Arts / Community

The “Maker Movement” hits campus

Do you make things? Have you ever designed, created, or transformed something on your own?  If you are using materials to put things together, the answer is “yes,” and by the way, you are involved in the Maker Movement. Related to “DIY,” meaning “do it yourself,” this movement has grown in the last ten years. Instead of using manufactured and machine-made products, those people who consider themselves “makers” make things by hand. In the December Art Gallery show, teachers and staff members Eric Goodson, Fred Lindstrom, Dave McGovern, Ron Sutherland, and Peter Watson exhibit their lovingly crafted objects that have both beauty and function.

Instead of relying on modern technology, such as machines, these teachers use their hands to build crafts in the traditional ways. For example, the cigar box guitars that English teacher Mr. Lindstrom makes have a long history. These guitars were extremely popular in the 1800s, especially during the Civil War. Jug band musicians who could not afford real guitars would take wood, scraps, and junk to make primitive ones that still sounded good; in other words, they created their instruments out of nothing and practiced their folk art. The traditional cigar box guitars are not electronic, of course, yet as is clear in the exhibition, Mr. Lindstrom said, “they become a mix of old and new” — they are modernized and turned into electronic ones. “The old traditions can coexist with new techonology,” Gallery director Michael Frassinelli comments.

The process of crafting provides the “makers” with a different view of life. “Things around us appear so transient and easily thrown away,” social studies teacher Mr. Goodson said. Plastic bags, paper cups, disposable bowls are all single-use. Workers rushed for deadlines, students preoccupied with work, and pedestrians pressed for time — we are busy, and time is fleeting. So shouldn’t the permanent objects sometimes be valued more, since they stay there and never fade away? To the Goodson family, certainly. Mr. Goodson carved wood and made it into different functional things, such as cups, for his family. He hopes his wife “can use the cup every day so that there will be a moment in a day where she will pause and have some coffee in the cup that I made her.” He described their morning scenario: “Many mornings I see May [his youngest daughter] eating at the table; she pours the milk from a glass cup into the cup that I made for her.” She insists on doing so. The reason for choosing wood, Mr. Goodson explained, was because it is quiet — no rattle, no disruption, unlike china or glass.

The objects exhibited required a lot of work. Those things that the “makers” made took many small steps; they involved trial and error, and they needed research. Often the teachers had to email other makers or turn to YouTube videos when problems occured; imagination was needed too, as it was in the production of Mr. Lindstrom’s second cigar box guitar. And the “makers” kept trying, and of course they sometimes failed. But, “you will have to make mistakes to learn how to make things,” Mr. Lindstrom said.


Photos: (top) Fred Lindstrom with one of his handmade cigar box guitars; (bottom) Eric Goodson with the bowls and spoons that he has made. Photo credit: Sarah Drory.

Comments are closed.