New Series: What is a Maker?

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“Maker” and the “Maker’s Movement” are phrases that are popping up more in the mainstream nowadays. But what do these words mean? Is a Maker a hybrid crafter, electronics wiz, artisan, specialist, computer tinkerer, baker, leatherworker, artist? As my friend Lance Fisher would say….Yes. So Nicki and I decided to explore this burgeoning world of Makers and the Movement surrounding them with a series of short interviews. We’ll start off, of course, with our own Nicki Lang, owner and Maker of Found.

 Janel-What is a Maker to you?

 Nicki- A Maker is someone who makes by hand, with thought and intention. They are not mass-producing, but are making things one at a time in small batches because the value is not just in the product but also in the process. Even though the end goal is to create a beautiful useful product—the process is also important.

 Janel-You talk about value being in the process. What is the value in the process?

 Nicki-I think a big part of it is connecting to the people who use what I make. Someone can come in here and say, “This is what I want”. They can touch it and feel it and give me feedback. And it serves them better and adds value to their product. They tell me what they want, and I am meeting their need. My craft is responding to their needs.

When people have a choice to buy something that was made primarily by a person rather than by a machine….and by a person that they know or get to communicate directly to, I think there is more connection there.

 Janel- That’s interesting hearing you talk about the feedback and interaction with your customers. I feel like producing quickly is more valued in our society. The communication and creativity process isn’t valued in our results driven society.

 Nicki-Yes! Taking the time to allow the process to develop is important.

Janel-Exactly. We want results fast and have a higher value almost the faster we can do it. What happens to a community when we don’t value the time to create things anymore? We only value the end product.

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 Nicki-Emily and I were talking the other day. (Emily is the production assistant at Found) I was talking to her about the Bellingham Beer Week Kulshan Pop-up and getting ready for it. I showed her the special leathers that we were going to work with for the week and I kept referring to one of them as “blonde”. I was thinking hair, but she was thinking beer. Eventually we figured out what the other person was referring to and then all of a sudden we knew what to call the limited leathers for Bellingham Beer week—Blonde and Porter totes. Creativity can be hilarious and surprising and hard work…but it also is collaborative. Almost every time we are here together some idea is hatched that I could not have come up with on my own.

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Janel-I heard you mention the Kulshan Brewery Pop-up. You also told me that you are participating in on-line Pop-up right now. What is a Pop-up and what is the point of one?

Nicki- Yes, I have made a small collection of one of a kind pieces for the Handmade Pop-up. It is only running through May 15th. Pop-ups are a place for carefully curated goods. Now we live in a world where we are often overwhelmed by stuff that really isn't meaningful. Pop-Ups allow people to see quality items in a limited time and/or space—whether or not the Pop-Up is on-line or at a specific location. That limits the feeling of being overwhelmed by stuff and helps us make more intentional purchases.

 As a Maker I love being introduced to new Makers through Pop-ups. It is a chance for me to be inspired and connect with that community.

 Janel-There is a growing Maker community in the USA and the World, why do you think this is?

Nicki- I think that the real beauty of the Maker’s Movement is the creative collaborative culture that’s happening. We feel like we are not in it alone. I think that the internet has brought us all closer. For me it all started on Etsy. Amanda at Long Winter Soap Company found me on Etsy and interviewed me for her blog. That was a long time ago, when I was still back in Portland just starting out. This opened my eyes to the world of Makers out there.

 Etsy used to have this really great thing called teams. (They still exist, but are different.) Many of the Makers that I love to follow on Instagram, like Brooke Peiffer of xReseedx and Caroline Saganich of Oh! Chalet are people that I met though Etsy teams.  It used to be a great way to get feedback on a new product, or ask a question like 'has anyone else had this problem?'.   

If I have a question about filing my taxes, I can throw out my question to my Maker community and get an answer almost immediately. There are always people further down the road than you are. People are always very generous with their information as it was passed on to them from the very beginning. There is this really great cycle of teaching and learning. Some of the people who’ve helped me a lot, I’ve never actually met them in person.

And things like this Handmade Pop-Up with the Maker’s Movement shows that it is a non-competitive, cooperative movement. 

Janel-That’s incredible that people can help you so much in your creative life and in your business and you haven’t met them in person yet. Tell me about the Makers in Bellingham.

Nicki-Well there are a lot of Makers here in Bellingham—both on the technical side and the artisan side. Right now I am working on a collaborative wedding project with other wedding makers in Bellingham. This community is also so supportive of Makers and artists. That’s one reason that I love living here.

If you want to read about Nicki’s story of becoming a Maker, click here. Limited edition Found pieces are now available at the Handmade Pop-up.

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