My mother the artist pointed out that I have a complicated task here. If I am trying to make things to sell, I need to work with better materials, and take much better care in assembly. If I am trying to teach what is possible to other adult and two children students, been working with cheap or even cast off material is not only fine but desirable.
Andrew Carle pointed out the other day that there is a developmental phase in students that starts young and goes all the way to high school if it is not corrected early. It is called waste. The student cuts out the shape he or she is looking for, out of the middle of a piece of paper or fabric or would, and leave the remainder. The remainder is now useless because it is one large piece with not enough flat surface to do anything with for any other project.
I remember watching an older girl, or maybe I should say a young woman, cry. She had had it explained to her for time, but she need to put her pattern pieces onto a single piece of 3 yards fabric to cut out all of the pieces of her dress. But when she cut out the piece labeled front, she left a big hole in the middle where the pieces where the four arm elements needed to come from. We managed to cut out a back to the dress from another piece of fabric, and this we’ve from a piece of contrasting fabric. But ultimately it wound up not being the address for girl wanted to wear.
Meanwhile this bag is entirely made of scrap material left over from other projects. The waste from this bag would not fill an espresso shot glass — clipped threads, shorn fabric, and all.
And I think that this is why it is so difficult to build a successful maker space program. It is usually dependent upon teaching lesson like conservation of materials. These sorts of lessons are only learned by doing similar kinds of project over and over and over again. And without a trained artisan in the room with the students, the students make the scene historical errors over and over and over again. There are solutions to these problems. They are time-tested, ancient.
But you don’t learn from just putting the tools down in front of a group of students and tell them to have at it. And you don’t build a successful program in a maker space, by having every single kind of tool ever developed by human beings all in the same space. The temptation is to have a milling machine add a 3-D printer and a video camera and the full carpentry studio and electronics tools. But your program will have long term success only if you encourage some degree of artisan specialization in your teachers and maker leaders.
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