If you have ever attempted to attend the Fuorisalone in Milan without a clear plan and goals, you'll know that the event outside the Salone del Mobile can be pretty disorienting. Luckily, using our points of reference, we made plans to check out how the Maker movement is contributing to the events this year. Here are five of the cool things we found.

Party in the workshop

Miocugino and Vectorealism  did a great job organizing an unusual event with a fun name - Makeronic. There were CNC machines making matrixes to print funny posters, the big laser cutter in action, 3D printers doing what they do, and tons of people of all ages and types who showed up to prove that a workshop can be a place for encounter and exchange of ideas. Marco Bocola of Vectorealism gives all the credit to Miocugino, who had done a smaller version of the event the year before, but this time decided to hold it at Zooilab and "had the crazy idea of getting the whole milanese community involved, so there were lots of contributions, including a laser and a truck full of MDT-tex umbrellas.

Teaching makers to sell themselves and their stuff

Finally, a series of serious and useful workshops and talks organized by Tribu at the Ortica space for the initiative called Manilibere, at which we presented our 'Make Yourself' workshop that gives practical advice to makers to help them promote themselves and their creations. After presenting the main platforms for e-commerce available to them, we looked at the best kinds of text and photos to use for product descriptions, how to define pricing, what social networks to use, and in general what steps to take to become entrepreneurs. As organizer Gabriele Roveda pointed out, "things are different in Italy than in America," hinting at the challenges facing Italian entrepreneurs.

Afterwards, at the Fiat Lux design workshop, there was a review of successful prototypes for lasercutting which would later in the day be sent to Vectorealism to be cut and displayed at an exhibit the next day. Some were great and we look forward to having them soon for sale on MakeTank!

Contamination, in a good way

MakeTank was consultant to the Italian furniture design company Lago to provide maker services that met with artisans in their living/sales space, Appartamento Lago in via Brera. Mixing ceramics artists with 3D printing or makers like Troy with traditional artisans made for some interesting discussions and new perspectives on design. There were also a few contrasts that came forth, as is only normal when two production techniques meet for the first time.

In the video below (in Italian), Laura De Benedetto founder of MakeTank, Marcello Pirovano of Tecnificio e Lorenzo e Luciano Cantini of Kentstrapper are talking about what you can do with a 3D printer, showing the new machine developed as a partnership between the latter two.

Gaia Segattini, self defined as a rock dressmaker, participated in the Lago session on Wearable Technology and states what she liked about the opportunity:

"Working cheek to cheek with artisans and other creatives who have long stories and different approaches to making, with different timing and feelings. The opportunity to interact with a real, live company whose objects you were literally surrounded by and whose style was present in everything from the informal talks to the desserts served with coffee, and the studied messyness of the space. The inspiration of getting to know people like Troy Nachtigall and the opening of a whole new world of possibilities with sensors that live inside textiles and knitwear, told by someone who is an authentic creative. I'd say it was a day that, behind what we concretely made in the time given, will remain an educational and new starting point and moment of reflection and exchange."

Living buildings

We've been aware for some time of the project [im]possible living that maps abandoned buildings, and we are happy to find that in Milan for the Fuorisalone a building has been given new life. [Re]vive provided a space to makers who applied and were able to participate in the Fuorisalone at a very low cost. This is where we met the young guys of WASPproject who have made an unusual 3D printer for clay and uses also a milling machine. In the same room we discovered the beautiful 3D printed models by the collective coNNection<>coLLection including studies for artificial coral reefs in collaboration with Enrico Dini and printed with professional machines.

Then we met some young designers from the Politecnico di Milano whose project light(me)UP! shows their Maker side, like a time-lapse Arduino-based camera in a wood case to be worn around one's neck to record a first-person experience in a museum space.


Arduino is changing the world (in ways you would not expect)

The high point of the Makers' Fuorisalone was of course meeting Massimo Banzi at a Sunday brunch put on by WeMake Open Design. We got to meet Massimo and also met up with old and new friends in an energy-charged environment.

We were outside in the sunny courtyard talking with Massimo about how Officine Arduino will soon be opening up in India with Priya, whom we met when we recently visited Torino, as its representative in this huge country. In the process of international expansion, the issue came up that certain indian managers don't deal well with women in the workplace, but Massimo hopes that the way they are planning their move into the subcontinent can help sway the gender balance. It's a small point but an interesting one that shows how the development of Arduino has social and cultural impact.

Was 2013 the "Makers' Fuorisalone"? We can't really answer this, because we had a rather biased calendar and participated almost exclusively in events related to this world. One thing we can say is that there was no lack of Makers' related events and technologies on display, and that there seems to be growing attention to the use of innovative approaches and techniques both by companies and by the public.

A recent article by Alberto Bassi in the Italian newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano (link) comments on the current state of the maker movement in Italy:

"Being an artisan is a career; the designer-entrepreneur and the digital maker are something else entirely. If the intention is to propose a complementary or alternative model, in order to be really useful to engineers, companies and users, it seems necessary to provide instruments allowing [people] to know [the movement] better and understand it too. Otherwise one risks that it will all just end up being a passing trend, an expressive language. And a lost opportunity."

It does appear that the Italian community of Makers is getting stronger and more consolidated, and there are always new collaborations in the making, all moving towards the European Maker Faire that will take place in Rome in October 2013. It's going to be a great couple of months - stay tuned!


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