Live my life as an IndieCamper in Brittany
Published 18 July 2017 by Victor Didelot
Experience a 100% DIY “maker vacation” at IndieCamp in Névez, Brittany, featuring a solar-powered shower, mycelium, ironworking and Raspberry Pi workshops.
Névez, special report
IndieCamp, organized by open innovation communities (Le Biome in Brittany, La Myne in Lyon, Movilab portal for third-spaces…), was held this year on July 1-10 in Névez, in France’s northwestern Finistère region, between Concarneau and the Atlantic Ocean. The idea is that participants are responsible for setting up the camp, from the showers to the dry toilets, suggesting and organizing workshops, managing the equipment, basically, co-organizing the camp.
Atelier Z, located near the artisanal area of Kervic, is an old farm on a field of over one hectare, that Cédric Lebreton and Blanche Renaudin, two founding members of the organization Bretagne Transition, would like to transform into a “laboratory for innovative ideas and actions” by hosting, for example, low-tech oriented projects. “These are the projects that are economically viable and potentially create jobs,” says Cédric.
The farm comprises four buildings: the barn, where most of the camp took place; the stable, used to store the couple’s belongings, in addition to our own equipment; the studio and the house, where Cédric, Blanche and their daughter live. There is also a vegetable garden and a field.
I spent four (out of the camp’s total 10) days with makers from all over France, who each came with their tent to share, tinker and talk around the campfire with a beer. Only four people were on site when I arrived, but most of the campers arrived shortly afterward for a total of 18 participants.
July 3. Shopping, foraging, wood
I arrived at Rosporden station at 12:30pm, where Emmanuel Laurent (La Myne and Daisee) picked me up in his van, perfectly converted into a camper, with a double bed in back, water and a few rations, even a miniature TV running on a Raspberry Pi. We went shopping for food before returning to the station one train later to pick up another camper, Rieul Techer. Our budget was 32,50€ (6,50€ per person per day) for lunch and dinner for five people.
At the camp, Xavier Coadic (Le Biome) and Aurélien Marty (Movilab) came to greet me. During lunch, a plate of rice with vegetables, Xavier introduced the concept of IndieCamps, and we talked about the camp organized last year in Kerbors, Côtes-d’Armor.
“An IndieCamp is when you set up camp on the land of a host who agrees with the camp’s philosophy, and you owe him something in exchange—not financial but material,” Xavier explained. In 2016, the campers built an outdoor shower.
After lunch, some people cut wooden pallets to enhance our DIY furniture, Aurélien finished editing the first version of the camp’s video teaser to publish on Facebook, Emmanuel started building a system to monitor energy production and consumption, Xavier worked on mapping out the land on OpenStreetMap. Xavier Pinasseau, artisan maker and ironworker in Scaër, and Emmanuel Mayoud, digital mediator based in Marseille, set up an open forge and introduced us to ironworking. They also brought more corrugated sheets for the framework of the dry toilets.
Late afternoon, I accompanied Xavier C. and Rieul into the more humid part of the field to pick mycelium (the vegetable part of the mushroom) and start cultivating mushrooms, collect wood for tonight’s campfire and search for physarum (nicknamed “the blob”, a single-celled organism prized by biologists for its “intelligence” and capacity for learning).
The gas stove was broken. I found myself firing up the barbecue to cook that night’s supper (broth of radish tops, vegetables and spaghetti). Note to self: Pasta takes a long time to cook over a barbecue! The spaghetti went on the fire around 8:30pm and wasn’t ready to eat till around midnight.
Chloé Lequette (Enzyme & Co), arrived just in time to enjoy the light painting performance, before everyone went to bed.
July 4. Open-air shower, Raspberry Pi and Ethereum
At 9:30am, I ate breakfast with a few other campers. Others were still sleeping as the sun was already shining bright and hot.
As some people hosted videoconferences (on the Open BioFabrics community, the communal solution Communecter…), I started thinking with Aurélien about how to build another table with the remaining pallets. We chose the best pallet for the tabletop.
That day, two new campers join us: Matthieu Brient, from LabFab in Rennes, and Arthur Masson, “open society” developer. What’s that? “Open society is based on the philosophy of open source. It’s international, collaborative and scalable. It’s collectively designed by citizens: anyone can contribute, for example by offering social projects, services, material goods, or even legal texts,” Arthur explained.
After lunch, each camper offered an activity: introduction to the Parity client, which enables access to Ethereum (a blockchain protocol) by installing an Ethereum node and Parity on a Raspberry Pi 3, with Xavier C. and Arthur. Serious stuff. Manu M. and Cédric set off to build a bar in the barn. Aurélien and Xavier P. returned with 1m3 of sawdust for the dry toilets and a Rocket Stove, a typically DIY mass stove kindly offered to us by Xavier Moulin, in charge of the Transition Design research platform at the European Art School of Brittany (EESAB) in Brest.
Finally, the bar was ready to welcome the campers and a few neighbors for a friendly cocktail and chat.
July 5. Rocket Stove, beach, party in the forest
Xavier P. and Manu M. bring a new stock of pallets to enlarge our panoply of DIY furniture.
Chloé, Matthieu, Arthur, Aurélien and I took a 15-minute drive out to the beach, where we could sunbathe and swim—in 15°C. It’s good for the body, they say… but not quite warm enough for me!
After lunch, Manu L. and Xavier C. went off to experiment with biogas in the humid part of the field, using a prototype DIY biomethanisor. Manu L. wanted to recycle his food waste to power his cooker.
I decided to improve our Rocket Stove, following Chloé’s suggestions. Using a grinder, I cut out several vertical slats from the main cylinder, which I folded inwards, so that our coffee pot could rest more easily on top, but also to prevent it from getting dirty from all the soot.
On my first attempt, the coffee pot (or any other object) blocked the main chimney… The Rocket Stove’s characteristic venting was no longer possible. Then I had the idea of drilling several holes in the main cylinder, right below the exhaust, for proper ventilation. Bingo!
Around 5pm, Manu M. hosted a mediation meeting based the question “What are you doing?”, a question that comes up often at the camp. Each person was given about 6 minutes to explain to the others what he or she was experimenting.
“It’s an opportunity for everyone to practice mediation about what they do, to exchange experiences and encounters, to inform and inspire others to contribute to hybrid projects,” says Manu M.
In the evening, we left the camp for the “magic forest” to discover the cabin of Emmanuel Poisson-Quinton (Konk Ar Lab, the fablab in Concarneau). Informal chats, big barbecue and fiesta!
July 6. Mist, ironworking, departure
It’s my last day, but I’m not done yet. Hard to wake up after last night’s party, and the weather is misty and humid, but the sun comes out soon enough. Time to go visit Xavier P.’s smithy, Gov Kemper in Scaër, a few kilometers from the camp, with Chloé, Manu L., Manu M. and Aurélien, to learn about artistic ironworking.
Back at the camp by 2pm, two new campers arrived just in time for lunch: Sébastien Kurt (Mainstenant), and Alexandre Lejeune (Darkbean.io and Le Playful).
4:30pm, time to go, I say goodbye to all the campers and collect the object I forged as a souvenir. Xavier P. drives me back to Rosporden station to catch the train to Paris Montparnasse—a return to reality and, as Xavier C. puts it, “summer camp blues”.
For more impressions of the remainder of the camp, which concluded on July 10 with an open house, see the collaborative logbook and this video by Aurélien.
IndieCamp Névez 2017, makers on vacation (in French):
A 2nd IndieCamp will be held in Brittany on August 1-15 in Kerbors