Project upcycle was a two month long collaboration with Central Community Development Council.
When the CDC approached us with the idea of holding workshops to encourage community residents to embrace upcycling as part of their daily lives, we immediately reached out to two Makers who take environmental issues very seriously – Susan Ong and Priyanka Gupta. Together with the Makers, we put together a three workshop series on Making to Upcycle.
During the first workshop on fabric upcycling, we stretched the boundaries of what consitutes fabric and how fabrics can be upcycled. This included teaching participants how to sew electronics and how fabrics can be made from plastics by fusing plastics with an iron. We also tried to level up participants by encouraging them to use the sewing machine.
We were very encouraged by the participants, especially the young children and families, who jumped right in and wanted to do advanced sewing like sewing zippers. This little girl as so proud that she was able to upcycle her old skirt into a handbag.
After fabrics, we moved on to paper. While participants were taught skills like quilling and paper circuits (We had a number of LEDs left over from the laser pointer mutilation spree of the SSEF pop up Makerspace in early March), they were also free to experiment and make what they wanted.
Perhaps the most crazy of the workshops was Making with Cardboard. We brought in our heavy tools and workbenches, jigsaws and drills, as well as a laptops. The cardboard workshop was also very ambitious in that we wanted to observe how the participants stepped up to the use of equipment. Adrian Curic had setup a station to also teach some Autodesk 123D and pepekura.
The workshops allowed us to work with participants of a wide age and ability range. A large number of seniors worked side by side with children and families.
In some ways, the workshops were also an experiment for us to identify what constituted a good activity. Instead of a workshop of step by step instructions, we divided the workshops into Skill stations and Making areas, giving the participants an option to move to skill stations when they needed with pick up a new skill. This gave rise to several interesting observations.
1. Families and children were more enthusiastic about jumping in and learning to use different tools. We had children as young as eight who wanted to sew zippers upon their first time using the sewing machine, as we had kids who wanted to use the jigsaw to heard to cut thick corrugated cardboard.
2. Showing examples to participants can be both good and bad. Often, it depends on the kind of example. Funnily, we observed that the lousier the example, the more creative the participants are. Its like they are one-upping the facilitators and they can make something better than the facilitators, and that always feels good!
3. Interestingly, when we gave templates or examples which were perfectly done, certain groups of people simply wanted to follow the example given. For the Making with cardboard workshop, we had gotten the google cardboard templates along with us for people to understand that something as simple as cardboard and Daiso lenses can give rise to a Virtual Reality experience. However, some participants simply wanted to follow the template and make their own VR goggle.
4. Leaving things loose and limber allows for more creativity. We structured the workshops such that after the introduction, the Makers left their samples on the front and did a quick introduction to the possibilities. After this, the participants were given the freedom to walk around, play with the skill stations, or straight away jump into their project and learn the skills as they went along. This worked much better than structuring the learning separate from the Making and gave participants the opportunity to experience learning on demand.