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This summer I was invited to do a month long internship it MAKLab in Glasgow. MAKLab is a Scottish charity who provide the facilities and teaching to get anybody making and designing things. They mainly work with digital fabrication tools such as 3D printers and CNC routers but have worked on a huge variety of projects from helping to make moulds for metal casting to working with Trakke to help design and manufacture a modern Yurt.

I applied to MAKLab because they are very much at the heart of the growing Scottish creative scene, they seem to be known by and link together so many creative projects that I am interested in. I was also very inspired by their ethos which is about empowering people through giving them the place and skills to get making, a similar way of thinking to Skill Share Dundee but a very different way of executing it.

When I was applying, they asked me to develop a project that I would work on during my internship. I came up with a concept for a workshop during which I would teach participants about sustainable product design and facilitate them to design some ephemeral products. This became the de/reconstruct day which I will write about in a blog post later this week.

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Staff
I’ve really enjoyed working with such lovely people at MAKLab. The staff obviously really enjoy working there (even when they have to spend a whole day on the vinyl cutter!) and this shows through their continuous positivity to all new projects that walk in through the door. They have taught me a lot about just getting things done not talking and worrying them and I understand how MAKLab is such a productive group through this approach.

The MAKLab approach is very much to encourage members to come with their own concepts – the staff then help them to build on these ideas; make suggestions about which tools to use and teach members how to use them. I found this is also how they approached my internship with them. Whenever I needed any advice or someone to help me develop a particular concept or idea they were always happy to help with very useful inputs but in many ways I was left left to myself to run my project and to actually make it happen, something that taught me a lot.

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Facilities
Using the tools at MAKLab, from Laser Cutters to 3D Printers and CNC Routers, made me realise the importance of digital prototyping machines. Where I’ve usually found I prefer the hand craft element of making, MAKLab really taught me the huge potential of CNC machines, especially the open source model of someone else doing the CAD model and us on the other end requiring relatively little skill to set up the file, material and hit “print”. I realise now that this is also a type of sustainable design thinking in which local manufacture is encouraged and people who may be relatively unskilled still gain the opportunity to make something themselves and feel empowered.

Nine to Five
Working nine till five was one of the biggest changes for me. During term time I usually stay in our design studio much later than five pm, often till nine, however I really enjoy the flexibility of being able to go to a talk or event for a day or taking Wednesday afternoon off to go for a sail. My internship gave me a taster for how it is in the working world to be committed to being in one place every weekday despite definitely being on the more creative and free end of the scale compared to many companies that my friends are working for. This has helped me to realise the structure of the type of job I’d like to do in the future.

Business Model
As part of my fourth year, I am writing my dissertation on design in enterprise, choosing to focus on “making” based Social Enterprises. My experience at MAKLab has been invaluable to my research for this because of the ethos behind the company but also their day-to-day model. MAKLab’s membership and commissions model means that it has a core program that funds itself. They can still apply for funding or work with other groups to run sub projects but their core model will always be there.

This contrasts Skill Share Dundee who rely on funding (which they currently don’t have) to support their core model of what they do. Skill Share are also starting a social enterprise – a tannery – which they hope will fund their main project in future, I am enjoying learning about the contrasts between these two models.

I look forwards to analysing what I’ve learned at MAKLab as part of the research for my dissertation in the next few weeks.

IMG_1104Some vinyl cut illustrations by the inspirational maker and artist Charlotte Duffy from Waste of Paint Productions.

IMG_11383D printing a classic wooden boat design whilst playing with MAKLab’s facilities.

When I look back on it now, I am very thankful for my time at MAKLab. Being in such a creative place with so many inspiring people and projects around me has given me a huge amount of confidence in myself and has really helped me to continue defining where I would like to be in the future. I look forwards to working again with MAKLab soon and with the many creative people I met through them also.

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