2014: Year of the Maker & Maker of the Year

Heck, let’s just say that 2014 is the Year of the Maker. (I credit David Lang for this idea.) Two thousand and thirteen was a perfectly good year for makers and I expect that 2015 will be a better year than 2014.  However, 2014 will be the breakout year. One of the ways we can celebrate the Year of the Maker is to name a Maker of the Year — not just one but makers in a number of different contexts and communities

Oslo Maker of the Year

Jon Haavie and Roger Antonsen, organizers of Maker Faire Oslo, asked me to choose an Oslo Maker of the Year. While I don’t enjoy identifying one maker when there are so many who do interesting work, I think it was a worthwhile exercise to pick a favorite. I discussed my choice with the organizers and they agreed with me.

I had some simple criteria for the selection. I wanted to choose a person who was enthusiastic — a true believer, as Mister Jalopy once used the phrase, and represents the core values of the maker movement. I wanted to find someone who interacted easily with the public and engaged them in making. Also I looked for some aspect of originality in what the makers were doing — something that I hadn’t seen other makers doing quite the same thing way — or doing it as well. Others may develop their own criteria.

I announced the Oslo Maker of the Year at Saturday night’s Maker Dinner. I gave the award to Erik Thorstensson of Gothenberg, Sweden. Erik was demonstrating a simple, modular construction system he developed. I watched young kids and adults walk up and build a structure from straws that seemed to delight them.  He is part of a network of designers called Creatables. Erik has boundless energy with a flair for showmanship.

Erik of Creatables was named Oslo Maker of the Year.
Erik Thorstensson was named Oslo Maker of the Year.

Follow Erik on Twitter – @Creatables_Erik.

While I was talking to Erik at the Faire, I watched a young girl build a structure herself, happily putting the pieces together. The intensity of her effort and the joy of her accomplishment made me truly appreciate the system that Erik has created.

Erik was demonstrating Strawbees, an open-source design which uses a die-cut machine to produce small connectors, or keys. There are a set of variations of the basic key, and each has its own die. I liked that Erik would produce the connectors on demand and even let others use the die-cut machine to create more keys from the raw materials. Erik had also evidently thought about supporting science and engineering education using Strawbees.

Key from Strawbees

Through 2014, in MAKE Magazine, online and in print, we will be identifying other outstanding makers and recognizing them. I’d like to encourage every Maker Faire this year to choose one maker each and let’s celebrate them.

Make from Maker Faire Oslo

Winter Wonders: Maker Faire Oslo

Winter Wonders: Maker Faire Oslo

Scandinavia's first Maker Faire, Maker Faire Oslo, is set for Jan. 18-19.

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DALE DOUGHERTY is the leading advocate of the Maker Movement. He founded Make: Magazine 2005, which first used the term “makers” to describe people who enjoyed “hands-on” work and play. He started Maker Faire in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2006, and this event has spread to nearly 200 locations in 40 countries, with over 1.5M attendees annually. He is President of Make:Community, which produces Make: and Maker Faire.

In 2011 Dougherty was honored at the White House as a “Champion of Change” through an initiative that honors Americans who are “doing extraordinary things in their communities to out-innovate, out-educate and out-build the rest of the world.” At the 2014 White House Maker Faire he was introduced by President Obama as an American innovator making significant contributions to the fields of education and business. He believes that the Maker Movement has the potential to transform the educational experience of students and introduce them to the practice of innovation through play and tinkering.

Dougherty is the author of “Free to Make: How the Maker Movement Is Changing our Jobs, Schools and Minds” with Adriane Conrad. He is co-author of "Maker City: A Practical Guide for Reinventing American Cities" with Peter Hirshberg and Marcia Kadanoff.

View more articles by Dale Dougherty


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