Editor’s note: Madison Worthy and Miriam Engle are biking across Europe, visiting different Makerspaces, and filming Self-Made, a documentary about their adventure and the Makers they meet. You can find the other parts to this series at the end of this article.


Miriam and Madison in Zeeland before crossing into Belgium

Miriam and Madison in Zeeland before crossing into Belgium.

Our names are Madison Worthy and Miriam Engle and we are cycling from Copenhagen to Barcelona to film the documentary Self-Made, the story of creative communities, all about the European Maker Movement. We started by asking the basic questions in Denmark — what is a Fab Lab and what kinds of tools and machines are available? In Germany, we explored what kinds of people are attracted to digital fabrication and the projects they’re working on. In the Netherlands, we pursued the importance of open source, the integration of Makerspaces and libraries, the impact on education, and how a Fab Lab can galvanize an entire community. Our bike tour is a remarkable odyssey, a visceral experience of seasonal change and social spontaneity.

Cycling into Belgium marked the half-way point in our journey and also inspired a philosophical shift in our line of questioning. We’ve collected the raw facts of the present day, and we want to know what people intend to do tomorrow with the power to create with technology. Where does this movement stand in five years? What about in twenty? It’s still in its niche phase, so how to mainstream it without corrupting the purest, most beautiful elements, such as devotion to open source and lifelong learning?

Manon Mostert -van der Sar and Peter Troxler of Rotterdam University. We've visited several lively Fab Labs in universities.

Manon Mostert -van der Sar and Peter Troxler of Rotterdam University. We’ve visited several lively Fab Labs in universities.

In Gent, we paid a visit to Timelab, where we spoke to Italian designer Eugenia Morpurgo, who is part of an international team designing Another Shoe, open source shoes that anyone can construct themselves with leather and a laser cutter. She would like to see her prototype evolve into a business without sacrificing the open source approach. How do we mass produce a product without outsourcing to another country? How do we reinstate mass production at the local level? At this stage in the Maker Movement’s growth, open workshops are ideal locations for creating a prototype, but the facilities aren’t grand enough to accommodate mass production.

Artful trade

Artful trade.

From Gent, we cycled on to Brussels where we enjoyed a day trip to Leuven and Hoegaarten. In Leuven, we engaged Fab Lab Leuven manager Marc Lambaerts and Fab Lab Brussels manager Lieven Standaert in a candid two-hour long discussion of the future of Fab Labs. The Fab Foundation turns eleven years old this year — a lot has transpired since then. This isn’t new; the Makerspace is older yet. What happens if we push for more collaboration within the global community?

Jef Rozenski of the University of Leuven discusses the importance of a place to easily learn and practice twenty-first century skills.

Jef Rozenski of the University of Leuven discusses the importance of a place to easily learn and practice twenty-first century skills.

Marc Lambaerts, manager of Fab Lab Leuven and Lieven Standaert, manager of Fab Lab Brussels have a candid conversation about keychains.

Marc Lambaerts, manager of Fab Lab Leuven and Lieven Standaert, manager of Fab Lab Brussels have a candid conversation about keychains.

At its heart, this movement is about creation. Back in Brussels, we checked out Fab Lab iMAL on one of their open lab days and discovered Makers ranging across generations, hard at play. Diversity, cooperation, and passion are so crucial in crafting the sustainable future.

Fab Lab iMAL in Brussels

Fab Lab iMAL in Brussels.

We may have spent less than two weeks in Belgium, but every day made us think deeply. We all live on the same planet and in the same twenty-first century. How to define it? That’s enough questions for now. Check out Madulthood for more tales from the trail.