Build Your Own: Tools for Sharing is a free exhibition running until 31st August 2015 and hosted by flagship digital space, FACT Liverpool, to celebrate the diverse nature of skill-sharing across communities, home spaces and on a global scale, featuring projects based in Liverpool and Norwich.
Curated by Laura Parker and Clare Cumberlidge, Build Your Own: Tools for Sharing showcases an eclectic and highly original range of crafts from the physical and digital sphere culminating in a highly engaging and innovative set of installations and workshops developed by “makers” from various disciplines.
The Lost Letters of Liverpool is a project created by Linda Brothwell as part of her body of work Acts of Care, ( 2013-). Foregrounding Liverpool’s shipbuilding links as well as the Polish community that forms part of the modern day cultural tapestry of Liverpool, Brothwell has forged her own tools including chasing hammers and chasing punches to create elaborate letters from brass. These letters replace the missing characters of local landmarks. The tools are proudly displayed as examples of practical works that serve to show that art has a functional as well as aesthetic application and that such restrictions can be overcome by innovation and determination.
As per Brothwell’s endeavour to rejuvenate these worse-for-wear signs, the letters created are in keeping with the façade without being a carbon copy of the original typography. The inspiration for her designs is the Polish Wycinanki paper-cutting tradition, thus Brothwell opens the viewer’s eyes to unheard-of crafts whilst simultaneously celebrating forgotten heritage. The effect of such borrowed trades breathes new life into the city streets.
Moving from outside into the more intimate domestic scene, Homework (2015) by Will Shannon and Assemble, explores the aptness of the home for combining work and relaxation. Using a Yard Factory, which you can see on display, Homework produces an insight into a home-based workshop that can enhance the interior. Taking the impetus away from external parties to realise home improvements gives the ownership back to the resident. In a series of displays, examples of images and hand-made objects oblige the viewer to consider the possibilities that are within our own reach, without recourse to pay for others’ labour.
In sharp contrast to such traditional crafts, DoESLiverpool (Ross Dalziel, Patrick Fenner and Adrian McEwen), presents an alternative world of “making” using digital programmes to produce 3D masterpieces: in this case a step-by-step guide to putting together the Raptor Hands part of Desktop Prosthetics, (2015), inspired by open-source project e-NABLE. The process of 3D-printing can be observed up close by watching the machines perform this modern-day alchemy, printing layer upon layer of a plastic polymer to build up a tangible object dreamed up using a software package such as Blender or Photoshop. Visitors can get their hands dirty, by taking on the challenge of making prosthetic hands during workshops.
On camera, the DoESLiverpool team relay their vision of sharing their machinery with the community in order to “empower” visitors to gain the skills they require. They look to the future of 3D-printing to improve lives of patients requiring prosthetics, seeing it as an avenue for amputees to create their own blueprints for customised hands. This gives them the agency to design the tools (in this case, hands) that work for their own way of life, rather than accepting generic versions currently on offer.
The marriage of digital and the physical takes on a Matrix-like characteristic in the foyer, with miniature computers called the “Raspberry Pi” controlling environmental factors. Neurotic Machines (2015) is the brainchild of Rachel Rayns and The Raspberry Pi Foundation, and has been erected to illustrate how easy it is to regulate temperature, humidity and light using just a small circuit board. Various potted plants on display are at the mercy of these gadgets to survive. Workshops to demystify this digital technology are available to technophobes, making the learning process democratic to all, which is the main premise behind building your own tools and skill-sharing.