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Makers on the Edge

We’re at that time of the year when you’ll find it hard to get away from the dreaded C word, or should I say C words? Two terms that very much go hand in hand throughout December are 'Christmas' and 'consume'.

An alternative and more thoughtful 'C' you can apply to your Christmas experience is creativity. Makers on the Edge, based on Abbeydale Road, opposite the Broadfield, is one of a growing number of 'create and craft' hubs, offering workshops and gifts that are the perfect antidote to much of the tat that will be shared between friends and family this Christmas.

How did Makers come about?

Makers is a project by Lisa and James Wallbank. More than a decade ago we worked together on art installations, exhibitions and projects, and we thought it'd be fun to work together again. It asks some questions we have about making. Can we broaden participation in making? Can we make it sustainable? Is high street crisis an opportunity to offer something different?

We've been open for two months now and we've been delighted by the responses of people who've come in the door. We've striven to make the shop fascinating and beautiful, filled with curiosities - a real experience to visit.

The shop was derelict and empty for 20 years before you took it over. How much did your craft skills come into play redesigning the space?

A lot. James was involved in the construction process on a daily basis and Lisa got involved once the heavy work was nearing completion (That said, she laid the decorative pavement outside and got two job offers while she did it). By assisting with the construction, and doing a lot of the refurb ourselves, we saved more than £20,000 and got a better quality result. Loads of details in the building are the result of our involvement.

The whole making movement, whether it be traditional or digital skills, seems to be gaining tremendous momentum. What would you put it down to?

People are curious to understand the stories behind the objects around them. Plus making is fun, and when you make something, it's personal and unique. How much more delightful is a present that someone makes, compared to a present that someone buys?

You’re offering a some interesting sessions at Makers. Is it hard to keep generating ideas for workshops?

No, it's easy. The hard bit is getting the word out there. We're offering something that just hasn't been available in this area before.

There are a few similar start ups that have appeared on the map of South Yorkshire and North Derbyshire. Do you think there is scope for more collaboration?

Who are you thinking about? Tell us! Meeting up and sharing ideas is fun, and Sheffield has a really strong, diverse offer of places for making. Key are the differences - each place has different offers to make to different people. Making is highly personal, and striving for some kind of homogeneity may lose the particular strengths of individual spaces.

What are your plans for 2016?

We're planning to open up the first floor of Makers as a craft studio to host maker residencies. We'd like to invite makers, crafters, artists and tinkerers from far and wide to come to Sheffield and develop their making practice and learn new design, making and enterprise skills. Right now we're looking for relationships with organisations that can help us to develop this programme. And, of course, we're looking forward to 2016 - Sheffield's Year of Making. We're sure that some very cool things will come out of it. )

Next article in issue 93

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