Maker Map

Louisville is for makers

“Who are you?”

This question is startling, direct, and generates so much discomfort that it is rarely asked in casual conversation. Instead, other questions are asked: “What do you do?” “Where are you from?” and, in Louisville in particular, “Where did you go to school?” The answers to these questions primarily leverage someone’s past to inform about their present.

To better explore who we are, the goal of the Meet Your Maker column was to pose a different question: “What do you make?” It also aimed to inspire readers to consider the question: “Are you a maker too?”

In doing so, The Paper learned a great deal about makers in the community.

First, they live throughout Louisville. The neighborhoods that makers call home were not concentrated in any particular region. East, west, south, across the Ohio River, and all points between – chances are your friends and neighbors are makers.

Although the column did not intentionally seek out sustainable living/urban homesteaders and craft food/beverage makers, the high number of makers in these two categories combined reflects the vibrancy of the farm-to-table, sustainable living movement in Louisville.

Louisville is well-known for having a supportive, closely-knit arts community, so it’s no surprise that there would be a high number of visual artists among the featured makers.

The high number of electronics makers is a partial explanation to the success of Louisville’s three-year-old hackerspace (public gathering place for electronics enthusiasts), LVL1, and its rapid rise to an elite status among hackerspaces in the United States.

Many makers stated that amenities such as a friendly community, access to parks and other green spaces, relatively lower cost of living, and shorter commute times encouraged and supported their interests.

The majority of makers interviewed were in their 30s. The youngest maker featured was 11 years old at the time of the interview. Most of the makers stated that they started at a young age and were encouraged by their family to pursue making in some fashion. However, there were more than a few who had a later start and are ardent makers nonetheless.

Of the 23 makers interviewed, only seven were women. This is not a result of a shortage of women makers, but a desire to showcase a variety of activities. With additional issues, this 2:1 deficiency would have been consciously corrected. In retrospect, the lack of equal coverage makes the short run of The Paper all the more bittersweet.

For some of the makers, it is enough that their interests remain a non-primary source of income. Singer/songwriter Alex Wright (March 2012) is currently producing a second album of his original compositions with music legend Jim White after opening for one of his shows at Uncle Slayton’s. As a primary care physician, he remains just as passionate for providing the best medical care to his patients.

However, some of the makers have been able to parlay their skills into full-time work. Dan Bowen’s (January 2012) expertise led to the fulfillment of his dream of designing and engineering balloons full-time. Google’s Project Loon has the ambitious goal of using balloons floating high in the stratosphere to deliver Internet coverage to rural and remote areas. Bowen’s unique expertise in designing electronics that withstand freezing temperatures and flight control systems that adjust altitude based on wind patterns, as well as his knowledge of super pressure balloon envelopes makes him perfect for the job. His official title: balloon systems innovator.

After two years, The Paper hopes that readers see that we can all be makers. We are proud to have embodied that independent, creative, positive maker spirit to its core and for Meet Your Maker to have highlighted so many awesome makers in Louisville.

The map marks the neighborhoods of each of the makers featured in The Paper.

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