What makes Makers HeadRoom so different?

It’s hard to explain what’s so special about Makers Headroom. On the face of it it’s just another online Zoom group like so many that sprang up around the pandemic lockdowns. But this one isn’t based around talking or singing it’s designed for people who make things.

That’s right, in this group on Tuesday mornings we spend time together quietly working on our own making projects.

Zooming together

We do a bit of chat at the beginning and end to say hello and goodbye and deal with any other business, but the main thing we do is to spend time in each other’s company working on our own work. We keep our microphones on so we can hear that the others are present. This is not a silent group but the priority is on working as a body rather than on talking to each other.

Who is it for

Makers HeadRoom is for anyone who makes anything but it is conceived primarily as something for people who work with their hands. The only constraint to taking part is how much noise you need to make (see Soundchecks & muting below). I want to develop a diverse and evolving community of makers of every description, anyone who can work with what is described here will be very welcome.

How it happened

With his permission I have taken this idea from Mark Richards who developed Sculptors Drawing Space during the first UK lockdown. In his own words: “People from around the world gather … we keep our microphones on and moderate the ambient noise … Importantly no one sees what anyone else does. the effect is one of shared space without scrutiny or evaluation. we gather together, to work in private.”

With Makers HeadRoom we are switching drawing for making – which is a bit more complicated, and probably needs just a bit more preparation and planning by participants.

A modified representation of Makers HeadRoom in session. This image of nine people in a Zoom session is modified in Photoshop to make the participants less recognisable and make the image more like a digital painting

The long view

My understanding of this group is that makers have common ways of thinking and working. These ways bond us and enable us to assemble and work in parallel without intervention or instructions from a leader or conductor. Makers HeadRoom is a place where we can enjoy each other’s concentration, attention and sense of purpose while we absorb what occurs between us when we work together without words.

I suspect that a makers mind (Or perhaps any mind in a making mode) has special qualities, abilities and needs. Manipulating complex spacial, colour, structural and compositional relationships requires a lot of energy and focus. Gathering together to do this seems to somehow enhance it. It’s as if the background sounds of others also engaged in making soothes and sustains our own activity.

Mojo working

Working with Sculptors Drawing Space led me to thinking about what was distinctive and special about a group of people spending time together and largely forgoing the use of words. When you experience it, it has an atmosphere that is hard to define or express. I find this intriguing and want to know more about it, but more than anything I want to replicate it so more people can experience it themselves.

Grok the congregation?

The best description of the experience that I have seen is in a poem by Anthony Landale which is written about Sculptors Drawing Space where he uses the word congregation to try to catch the sensation of this phenomenon.

I am reminded of the word grok  (To understand profoundly through intuition or empathy) coined by Robert A. Heinlein in his 1961 book Stranger in a Strange Land

There is also something about the fact that so few people know about this as yet, that this is still esoteric knowledge, developed during a worldwide emergency situation (Lockdown). If you would like to see what you think of it – it’s free, all you need to do is sign up to the mailing list.

Structure

The meeting structure is straight forward.

The meeting currently lasts 2 hours

It’s at 9am on Tuesday mornings.

Video devices and mucky hands

One slightly tricky aspect of working in Makers HeadRoom is the question of operating a computer or phone while working with materials that stick to your hands, that make your hands wet or mucky or that you need to wear protective gloves with.

My hope is that we will pool our collective wisdom on this and share ideas that will make it easier for participants to surmount such issues.

Muting & Sound checking

If you are beating metal with a hammer or drilling wood with an electric drill you might want to mute your microphone for the duration of that activity. If it’s practical you might be able to reduce the volume by moving away from the device you are videoing with. I am not aware of any volume controls within Zoom that enable you to moderate the sound going into your device’s microphone.

We can do sound checks at the start of each meeting if anyone needs to.

Adjustments

What might change in future:

⁃ The time or day of the meetings.

⁃ The duration of the meetings.

⁃ The schedule might be weekly every single week or I might work to school term times.

⁃ The core activity is unlikely to change but other peripheral activities could be developed – see below.

⁃ Any feedback about any of these issues will be gratefully received

Going further

I plan to develop other aspects of collaborative and cooperative group work as Makers HeadRoom progresses. My current feeling is that the structure is very clear and strong so other elements might lead to a new offshoot in due course rather than a change to this excellent group format as developed by Sculptors Drawing Space