Until pretty recently North Wales didn't really have any Makerspaces, Fablabs, Hackspaces or whatever you might want to call some kind of creative communal workshop. Apart from travelling out to events it's probably still fair to say most of my maker experience has been on my own. This isn't a cry for help or a complaint but it is interesting sometimes to reflect on how that can impact on you as a maker.
For me one of the essences of Maker culture is the cross pollination of ideas and techniques from one person to another. When we opened the first Ffiws makerspace, pre Covid I ran a regular evening as "maker night" where anyone could attend without booking and perhaps play with a machine or bring in a project to tinker with on the desks in company. Once we got up to maybe 8-12 people rocking up you instantly start to get those fabulous moments where some aspect of somebodies work is intriguing, inspiring or just plain old useful to someone else. Often this is conceptual, the "oooh" of someone seeing a lasercut living hinge for the first time or someone seeing a vinyl cutter cutting an unexpected material. Often it's direct, "wow that's cool, show me how that works". Sometimes it's permissive "OK watching you do CAD modelling makes me think it might not be impossible". Another area that's ripe for creating new connections is discovering a new tool in someone else's project. So how do you get all these lovely benefits when you are largely on your own?
Well, in this youtube/peertube/vimeo era of loads of video content, this works for many. For some though its more a consumable rather than actual inspiration or knowledge growth if its an entirely passive activity. For example, I often binge woodworking videos but I suck at woodwork really, I watch them as I find them satisfying and often very soporific and chilled to watch, but I'm not actively applying what I am seeing to my ongoing projects nor am I actually practising the observed skills that then might have created a moment of cross pollination.
For me I've come to the conclusion that I need to prompt myself to work on projects in new areas, be it new materials or new techniques. Having a less comfortable project area pushes me to explore new knowledge and skills and it's often within this process that the moments of cross pollination occur.
As a really tangible example, recently I had one of these moments that linked sewing and airplane design and construction! I only really sew due to making parachutes for rocketry, but that has led me to actively look at lots of sewing content and techniques and has led to me stitching up a few wider than rocketry type projects. I was recently discussing a large airplane/drone construction project with a maker and they were lamenting not having a rivet spacer tool as they were too expensive as aerospace tools often are. I didn't really know what one was and enquired. It's a kind of expanding rack that allows you to fill any space with evenly spaced marks for rivets. It also often gets used for other tasks, for example it can be used to mark equidistant points for wing ribs when making a smaller aircraft or drone. On hearing these tools can be £100 plus and having looked them up online, CROSS POLLINATION, they are astonishingly similar to button hole spacers used to mark button hole locations on garments and these cost perhaps £10 to £20 pounds!
So whats the point of this ramble. Well, it's a reminder to perhaps force yourself to pick up a project in a totally unrelated area than which you have worked before. Whilst it might not be a lifelong area you explore, the cross pollination benefits are often worth the trial!