This month's blog post focuses on one of our key projects at this time of the year: the Makerhood Festive Showcase. The Showcase is an annual event that's held in our shop, in collaboration with our local makers' network, Makerhood. It's been going for about five years and is much-anticipated by our customers.
Makers' networks can be found all around the country now but when Makerhood started it was one of the first. Diverse' owner, Anita, sat down with Kristina Glushkova, one of the founders of Makerhood, to find out how it all began and how it has developed over the years.
Tell us about how and when Makerhood got started.
The idea of Makerhood came together in a pub conversation (as things do!) in 2010 when Karen Martin and I talked about our interest in supporting locally-made businesses: Karen wanted to help makers sell locally, and I was keen for people to be able to find locally made things.
We were both interested in promoting sustainability, helping creative people do well, and in supporting skills and more meaningful local economies. We seemed to be a perfect match! So over a few meetings with our thinking caps on, we figured that we ought to give it a go.
The original idea was to build a website where people who live locally could find local makers. We won a small grant from Unltd to help us kick it off.
Kim Winter soon joined us as the third director, and many wonderful locals came together to work on the project - Andy Broomfield, Carolina Vallejo, Maya Kar, Emily Wilkinson, and Chris Patton - to name just a few. We’ve had great encouragement and support from other local projects and many people helped shape the idea.
Other volunteers soon came on board, and together we picked out the name, Makerhood. A democratic, community-led approach was core to what we did from the start. We wanted Makerhood to be rooted in our local community so that it could truly respond to its needs.
At the time, there weren’t any local maker networks; the “making movement” hadn’t really started yet, almost no local shops sold craft, and only a few people sold handmade items at Brixton Market. So there weren’t obvious ways to find makers - we had to build the network.
We put a call out for people who make things locally to join us - and very many did! There was great interest and excitement about the idea. Very quickly it became clear that a website wasn’t enough: makers wanted to share advice and expertise, build local connections, sell locally, run workshops and receive business advice. So we held an event called Makers’ Forum in 2011 and it sold out right away.
Makerhood grew from a small local project to expand all over Lambeth (we won funding from Lambeth Council’s Innovation Fund at the time to support this). And the rest is history!
What's Makerhood's mission?
Makerhood is there to support creativity, the environment, new social connections and economic resilience in Lambeth. We do this by helping local makers promote their work and earn money from their projects or workshops, by connecting them with local people and organisations and by helping community members learn new skills. Our Community Interest Statement sets out our core goals on this link.
Over time, we’ve worked locally supporting makers and artists, building partnerships with local shops (like Diverse!), markets, creative projects and organisations, suppliers for makers and many others. We’ve also collaborated with Sheffield Hallam and Northumbria Universities on research projects examining community-based making; and we run community events where people can be creative, learn new skills, and meet others living locally.
What do you offer members?
We offer a whole range of things, including regular business advice meetings on a wide range of topics (from advice on selling and pricing, to product surgeries, copyright issues, social media and much more), discounts from local and national suppliers for makers/artists (for example, on packaging, car rentals, building websites) and promotion of our members via our newsletter and social media. You can see the full range of benefits on this link:
How many members do you have currently and across what skill areas?
We have around 70 businesses as formal members currently, representing many different crafts, including illustration and prints, felting, jewellery, woodwork, fine art, knitting, clothes making and photography.
The whole handmade/designer-maker movement has really come into its own over the last ten years.
Why do you think that is?
As our late capitalist economies continue to change, I feel that people are increasingly missing basic things that make humans happy: being creative, working with your hands and buying things that are meaningful and have real people and stories behind them. The handmade movement helps people bring some of that back. Making things is a wonderful process that connects us with ourselves, the world and other people - in a way that typing on a computer can never do. It’s great for our well-being!
Making is also a social activity. We've seen so many people enjoying time together and connecting with each other at our events and workshops, connecting with others across age, community, class divides.
And handmade can reflect different cultures - learned from our parents or teachers - that mass market products rarely do. Buying handmade is meaningful because you support a real person, often in your local community, and it's often much better for the environment too.
What have been some of the highlights for Makerhood over the years?
It's been fantastic to collaborate with so many wonderful local businesses and organisations - Remakery, Crafty Fox, Brixton Pound, Tree Shepherd, Brixton, Herne Hill, Venn Street and Lower Marsh markets, Lambeth Council, Morley College, WBC, Hotel Elephant, Impact Hub Brixton, Portico Gallery, Brixton East, Studio 73, to name just a few (there are many more!).
We were delighted to to have Diverse as one of our first partners and have had brilliant support from you over the years. We are very grateful for this support. The annual Festive Showcases have been a real opportunity for local makers to work with an experienced retailer in Brixton, get support, and sell at the busiest time of the year in a great high street spot.
I've also loved the brilliant community events organised by volunteers such as Making Uncovered and Christmas event series. They are such positive, fun events! A huge thank you to Andry Anastasious, Rachel Stanners, Elena Blanco and Ben Willis - all talented local makers creating beautiful work, but also giving back to their community.
And we’ve been lucky to have the fantastic Jonny Dredge and Gabriela Szulman join us as directors in the recent years, bringing great ideas and skills on board.
And the challenges?
Running a local volunteer-led project means juggling many demands, which doesn’t leave a lot of time for other activities. This was especially the case at the start, with many late nights and weekends spent working. It was quite a learning curve too - making sure we respond to and reflect the community we live in, continuing to be true to it despite many changes in the area, learning how to work well with so many different kinds of people, keeping at it even when our work or personal lives didn't leave much space…
Like any initiative you start from scratch, we had to balance a lot of things. But it's been so good to see the results and it’s the challenging times that usually teach you the most!
What's next for Makerhood?
We've loved working on the project for the past eight years. It's been such a source of inspiration, personal growth, new local friendships and happy moments! But our lives have changed in the last couple of years, and so has the world outside.
We're exploring options for the future. We may turn Makerhood into an informal network but we also welcome interest from local parties to take it forward as a formal project. You can find out more about this on our blog.
Thanks for your time Kristina. See you at this year's Showcase launch on 1 December!