In 2018 we welcome our fourth Make Works region, Derby and Derbyshire. Our newest region produced by Derbyshire Museums is part of their wider 'Museum of Making' project  which will see the redevelopment of the world's first factory, The Silk Mill located in the Derwent Valley Mills UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

We chatted with Coordinator Laura Dudley to find out more about how Make Works Derby and Derbyshire has developed, who in their wider community is involved, and to explore the rich making and manufacturing heritage of the region.

Why is Make Works important to Derby? 

Derby and Derbyshire has always been centred around local manufacturing; it is embedded in the history and people of the region. This spans from the industrial revolution, to locally based makers, to the growing student community today. As this making-culture is becoming central to future developments in the region, we now feel it is time to create more accessibility between individuals and creative industries. Making itself is integral to Derby Museums and the communities based in the region. It is at the heart of our history and we feel it holds Derby and Derbyshire’s breadth of passion and talent. 

Sometimes however we do not know where to look, or we do not know enough about a process to be able to approach a maker, and I think this is where developing our own Make Works region is key. It allows for the processes, materials and people that work in factories and workshops to be seen, and to have a voice. By having factories opened up to us prior to approaching a company or an individual it allows us to feel comfortable and confident, and understand who, and what is at the heart of factories. From my experience of manufacturing in Derby and Derbyshire I have found that makers have a passion for their role, and love to tell others about this and encourage them to become invested in their processes and history. Make Works is a platform that allows for makers’ voices to be heard, and for them to tell their story in a bitesize listing, communicating what is really important to them. From its origins in Scotland through the revolutionary work of Fi Scott, Make Works has grown and I feel Make Works Derby and Derbyshire will be a game-changing resource for a broad range of people to connect with makers in the region, as it has been for Scotland, Birmingham, Sweden and UAE. 

Through our development of the Derby and Derbyshire region we have worked alongside Film-Maker Andy Taylor-Smith to utilise this project as an opportunity to engage with University of Derby and Derby College. I have found that opening this opportunity to explore local making to the student community has been a massively rewarding process for them, from developing their film and photography ability to simply encouraging conversations and active exploration of the region outside of the city-centre. I believe that the unique process of investigation that a Make Works listing undertakes can bring new and revolutionary experiences for students. 

Why was Derby Silk Mill interested in developing their own Make Works? 

The Museum of Making which sees the redevelopment of The Silk Mill, due to open in 2020, will have our communities at its heart and be uniquely co-produced with the people of Derby. I feel that this development of the Derby Museums family is intertwined perfectly with the ethos of Make Works. Both feel strongly that local making and manufacturing is integral to our region, and that it needs to be made accessible and open to all. Make Works allows for connections to be made easily through its online database, with the differing taxonomies allowing this process to be made accessible through a simple key word search, which transports you into the world of each individual maker through the form of film. The Silk Mill project is invested in creating a platform where the people living and working in the region of Derby and Derbyshire can tell their story and have their voices heard and I feel this is why we felt that developing our Make Works region was integral, as it allows for individual makers to tell their story, producing a unique and personal engagement with a maker. 

Derby Museums is a charity which aligns with the Make Works belief in sharing knowledge and providing an open access directory that can aid all communities. 

What have you discovered so far about what manufacturing looks like in Derby? What sort of manufacturers and fabricators can we expect to see? 

So far from talking and meeting local manufacturers and fabricators the one thing that has shined through is the passion that people have for what they do, and the journey that has brought them here. Whether they are large-scale operations or individuals producing bespoke pieces, there is a unique consensus across the region that passion is at the heart of their businesses. It has been a fascinating learning experience for myself to search and explore the mass of makers in the region, and understand their making-ethos, and how they tailor their production processes to individuals. 

We have been visiting a breadth of makers in Derby and Derbyshire, from large scale high- precision furniture and composite parts manufacturers, to individual glass-blowers, wood- turners and box-makers. The unique thing about Derby and Derbyshire is that it has such an array of differing makers at its heart, and I feel that this is shown through our current listings, and the ones to follow in the coming months. Although the industries differ dramatically, the one thing all of these manufacturers and fabricators have in common is a passion and commitment to creating individual experiences for clients that meet their unique needs. 

What are you most looking forward to about starting the project? 

I am most looking forward to helping makers of all types to share their individual passion and story, and to see how the directory is being used within the region to allow people and communities to connect and collaborate on a multitude of levels. I feel this is a dynamic and unique resource that could be utilised in a number of ways, and I guess I am keen to see how this impacts on the featured makers’ businesses, and to develop this feedback into our next strand of listings. I have been driven to compile a clear and representative database of makers in Derby and Derbyshire, where individuals’ creative voices break down any potential barriers in communication they have experienced previously and open up a new era of making-culture which is present in the ethos of the Museum of Making. 

I also feel that Make Works is a unique opportunity for emerging, small-scale operations to develop, or even begin their online presence, alongside allowing large-scale established operations to further their reach to new communities through presenting the individuals at the heart of their production. I am excited to see how these connections are made, and the conversations and developments that come from these in Derby and Derbyshire. 

Can you tell us more about Derby Silk Mill? 

Derby Silk Mill holds a unique place in history as it is the site of the world’s first factory and part of the Derwent Valley Mills UNESCO World Heritage Site. Derbyshire is also home to another of the first factories at Cromford Mills, developed by Richard Arckwright as an integral landmark of the Industrial Revolution. 

The Silk Mill is undergoing a process of significant development to create Derby Silk Mill – Museum of Making due to open in summer 2020. The new museum will display fascinating items from Derby’s rich industrial history, celebrating the makers of the past; and will be designed to empower makers of the future through inspirational environments for learning programmes and activities. The Silk Mill project is enthused with models of co-production to develop the site through utilising collective thinking and collaborative working, inspired by and encouraging, Derby Museums ethos which promotes Derby as a city of ideas and a city of making. 

What do you think the future is for local manufacturing? 

I believe the future for local manufacturing in Derby and Derbyshire is invested in the breadth of communities living in the region. I feel with the growing student population it is important that narratives of making are shared, and that developments are made through having conversations with makers of all sizes, shapes and backgrounds. There is a growing interest in the East and West Midlands to open up and invest in the concept of ‘process’, rather than the ‘end product’, it is being involved in these processes and developments that give a piece its bespoke nature. Many of the makers included in our region have a passion for sharing their processes through the form of workshops, from pottery, to jewellery making. I feel that allowing an ‘open-access’ approach to this stage of production, whether this be physical, or online, is the future for local manufacturing. It is knowing the person behind the end product, and the processes it went through from your original idea, that makes a product bespoke. This is where I feel the development of Make Works as an online directory is revolutionary in the larger scope of the site. 

Although manufacturing has developed from a physical process, to one that can simply be completed online, I do feel that we are reverting back to having physical, one-to-one interactions in order to ‘make’ in its broadest sense. Make Works listings allow makers to represent themselves through a short film which focuses on the processes and individuals involved. The future for manufacturing is about breaking down the barriers which digital technology can create, whilst understanding and utilising its ability to reach far and wide and give access to all communities. We must nurture the expertise in a region for the developments of future generations of makers and share our stories and expertise. There are projects which are doing this locally, with the Museum of Making in Derby, but further afield STEAMhouse in Birmingham. I feel strongly that Make Works is playing an integral part in this future development of a new, open-access making-culture in the UK.

Welcome Make Works Derby and Derbyshire!

Find out more about Make Works Derby and Derbyshire and who else is in the team here.

Find out how to start a Make Works in your region here.

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