The Mountain Makers community opened their doors for the third consecutive year on August 8-13, 2022, bringing together 20 hackers/makers along with active members of the Vulca association. Alexandre Rousselet reports.
At Mountain Makers, every morning begins with background music that resonates throughout the grounds. Most of the participants are still sleeping and slowly waking up. At 8 a.m., one of them commits to going out to the village to buy bread and pastries for breakfast. Then little by little, the residents get up and eat, each at their own pace, before starting the day together at 10 a.m.
Paco of Hackerspace Castellón has come every year since Mountain Makers first opened to international residents: “What I like is that every year the program is complete, diverse, enriching and always surprising, including a savvy mix: workshops among participants during which we build skills; workshops open to the general public where we initiate the local community to machines, tools, and other basic maker knowledge; workshops to develop the association, such as building the website, making signage for the space, home automation, or building renovation; Repair’Café, the central event of the week where we can help local residents fix broken daily appliances and devices; and finally, a bit of sightseeing each day. This region of Auvergne is amazing, mountain lakes, rivers, volcanos… Every year I come back and discover new magical places.”
In Manzat, the ambient soundscape is punctuated by the village church bells that ring every hour, just across from Mountain Makers. Another recurring signal is the sound of a bullhorn that the participants like to use to call everyone to assemble for meals or before going on an outing together.
Local and international makers in peer-to-peer learning
A total of 20 international makers joined the Mountain Makers community this year. Representing 12 nationalities, they shared culture, knowlege and language in an atmosphere that was as nurturing as it was enriching. Local makers were invited to spend the week in Manzat alongside the international makers, and visits to local artisan studios were organized during their stay.
The diversity of workshops ranged in level from beginner initiation to advanced professional. The main selection criteria for participation was to lead at least one workshop that could benefit other participants or a larger audience.
“With 12 different nationalities on site, we don’t always share the same language, but bilingual people are here to help in facilitating exchanges and cooperation,” says Elodie, a French-Irish student who lives in the village. “Working together on projects also helps build relationships despite the language barrier.”
Without being able to describe in detail all the workshops, here are a few of our favorites:
Initiation to metalworking with Corentin Blanc
An anvil stands in the inner courtyard, between the makerspace and the accommodations. It invites us to heat up the forge to melt a bit of metal, along with this hammer that extends its arm toward us.
“This is where the metalworking studio will be built in the next two years, and this artisanal forge is mine,” says Corentin. “I donated it to Mountain Makers, because I can’t use it at home. So I regularly come here to give workshops around my passion.”
Discovering Virtual Reality with Ruben Sanchez Hernandez
Ruben, from Fablab Santander in Spain, was probably one of the makers most anticipated by the local village residents. And his “virtual reality” workshop did not disappoint. Inside one of the old barns currently being renovated to accommodate makers in residence, Ruben installed sensors in the corners of the room. The adventure began between Volvic stones and the old unpolished wooden beams.
“Ruben’s workshop is really relevant,” comments Françoise, a village resident. “It’s accessible to everyone and intergenerational. My grandson and I enjoyed discovering this technology. We visited countries without leaving Manzat, we also painted and sculpted works without going anywhere or using extra materials. Apparently you can even go directly from virtual reality to 3D printing, which my grandson is very excited about.”
Ruben explains that this kind of technology helps a lot in bridging the digital divide among village residents and opens new perspectives in access to science, geography, history. He offers this workshop often in Spain and is happy to share his approach in Manzat.
“Given the success of this experience, Mountain Makers will eventually get equipped with this type of technology,” says Axel, secretary of the association. “The diversity of scenes and educational worlds for both children and older adults is infinite. And it can build bridges with other machines in the space.”
Electronics and home automation with Hans-Peter of Fablab Danmark
The roof structures have been recently renovated, and the flooring is also new (and still rough), electric wires are hanging everywhere, some still in need of evacuation pipes. The door and window frames have just been installed. It’s still visibly very much a work-in-progress, but Hans Peter has already spent several days connecting this “future” space with its users. He forms a team with Emma Zamora (Michelin electro-mechanical engineer) and Paco (Hackerspace Castellón).
Together, they work all week to implement systems to control LED lights and machines in the makerspace, as well as automatically open doors, all run by a freshly installed server, itself controlled by telephone. Emma says, “I’m the only person in the association who really understands electronics and home automation. It’s not easy to be the only one ‘speaking’ this technical language. But this time, with Paco and Hans-Peter, we’re on the same wavelength.”
Precious Plastic workshop with Tauan Bernardo
Tauan Bernardo, co-founder of Viva Lab in Porto, Portugal, initiated participants to working with plastic. After introducing the Precious Plastic project and sharing his personal experience on the topic, he guided the participants in hands-on activities to better understand the issues and the possibilities.
According to Maxime Rougier, “This workshop was excellent! Already for learning to manipulate plastic material so easily with almost nothing. Just a bit of shredded plastic, an oven and a laser-cut mold. The perspectives it opens up for us Mountain Makers are incredible. As there are nursery and elementary schools, even a high school nearby, I imagine projects that we can do together with the makerspace to recycle and upcycle plastic, while integrating the object-design part that Tauan showed us on the Precious Plastic website.”
Laura Valadez, a Mexican maker who is studying in France, led two workshops. The first was an introduction to Illustrator, from 2D design to realization on a digital fabrication machine such as a laser cutter/engraver or vinyl cutter. The second, led in parallel, was about recycling used furniture, as she was tasked with renovating an old ping-pong table. This was accomplished within two days, thanks to the precious help of Tauan and Thomas. The table soon became a central hub for meeting, eating, or simply playing together and creating strong bonds among the participants.
Two guiding threads
Research and development for a weaver
On Monday morning, brains were already storming for Céline, an artisan weaver, who was looking to upgrade her felting machine.
An initial prototype had been made by a company, which she purchased in 2020 for around 170€. But it didn’t quite suit her needs, as she wanted to go faster by using several needles at the same time. However, the build of the machine was rather complicated, with no blueprint available online. Furthermore, upgrading the machine to felt with more than one needle implied an all-new design, greater power supply, and therefore more friction on the head. A finished 3D-printed product was no longer possible, due to the plastic’s weak resistance to intense heat generated by the back-and-forth motion of the needles. A new prototype had to be designed, using more suitable materials, such as Teflon.
Tauan from Vivalab in Porto and Lucija from CenterRog in Ljubljana tackled the problem.
— Mountain Makers (@MakersMontagnes) August 22, 2022
Around them, other makers joined in little by little to contribute a suggestion or an element of improvement.
We also helped Celine (Textile Local Artisan) to upgrade her "Textile-Gun".
Here you can see some design draw by Tauan from Vivalab.
— Mountain Makers (@MakersMontagnes) August 12, 2022
The first sketches on paper emerged the next day. Once validated by the group, 3D modeling of the new prototype V2 began on Hans-Peter’s computer, and was finally 3D-printed on site.
This “textile-gun” prototype proved conclusive, as seen in the video posted by Céline. She now wants to make one out of Teflon, based on the 3D-printed piece, as recommended by Tauan.
Distributed Fabrication Month
The “Mois de la fabrication distribuée” initiated by ANCT in collaboration with RFFLabs (French fablab network) and France Tiers Lieux was another guiding thread during the week. Participants made “inclusive furniture” under the direction of Paula Meier, maker-in-residence who arrived a few weeks in advance to prepare the smooth fabrication of four open-source pieces.
Paula was assisted by Ivana, a biochemical engineer who spent several years at Bosnia and Herzegovina Futures Foundation, and Lena, a passionate woodworker and very active member of ZAM Makerspace in Erlangen, Germany.
Wednesday, the big day for Mountain Makers
It’s the highlight of the week. The day begins with a family photo.
Then it’s time for the hourslong sprint session of Repair’Café! Local residents anticipate this event each year and come to repair all sorts of objects with the help of local and international makers.
An RFFLabs poster is proudly displayed in the makerspace, as Mountain Makers is an actively networking member, according to Axel, secretary of the association.
RFFLabs organized an Apéro[Maker] on the Wednesday evening. The regional online event is hosted by Antoine Ruiz-Scorletti as a complementary action to the various networking events held throughout the year in the regions of France.
Each night was dedicated to a particular theme. On UpHeros night, the idea was to pitch a project in 5 minutes. The concept was first launched by Marque Auvergne in 2014, before gaining in popularity among the region’s coworking and fablab networks.
Antoine Ruiz-Scorletti presented RFFLabs and in particular the International Work Group, which operates on three levels: Espace Méditerranéen led by Alexis Jalicot; Espace Européen, led by members of Vulca; Francophony led by Hugues Aubin.
It was also an opportunity to introduce RFFLabs’s new project: Third-Place for Europe, a gathering of alternative spaces that will take place in March 2023 in cooperation with ANCT and France Tiers Lieux. (Stay tuned for more in a future Makery article in late 2022.)
Lena Streit (ZAM) and Lucija Jankovec (CenterRog) presented a shared workshop that will regularly host makers from 2023 in partnership with Vulca. (Learn more soon on MakerTour, which aims to centralize and document these maker residencies each year.)
Aleksandra Sljukic has been promoting actions by Mountain Makers for several years to support maker residencies in Europe to inspire others to host or send makers to other shared workshops.
Speaking of Vulca, some of the office members (Aleksandra Sljukic, Thomas Sanz, Nicolas Fifre, Alexandre Rousselet) met to work on updating the MakerTour online platform. They also prepared the Vulca seminar, which will be held this November 10-13 at Fundão in Portugal – a European meeting to support both mobile makers and shared workshops in refining their strategies in hosting or sending makers-in-residence.
Visiting Mountain Makers’ studios in neighboring villages
In rural areas, almost everyone has their own work studio at home with their own machines. Space is not a problem. Some studios are dedicated to working with wood or metal, while others have a bit of everything. Today, what unites the members of Mountain Makers is the long-term vision of a shared studio with multiple cultural and linguistic aspects.
We took the time to visit a few studios of Mountain Makers who live in the volcano country surrounding Manzat.
Céline, weaver – La Tisserie – Saint Angel village
Bovine wools have become the center of Céline Camilleri’s research in graphic design, with a panel of colors and values feeding her creativity. From designer to artisan, Céline experiments with fiber and is learning to weave on a loom with arms, tapestry and felting with needles. She is curious and audacious about the ancestral craft of felting, revisiting techniques in order to define new esthetic horizons.
On the weaving loom, with each pass of the shuttle, at each intersection of weft and warp, a kind of material-writing takes shape and induces the artist into a meditative state. This physical restitution of passing time, made of infinite strata, is serene. The line drawing turns into thread, becomes a motif through repeated gestures, to finally realize unique pieces, carpets or mural decorations, with pure and sober lines. Céline seeks to open perspectives toward imaginary horizons with a graphic vocabulary that plays off our perceptions of depth, scale, distance, appearance, disappearance… She is also a member of Ateliers d’Art de France since 2020 and actively joined Mountain Makers in 2022.
Raphaël, bagpipe maker – Vareille village
Here we discover ancient bagpipes, the atmosphere of an artisanal workshop where musical instruments are made by hand, and magical moments of music in the presence of bagpipe maker Raphaël Jeannin. He gives us a tour of his 100m2 studio and lets us try out his instruments.
Formally trained in woodworking and a self-taught instrument maker, Raphaël began handcrafting Central France and Béchonnet bagpipes in 2005. Since then, he has been researching how to integrate into his instrument-making craft, in addition to musical quality, the musician’s comfort and esthetics through noble materials and expert knowledge, a bit of innovation, all fundamentally anchored in a form of tradition and heritage, and all for the benefit of musicians.
Pascal, retired – La Celle village
At age 88, Pascal is the elder of the Mountain Makers association. He is an extraordinary maker, for whom the metal or wood lathe have no secrets. He manipulates the scroll saw with unrivalled precision and plays his plasma laser cutter just as easily as his accordion. His studio is set up in the garage of his house, a small 50m2 studio where he makes things for himself, and occasionally for his neighbors.
“I’m often alone making things in my studio,” says Pascal. “I like that at Mountain Makers, I never know who I’ll run into in Manzat, there’s always someone that I can talk to about projects and learn something from.”
Adrian, puppeteer – La Malette – Saint Angel village
Adrian Giovinatti is an artist-maker from Uruguay who has been living in France since 2007. From 2002 to 2004, in Uruguay and Brazil, he experimented and presented various techniques in his shows: shadow theater, direct manipulation, Kuruma Ningyo, mini-theater, glove puppets. Since 2005, he travels around Europe performing small forms of theater specially adapted for the street, reaching out to audiences differently.
In 2007 he launched La Malette theater company and settled in Auvergne. He realizes all his performances himself, from the screenplay, which tackles social issues with light-hearted humor, to making all his puppets by hand, using found and recycled materials.
In conclusion, Manzat, as the headquarters of Mountain Makers, is an ideal village for makers in residence. Some 20 international makers came to Auvergne to participate in this year’s open-door initiative of makers-in-residence. This event is also part of a long-term strategy.
As the Mountain Makers association only just launched in 2020, members are still busy renovating barns, garages and other buildings over time. They are also increasingly involving other members of the local community, which has been growing bigger each year. The current renovation and extension work is set to last another 2-3 years. One member of the association has made a 3D model of the finished plans, which puts the reality of the field work under construction into perspective. Mountain Makers is 100% independent. Thanks to numerous donations (of materials, machines, monetary), the project progresses at its own pace.