Kirsten Little is a Liverpool-based artist and maker, who is involved with OpenMaker. With a Masters in Fine Art from Wimbledon College of Art, she makes collage-based art. Struggling to access the resources that were so abundant during her degree, Kirsten co-founded the maker space Make Liverpool on her return to her home city. She has worked with the Beautiful Ideas Company since its 2015 LaunchPad programme, which supported the development and expansion of Make Liverpool.

What do you make, and what technologies/tools do you use?
I work with ‘found’ materials, using traditional skills including metalwork, woodwork and casting. I use a lot of old photographs, and ‘lost’ objects, repurposing them into new items or artworks with new uses. Alongside skills like mig welding, casting and woodwork, I use photocopies and screen prints, inlaying print onto ceramics in a kiln. I’m a multi-disciplinary maker, and also a facilitator of makers.

I struggled to access resources like welding facilities, woodworking facilities and casting facilities once I left university, and began to find likeminded people to share resources. We set up Make Baltic for ‘clean’ making in 2013, but more and more demand for ‘dirty’ making led to the founding of Make Liverpool in March 2016, providing equipment based on makers’ needs.

Have you participated in associations and groups of makers, or collaborated with companies as a ‘freelance’ maker?
I completed a 12 month Artist in Residency at Liverpool Hope University in 2016, and am part of the North Docks community group, on the Ten Streets Liverpool advisory group and part of the Women’s Leadership Group Liverpool. I’m also the managing director of Make Liverpool, facilitating 65 residents and members with an eclectic skill set, including puppeteers, sculptors, furniture makers, leather upholsterers, artists and crafters.

Can you think of any specific projects, knowledge, or prototypes and products that you could share or would like to bring into this project?
I’d like to develop a maker’s app/website for each city, mapping out all of the maker spaces with the view of having multi-location membership.

I’m most interested in sharing the OpenMaker project with all the makers that I work with, to encourage them to participate and share innovation.

What is your experience of collaborating with companies – what are the key challenges and what works well?
I have five years’ experience of managing Make Liverpool, collaborating with start-up businesses, organisations and charities to encourage job creation, cultural growth and opportunities such as exhibitions and residency programmes.

Key challenges include connecting with the right networks and building good key relationships and working on a shoestring budget. To work well you need to be open to sharing ideas – not worrying about others stealing them. Open source ideas need developing alongside others. If you go to sector-led thing it brings the same type of people together, but you need additional people to make your idea a reality.

How can the OM programme help you facing the challenges, and what topics and kind of expertise are most you interested in?
Having connections with more people can positively push your idea to the forefront – you can’t hide your idea any more if there are people involved! Mentoring for users – to help businesses optimise their productivity, would also be interesting.

In nine to twelve months from now, what criteria will you use to assess how useful the OM programme was for you?
I’d like to see more engagement with makers and an increasing membership – we can do more monitoring and data collection through social media. It would also be good to monitor our impact on employment.

How do you feel about OpenMaker’s values and constraints, around openness and collaboration? What constraints can you see?
There is definitely a degree of separation – it seems like a different world. But just approaching them has opened my eyes and started the conversation!

Do you also have an idea for a prototype, or innovation? Are you looking to work with a maker or manufacturer? Fill out our form for more info, and to get involved in OpenMaker.