Connecting you with the people of Scotland by sharing their stories
Hi Kate & Jack, thank you for taking the time to share your story with us. First of all, please can you introduce yourselves to our readers?
Kate and I run, own, eat, sleep, breathe ‘We Are Makers’. Kate works on it full time (often seven days a week), and I work on it in the evenings and weekends around my full-time job. We both graduated from Product Design with a BDes Hons at Edinburgh Napier University in 2015, where we met. We are now based about twenty miles north of Glasgow’s city centre, just outside Strathblane.
We have always made things and have had independent businesses since graduating, which we will discuss later. We now publish the ‘We Are Makers’ bi-annual publication that showcases makers stories from across the globe, and for the last nine months, we’ve also been working on and producing our up and coming docuseries “An Honest Representation of the Modern Maker.”
What led you to start the community that is ‘We Are Makers’, and how did the idea come about to produce your own magazine?
When we graduated, Jack and I had an idea for a book or magazine that would showcase the designers and makers in Scotland as we couldn’t find anything like it at the time, but at that stage it was only an idea we had over dinner one evening.
My story: before working on this publication, I have turned my hands to quite a few different projects over the years. After leaving university, I started my own business, designing and making kids furniture from my parent’s family farm. I successfully secured a Prince’s Trust loan to help me start up the company and purchased a second-hand CNC machine to produce my pieces. Although my small business did not work out as I had hoped (this was not due to the lack of effort, passion, and commitment I had to it), I’m not afraid to admit that it was hard to promote a small business at that time. I took the skills I had learned running a CNC machine & making my furniture and secured a job at ‘Unto this last’ in London. It was a huge change moving to London from Scotland’s countryside; however, it improved my confidence as a person and opened up new opportunities, including working on the film Hobbs and Shaw & Fast and Furious 9 in their Special Effects department. I ran the plasma machine producing their metal parts for the rigs for the film. Cutting this story short, I wanted to move back home to Scotland and create my own products again, however, the same issue arose where I didn’t have the platform or reach I wanted / needed to grow. This is where our idea of a book or magazine came around again. We just knew it was something we needed to do, so we did it.
From everything I have learned and done over the years, I’m proud of what I have achieved, and I am delighted that I am now helping other makers showcase and promote their work and tell their stories on a global scale.
Through all this, I was and still am working full time as a design engineer running a design team that has worked on titles such as Wonder woman, Justice League, Fantastic Beasts, Fast and Furious, Jurassic world and so on. However, despite the exciting nature of my work and the growth of Kate’s business, we still noticed first-hand how difficult it was for makers to get seen. So Kate set off to work to get ‘We Are Makers’ off the ground. I worked every hour under the sun. We poured much of our house deposit into ‘We Are Makers’ to fund the first print run, advertising, proofreader, graphic design, web design, packaging and every other expense that came with the launch of this publication. Still, even with the risks, we trusted the process and knew the list of people leaving the 9-5 / PAYE career path to break out on their own is only growing, and a platform like this would be very valuable.
It’s also important to say that we are glad we didn’t launch in 2015 when we had the idea; we didn’t have the experience, savings pot, or professionalism as we do now.
What can people expect when they buy a copy of your magazine, what’s inside?
Printed in the UK by Pure print, you can expect a beautifully designed bookazine full to the brim with inspiring stories from makers across the globe. It takes six months to produce one edition from start to distribution. It includes the curation, the interviews, proofreading and design. I search for makers mostly on social media such as Instagram and can spend literally all day scrolling to find makers of all mediums. One thing I do try and do is to include as many different mediums as possible in one edition and it can be incredibly hard to choose.
Free of advertising, the publication is a curation of stories reflecting our mission to support the people behind handmade products. Leafing through the pages is an education in the beauty of craftsmanship and what it means to own a unique piece made by hand. Through the 220 pages you can be sure to feel inspired!
You are now working on Issue 04 of We Are Makers. How have you found the process of self-publishing and what advice would you share with anyone looking to publish their own magazine?
The big discussion for us at the very start was how we approached it; start by doing the best job we can do ourselves or put everything we had financially into it and get a print designer and copywriter from the get-go. We choose the latter because you only get one chance at making a first impression. It has proven to work based on the feedback we get from our customers. So, I suppose that would be our advice; You only get one chance to make a first impression, do whatever you need to make it a good one.
What is it you look for, when choosing makers to feature?
The makers’ processes and the story of how they got there. We are less fixated on the end product, which makes our publication unique. We concentrate on the makers’ journey and how they became a maker. An Instagram profile with lots of making process shots and personality is more attractive than a glossy gallery grid.
You work with so many different makers from all over the world, what would you say it is, that connects everyone within the community?
From all the stories I read and receive, every maker is facing the same struggles and their stories sum up the importance of community over competition, and how a chance conversation or a helping hand can change the course of a life. The maker community is an amazing thing to be a part of. It’s uplifting, inspiring and a place where you can connect and make lifelong friendships/ relationships. Since publishing We Are Makers, I’ve connected with so many incredible people from all over the world and I feel privileged to be able to do what I love and help others whilst doing it.
For me, its willingness, hard work, grit, and determination all balanced with an equal measure of exploration. Whether makers realise it or not, all of them are fighting the status quo every day and winning. The makers also throw themselves into tasks/ projects/ products with wide eyes and a willingness to learn and explore new methods, finishes, and media, and to me, that’s exciting.
We have to ask, what are some of your favourite Scottish makers?
For me, it’s impossible to say which is more favourable, but I can say having spent some brief time with Ed and James from Under The Skin (Glasgow) and Richard and Sam from The Marchmont workshop (Scottish borders), they have an infectious good mood. Put aside their wealth of knowledge in their fields, their fantastic dedication to their cause and craft, and their inspiring journeys; when you chat with them, you walk away in a better mood.
I have to agree with Jack; it’s impossible to choose! We’ve covered a few Scottish makers in the publication, and I love them all; however, I want to mention Lucy Macdonald (Arra Textiles) who features in our up-and-coming documentary. You will understand my love and admiration for Lucy when our first pilot episode is released, so stay tuned!
Since starting We Are Makers, you have not only built a community and published your own magazine, but you are currently working on a documentary series called ‘An Honest Representation of the Modern Maker’, please can you tell us more about this?
Our pilot episode of our documentary series, An Honest Representation of the Modern Maker, takes a closer look at makers at work and the inspirations that drive them. It’s another beautiful way of sharing an individual’s story, which we hope will make our global community feel even more connected.
To get the series off the ground, we filmed the pilot episode here in Scotland, both to keep costs down and due to COVID-related travel restrictions. Funding the rough cut entirely out of publication sales and our personal savings, we’ve distilled more than 25 hours of stunning footage into a feature-length documentary.
When we launched the inaugural edition of We Are Makers, many people couldn’t believe that it was our first publication. We hope that viewers of the documentary pilot will feel the same appreciation for our high production values. The atmosphere that it evokes echoes that of our publication. This is craft up close: an honest, purposeful and intensely personal look at the maker’s process and inspiration as much as the end product.
For anyone who would like to find out more or to support your Kickstarter campaign, what link should they visit?
This is our campaign link and launches 1st of March until the 5th of April. Up until the 1st of March you can sign up to be notified the minute we launch!
It sounds like you both have an incredibly busy year ahead of you, what’s next for We Are Makers?
LOADS, We have Edition four launching in March and have just started work on Edition five for the September release. Following a successful Kickstarter, we want to get on the road in Europe, Scandinavia, and the rest of the UK to bank footage for future documentary episodes. We are also toying with the idea of a ‘We Are Makers’ live event in Edinburgh during the fringe this year if we can secure a suitable space. To be honest, the most challenging thing we find is not spreading ourselves too thin. It’s only Kate on this project full time, and I am still working full time to continue to fund the project and working on it in the evenings and weekends with Kate. We would love to grow ‘We Are Makers’ to a size where either of us could take a wage out of it and allow both of us to concentrate on it full time.
For any makers looking to join your community or to be featured in future editions of your magazine, what is the process and where can they get in touch with you to do so?
We have a submission form on our website that allows you to add some information about you. It includes an area for you to write about you and your journey and include some images to show examples of your work. We do get a lot of submissions and it can be overwhelming at times as it’s only me that works through them! I normally make a shortlist and show them to Jack to help me choose. Once we choose the makers, we get in touch with a document that has all the information on it that they need to create their content for the publication.
Here is the link for submissions and our deadline for our September issue is the 5th of April 2022.
And finally, for anyone who would like to purchase or subscribe to your magazine, please share the details below.
To purchase a copy of our publication you can do so here.
Kate: Yes, I still do a ‘happy’ dance whenever we get a sale!