceramics, and more traditional craft. So it’s not about new-age making, it’s about anyone who makes. And a willingness to share.
Dublin Maker has quickly become one of the most popular events at the Festival of Curiosity—what do you think is helping draw so many people, year after year?
D: I think that it’s really a very wide range of people that come. It’s not an adult talk, it’s child level, where everything’s dumbed down. You’ll have kids and adults, and the adults are really interested and they’ll push the kids forward and go, “Ask them how that works!”
That it’s free helps. It’s something people can just come down and walk into. This year it’s in Merrion Square; it’s a lovely park, with glorious sunshine, and, you know, we have food and music, so it’s a real day out. So people come, and they think they’re just gonna drop in, and they end up spending hours looking at stuff.
Dublin Maker is very popular among all ages, too. What would you say has gone into making a successful family-friendly event?
D: So, we don’t want to make it too much of a technology event, where people feel like you have to be a brain box to come down. We’re trying to make sure that people know that it is a very welcoming event.
O: I think it’s really important that it’s outdoors, that it has that market kind of feel to it. It’s not people up on stages, it’s on the ground; people are available to talk, available to demonstrate.
D: You know, most of our makers are adults, but we do get kids applying. Our first or second year, one girl was nine or ten, and she just had an Empire State Building made of legos. It was massive, it was like ten feet tall, and that was so cool for her. And it was cool for us! And another girl saw the Empire State Building and then she came back the next year with her own robot. She was like, “Well, I have a robot; that girl can show off, I can show off.”
What booths would you recommend to seasoned makers and hobbyists? And which ones would you recommend to newcomers looking to dip their feet and check stuff out?
D: We’re going to have a Fab Lab and Hackerspaces, kind of common spaces where there’s machines like laser cutters and 3D printers in one space, that people are a member of, and people can go and join. So they tend to be the hardcore makers.
O: And then the woodturner—you rarely get to see someone actually woodturning—and a ceramicist who’s going to be throwing.
D: As for newcomers I really, genuinely think you can go and talk to anybody.
Dublin Maker is Saturday 23rd July in Merrion Square. Go to dublinmaker.ie for more information and a full list of Makers.
Words: Madeleine Calvi