Adam Savage Answers the Question: What is a Maker?

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A “maker” is a construct of O’Reilly’s imagination (like Web 2.0).

People have always made things, to solve problems, to make do, to make money. It was just something people did. For some people it was more serious than others, so there were magazines about hobby electronics and woodworking and model railroading, and telescope building and crafts.

Those people never went away, though they became less visible when some if the magazines faded or shifted.

But “maker” became a branding, a movement, an ideology, distinct from what came before,but completely dependent on what came before. “Maker” leadership, well those actually building stuff, existed already, but were willing to accept the label.

I have had a soldering iron on my desk since March or April 1971, fifty years in a few months. But I’m not a “Maker”.


i had a great uncle who used the term “to make” as a synonym for “to defecate”. That always struck me as weird as sh*t, but since we know from the book “Everyone poops” that makes us all makers?

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I absolutely love his enthusiasm and inclusiveness, but the end result is to define the term out of all meaning.


And rightly so, because maker is a stupid label to begin with. Everyone’s maker, it’s human nature.


I think you mean “wholesome”, fulsome’s something different. :slight_smile:

Like @lizard-of-oz says, I think that is the point. Humans make stuff, tools and art and foods and stories and more. Adam starts by saying how much he dislikes gatekeeping; this is basically him blowing up the gate and then running the fence over with a bulldozer while wearing a gaudy Christmas sweater. :slight_smile:


Bless you, Adam Savage!

The coining of the term " maker" has been a mixed blessing. On the one hand it legitimized the activities of inveterate tinkerers in our consumer-based society. On the other hand the publicization of uber-makers may have caused many of us to feel like they don’t stack-up and fall prey to impostor syndrome.

Humans were probably making things long before spoken language. In fact, those pre-verbal objects and the observation of them being made/used were the language of the time. The original meme. If you saw it, you too could do it. Others saw you do it (and the advantage to having done it), and the idea spread.

Making is what made us human. Go be a human. Even if it is a cheese sandwich. If you make one for someone else, even better.


Yea. I echo his righteous wrath. If you think you are a maker, or you aspire, then you probably understand. If you don’t, then second best is to be a gatekeeper, but you shall forever be denied the fierce joy of making: that is woe enough for anyone, and you must take your comfort where you can.


The Whole Earth Catalog was my introduction to mad science engineering, putting all those different kinds of tools together in one place, invited a lot of cross-pollination.

But it wasn’t until people started sharing build notes on the internet that this cross pollination really went into overdrive.

I’m still a little jaded about how shallow the impulse toward “computer literacy” turned out to be. But the smaller platforms like raspberry pi and arduino are opening up a whole new attack surface.

For every 10 Rube Goldberg bagatelles, there are 1 or 2 real gems out there.

Bottom line, the number of people who are actually into tinkering, is no greater than before. But the available tools are much more powerful and more attainable than before.

at least those of us who are clearly excluded don’t have to worry about “imposter syndrome”

Well put. I always cringed a bit at the term.


Very well put. I’m a DIYer & tinkerer and my hobbies have involved making things since I was a kid. I went on to study a field that where you learn how things work. But I’m not a maker^tm.

See also 90% of FDM 3d printing, “Hey look at this thing I made that sucks.”

I frigging hate the word “Maker”. It feels like it’s appropriating the entire history of handwork and craft.

But I totally endorse this content. Make things. My god, for all that’s good, make things. And if calling yourself a maker helps you understand why you make things, and encourages you to make more things, holy shit, call yourself a maker, proudly.

“Oh hi there, did someone ask about a maker?”


Like 14-year-old me asked my economics teacher - aren’t we all producers and consumers?

Me when they ask me if I’m a maker…

Wow, the cynicism here about individuals making things is disheartening. Yea, Maker Media pushed the whole “maker” movement and made money off of it, so what? Make magazine was instrumental in getting me back into electronics after being out of it for two decades. And seeing what others were doing that were showcased in that magazine inspired me do delve into so much more than I would have otherwise.

As for the “uber-makers”, does seeing someone really good at something inspire you to keep learning more, or does it make you quit whatever you’re learning? And the word “maker” itself? Adam’s point was that everyone is a maker. While that may very well dilute the definition, is it so bad to have a word to describe it anyway, regardless of where that word came from? To me, it’s more descriptive than something like “DIYer”, and I certainly don’t consider myself to be a craftsman. All that said, the label doesn’t really matter anyway, it’s just a convenience of conversation.

Making to me is about community, sharing, learning from others, collaborating, and the intersection of knowledge, ability, creativity, and skill set. It’s encouraging others to explore new ideas, learn new skills, and to gain self-confidence. Before this we had silos, in terms of skills, availability of information, and demographics. And those silos frequently had gate-keepers.

I’ve taught at-risk youth that started out being pissed off that they had to sit in my class. In just a few weeks I had them programming in Python on a Raspberry Pi, learning binary math, working with sensors, switches and LEDs, and they couldn’t get enough of it. In the following months they spent time in a woodshop, welding shop, working with laser cutters, 3D printers, and sewing machines. I personally saw the look in their eyes change as they built up their self-confidence, took pride in the things they were making, and started having some amount of hope in their lives. THIS is what making means to me. As a label it may be meaningless, but as a culture it’s priceless.

The corporate backed maker fad and all of its spin-offs may have passed, but the democratization of equipment and tools, and the sources of information that fad created continue to live on, as do all the people it inspired along the way to just make things.


I don’t think it does. As I understand the term at least (and I’m not really involved in the movement, so this is an outside perspective) a maker is quite explicitly an amateur or someone who caters to amateurs (i.e. those that make components that are mostly used by makers, like Arduinos). Nobody would call a master carpenter who has gone through years of apprenticeship and work experience a “maker”.

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