French Maker Revolution: An Interview with Bertier Luyt

Maker News
French Maker Revolution: An Interview with Bertier Luyt


In 2013, there were 100 Maker Faires across the globe, hosted in 20 different countries. The very first Faire in France, the Saint-Malo Mini Maker Faire, took place in October and was very well received. Leading the charge in bringing Maker Faire to France is French maker Bertier Luyt, CEO of le FabShop, who was inspired by his own experiences at our flagship Faires in the Bay Area and New York. Now Bertier and his team are going big to organize the upcoming, large-scale Maker Faire Paris, taking place this summer on June 21 and 22. We spoke with Bertier to find out what drives him and to learn more about the Maker Movement in France.

1. Tell us about the first time you attended a Maker Faire: which Faire was it and how was your experience?
The first Faire I attended was World Maker Faire in 2011. I was working on modelling Versailles Palace in SketchUp, and on my way to Colorado I stopped in New York for the weekend to attend the Faire. With my friend German, we headed to the Hall of Science. We were quickly caught into the atmosphere.

There were a lot of 3D printers that year, and on the first morning I could meet Bre Pettis, Mary Huang, Eric de Bruijn, and Josef Prusa, among other 3D printing heroes. I am a woodworker, so it was interesting to meeting with Ted Hall and Bill Young from ShopBot Tools, but also Tiago Rorke and Greg Saul from SketchChair and Gary Rohrbacher and Anne Filson from AtFAB; parametric furniture is what I wanted to do. Nobody in France understood at the time what I was talking about, and it was there in front of me.

Later in the day I met Sam Blanchard, who was shooting Matrix-style pictures with Polaroid, and next to him Joey Hudy, from whom I bought a 3×3 LED kit. I felt I belonged to this crowd and that anything I wanted to do could be done. I was already thinking about le FabShop, and visiting Maker Faire helped me write the project and move forward with it.

A wide angle view of Bertier's Versaille Palace SketchUp model.
A wide angle view of Bertier’s Versaille Palace SketchUp model.

2. What inspired you to organize the very first Faire in France: Saint-Malo Mini Maker Faire?
Surprisingly, Maker Faire had never been organized in France until we brought it to Saint-Malo, even though a lot of events claimed to be inspired by the Maker Movement. The special atmosphere, the kindness of the crowd, the level of conversation, the optimistic point of view on the future: all this struck me on my first visit to Maker Faire. I wanted to share this incredible feeling.

In fact, after attending Maker Faire Bay Area in 2012, I already wanted to bring the event to France. I knew it was a great opportunity for all attendees. Maker Faire is a great experience that changed my life and could change other people’s lives. The idea behind organizing Saint-Malo Mini Maker Faire was to test the concept in France (Make: magazine is not yet distributed in France) and build relationships with the Maker Media team. The bigger idea was always to bring the Faire to Paris, so starting small was natural.

Finally, when in San Mateo for Maker Faire Bay Area 2012, the first person I met when visiting the site on Friday was Brian Lawrence, the giant soap bubbles maker. He asked me where I came from, and I said France. He asked if I knew Saint-Malo, and I said that’s where I lived. We were instantly friends, and Brian said, “It’s the best place on Earth.”

bertier saint malo mf

3. How was that first-year event received?
We had no idea how the French maker community would accept the event but it was really well received. Ahead of the event, local authorities, the greater Saint-Malo Administration, really helped us in producing it. They have been following le FabShop since day one, and they understood first the potential of organizing Maker Faire, even a Mini, in Saint-Malo. With their help we got the keys to the local college, and they really helped with promoting the event through street posters and ads in magazines and newspapers.

Learn to solder stations at the Saint-Malo Mini Maker Faire.
Learn to solder stations at the Saint-Malo Mini Maker Faire.

On my team, Jean-Baptiste Le Clec’h was in charge of producing the event, and even though he had never attended a Faire, he really understood the concept. He is a tour manager at heart and he really pulled off the event. About 40 makers participated, from individuals to start-ups and larger companies.

On the Friday before the Faire, 900 kids from local schools came with their teachers (with the help of the local administration) to visit the Faire ahead of the public. You could tell they were surprised and happy to discover the makers. On the Saturday, about 2000 people visited the Faire, coming from Saint-Malo and the surrounding region, of course, but also from Paris, East and South of France, Belgium, and England! Some had taken a week off to come to Brittany to be there at the first Maker Faire in France — it was amazing. Our press relation agency had done a great job too, and a lot of journalists attended the event, which resulted in coverage of the event in national newspapers, magazines, and radio stations — all unexpected for a local community event.

Learning to solder a pirate robot pin at the Saint-Malo Mini Maker Faire.
Learning to solder a pirate robot pin at the Saint-Malo Mini Maker Faire.

4. What is the most important thing you learned from that experience?
The best lesson we learned is how powerful the Maker Faire brand is and how far it reaches into the maker community, even in a non-English-speaking country. Also, we learned a lot about producing a maker event with all the responsibilities and duties it involves. It also convinced us of the necessity to take the event to Paris.

bertier smmf kids

5. What was your main impetus for taking the leap to organizing a full-scale Maker Faire Paris?
All the smiles we received in Saint-Malo, from the crowd and the makers, gave us the confidence to think about producing the event in Paris. There was an opportunity at the end of June 2014 during Futur en Seine, the World Digital Festival. This year’s theme is “Made with” so it was a no-brainer that it was good timing to take Maker Faire to Paris.

Makers get exposure and feedback on their projects that they don’t receive anywhere else, as well as interaction with the public during the event and an international point of view on their projects through and Make: magazine. Both are like a focus lens on what happens there. Paris, the capital of fashion and trends, had to embrace the Maker Movement.

Flying drones at the Saint-Malo Mini Maker Faire.
Flying drones at the Saint-Malo Mini Maker Faire.

6. Who are your co-organizers?
Maker Faire Paris is a co-production between le FabShop, le CentQuatre, and Futur en Seine. Le FabShop is my company, a start-up in the French Maker Movement, created in January 2012. Le FabShop is a digital workshop that creates cool design and technology things. le FabShop distributes MakerBot 3D printers in France. We are looking into opening the first professional makerspace in Paris.

Le CentQuatre is an artistic establishment in the city of Paris, located in the 19th arrondissement and directed by José-Manuel Gonçalvès. Le CentQuatre provides space for residencies, production, and performance for artists and audiences from all corners of the globe. Le CentQuatre encompasses all forms of art: theatre, dance, music, cinema, video, and also culinary, digital, and urban art. It is also a vibrant place with shops and areas dedicated to amateur artistic activities and a space for young children.

Futur en Seine is the World Digital Festival, produced by Cap Digital, the French cluster for innovative digital content and services. It’s Futur en Seine’s fifth edition. This international festival, which will take place this year from June 12—22 in the heart of Paris and in the whole Paris Region, presents the latest digital French and international innovations to professionals and the general public. Always attracting more and more visitors, the fifth edition will start with the Innovation Village, from June 12–15 at CNAM, Musée des Arts et Métiers, Gaîté Lyrique, and at Square Emile Chautemps (exhibition of innovative projects, conferences, workshops). Futur en Seine will then continue all over the Paris Region through many partners’ events until June 22, 2014, including Maker Faire Paris.


7. What can folks expect at Maker Faire Paris? Describe how the event is shaping up so far.
Because of our background, there will be a lot of 3D printing projects at Maker Faire Paris, of course. Among them, two projects are really outstanding: InMoov by Gael Langevin is an open source humanoid robot project and Bionicohand by Nicolas Huchet is a 3D-printed prosthetic hand.

There will also be all kind of hands-on workshops, such as origami classes by Florigami. Of course there will be a soldering class with Rennes’ LabFab, who already participated in Saint-Malo Mini Maker Faire. There will be hardware innovation, such as Digital Science connected fabrics and No Design‘s platform for the web of things, WeIo. Finally, there is a program of conferences under construction, a hardware-to-market session with The Family, and a collaborative economy course with Oui Share.

That’s just a glimpse — there will be schools, music, and sport-orientated projects and a lot more surprises. The Call for Makers is open until May 22, and there’s still room for makers who want to present their projects.


8. Tell us about yourself: what’s your background and what are your favorite things to make?
I am a self-educated entrepreneur and father of two boys. I was always fascinated by the future since I was a kid. I grew up in the 70s with Star Trek on TV and TinTin on my bedside table. I produced electronic dance music in the 90s, and after the music industry collapse in early 2000, I was left without a job.

Out of employment and with free time, I started to help with decoration work for events and renovation projects. I started an interior design business in 2005 using SketchUp to show customers our ideas and communicate with the workshops we’d been commissioned through. I got really hooked on 3D modeling and started thinking about connecting the tools and the computers. When I discovered CNC, I knew that would be part of my future. That’s when I discovered Make: and the Makers Movement.

When the 2008 crisis struck, we moved from interior design to stage construction for theaters and shows; using 3D modeling helped us win a lot of projects. In 2010, I attended SketchUp Basecamp in Boulder, Colo. I presented a talk about 3D modeling for digital manufacturing. Now it’s obvious, but back then that was relatively fresh to the audience. On behalf of Google France, I modeled the Versailles Palace with SketchUp in 2011.

During one trip to visit the SketchUp team in Colorado, I planned a stop in New York for World Maker Faire 2011. I realized then that all the ideas I had could turn into reality, and I created le FabShop when I got back to France. I had the chance to be able to gather a great team around me and am privileged to work with such creative people as Samuel Bernier, our creative director. I see myself as a producer: I like to create projects, pitch ideas, create the conditions, and make them a reality.

I love playing with my kids. For some reason they like rocks. We collect them on the beach where we live or I bring back some from all over the places I travel to — then we cut them in half to see what’s inside. I just got them some geodes from the Argo goldmine in Idaho Springs — they’re full of crystals!

Bertier's sons.
Bertier’s sons.

9. How would you describe Maker Faire to someone who has never been to one?
I’ll use a quote that struck me when in San Mateo in 2012: “Maker Faire is a safe place for smart people.” It’s an experience for both makers and visitors, creating a spatiotemporal portal for creativity, imagination, and education. It has changed my life, and I know it can change other people’s lives too. It will change the way visitors and makers look at our common future, where sharing technology and knowledge will help us solve current and future issues.

Are you a maker who wants to share your project with the French maker community? The Maker Faire Paris Call for Makers is open until May 22.

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I'm a word nerd who loves to geek out on how emerging technology affects the lexicon. I was an editor on the first 40 volumes of MAKE, and I love shining light on the incredible makers in our community. In particular, covering art is my passion — after all, art is the first thing most of us ever made. When not fawning over perfect word choices, I can be found on the nearest mountain, looking for untouched powder fields and ideal alpine lakes.

Contact me at or via @snowgoli.

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