At its most basic definition, a maker is a person who produces or makes something. This is the most basic definition because it doesn’t tell you s**t. That’s just a perfect example of a circular definition (“A maker makes”), and really highlights the rampant laziness at Merriam-Webster, those worthless hacks. Now I’m not sure why I made a point to start off with that definition. Oh right, what this basic definition does do is help inform the current definition of a “maker” and the fine folks who call themselves such.
Our society is in a bit of a DYI renaissance. And that’s thanks to the popularity of the maker. A maker is someone who likes to figure out how things work. Who sees a problem and, instead of the store-bought solution, decides that he or she can build a better one. One that most likely includes electronics and motors, regardless of necessity. A maker doesn’t focus on becoming a master craftsman in one field, but rather wants to be competent in all fields in order to build his or her Frankencreations. In short, a maker is a person who makes (see what I did there?).
Adam Savage, of Mythbusters fame, is a perfect example of a maker. You can see his abilities on display in episodes of the show. In fact, I’d say Mythbusters had a lot to do with the DYI renaissance. It caters to the maker’s desire to build something rather than look it up. In the show, Adam and Co. use a bit of carpentry, metalwork, electronics, and lots of duct tape to build these crazy contraptions — sometimes elegant in their simplicity, and oftentimes completely pointless (at least outside of the realm of a TV show).
I, too, am a perfect example of a maker. Well, that’s not entirely true. Or true at all. Don’t get me wrong, my solutions are rarely straightforward. I recently concocted a design for a collapsible table my roommate and I can keep in the living room without taking up too much space. And my desire to understand how things work (and subsequently take things apart to figure it out) is unrivaled. Nearly as unrivaled as the amount of random junk I have lying around from all the things I can’t put back together. But the Maker’s spirit is there. Also the spirit Maker’s, because it’s my favorite bourbon. Which reminds me I should put my drill down as I am two tumblers in.
I guess what I’m saying is that I’d be a great maker if I’d ever be able to actually make something. And therein lies the hardship of being a fledgling maker. Until your skills are honed, you have to deal with the disappointment of seeing your final products fall desperately short of your lofty designs. Most of my inventions end up looking like I took a bunch of Popsicle sticks and duct-taped them together. Which kinda makes sense since that’s generally my first step of assembly. In part, the problem is that I don’t have a workshop in which to tinker (I have one in which to tinkle, but that’s another article). And I certainly don’t have all the tools of a proper workshop at my disposal. Oh, and my formal training is that I used to build with Legos a lot when I was a kid. Suffice to say I have a couple of hurdles to jump before I’ll be a competent maker.
But as the great prophet Adam has said, “Failure is always an option” (Mythbustrians 4:13). So I will hold my head high, and remain incompetent (for now). I’ll just keep improving my skills. Settle with compiling my comprehensive tool set one piece at a time. Focus on designing things I have the ability to actually build. And definitely plan on going back to the hardware store for more duct tape.