Crafters, Hackers, and Hackerspaces

Craft & Design Workshop
Crafters, Hackers, and Hackerspaces

Emily Smith is a blogger, maker, and community organizer from Vancouver, Canada. She runs the wonderful DIY site, Blue Mollusc, is involved in Vancouver Hack Space, and she spearheaded this year’s Vancouver Mini Maker Faire. We’re thrilled to welcome her to MAKE as one of our growing hackerspace author pool. She’s also now contributing to CRAFT. – Gareth

Where visions of crafting often conjure up images of glue guns, popsicle sticks, fabric and looms, hacking evokes soldering irons, microprocessors, and software. Truth is, there’s a lot of similarities between hacking and crafting, and even more to be gained from a dialogue between both groups of makers. Both hackers and crafters feel the same need to create things and manipulate materials, and have very similar basic requirements: access to equipment, space to work, and a supportive community within which to grow and share projects and ideas.

As an avid crafter, when I first visited a hackerspace, I immediately felt inspired to bring my projects there. There were some hints of crafting in the space the first time I set foot there, but it was hugely dominated by hardware and software hacking. Some may have felt alienated by that, but I felt like it was a wonderful opportunity to learn and engage with a medium that I’d never worked with before – and to also bring in the softer side of hacking — and yarn bomb some of those cold-looking surfaces!

The second time I went, I learned to solder, and learned some basics on how a circuit works, and built a laser Spirograph. I was then introduced to the wonderful world of EL wire. Most of the projects I’ve done at my hackspace are fairly craft-centric, but I’ve been lucky enough to build on the foundation that these hackers have started, and extend out to the crafting community. Turns out, hackerspaces are great places to host craft nights: it’s a public space, which saves me having to vacuum, and through mailing lists, wikis, and the website, it’s easier to fill a room of talented, engaged, and interesting people. I have also learned that if there are constraints to work within – say, a knitting or sewing night – everyone who comes out comes with a unique background and skillset, and are ready to share. So you end up learning a lot through absorption – much the same way that hackerspaces are designed.

One thing that I haven’t yet resolved, is why aren’t more crafters jumping on this opportunity? Most hackerspaces do have crafting nights, but from my experience, I rarely see that many crafters really embracing these spaces. Hackerspaces exist in many cities worldwide (visit to find one near you), and are a part of a diverse and rich community.

To all the crafters out there, learn about your local hacker- or makerspace, and drop by. Bring a friend. Talk to some people and learn or teach something new, and encourage others to bring their projects by.

To the hackers: If you see a crafter coming to your space, be sure to give them the means to participate, and welcome them – you all have a lot in common!

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Emily Smith is the driving force behind Vancouver Mini Maker Faire and Vancouver Maker Foundation. She is an avid textile artist and community organizer with a focus on facilitating collaborative and creative workspaces as well as maker-oriented projects and educational programming.

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